At times the course planner has to consider the possibility that the route choices might be restricted because of various hazards or other limitations
Let’s think about each of the following examples:
- There are dangerous features, such as high cliffs, in the area (eg. Sandstone Valleys, Golden Fleece).
- There are numerous watercourses with thick vegetation (eg. Littlechild Creek).
- The land manager has asked that certain areas be avoided because of stock or protected plant species.
- There are difficult fences which some competitors might have difficulty crossing.
In the interests of risk management and fairness these need to be carefully considered:
- Obviously, physical dangers such as high cliffs have to be avoided and the course planner should avoid route choices that can put competitors at risk. If this is not altogether possible, then competitors need to be alerted to possible dangers: Control descriptions can include the ! symbol to indicate that there is danger near-by, and dangerous features such as mine shafts can be taped. Event information on the day needs to make mention of these. (For further advice on this, consult Darryl Smith!)
- John Brock and Paul Pacqué who were the course planners for the Australian Championships on Littlechild Creek last year had to grapple with the problem of the thick vegetation along the creeks. As well, the creeks were difficult to cross in places. Their solution was to provide a number of marked crossings, siting some of them on obvious crossing points for some courses, but placing others so as not to influence route choice excessively, while still leaving it open for runners prepared to tackle the green to do so. In this way, the crossings provided safe and fair options for competitors.
- When some areas of the map have to be avoided (because of stock, crops, etc.), then the course planner should be able to work around this. Sometimes, though, it is necessary to ‘guide’ the competitors around an out of bounds area, and this is done by having a marked route that runners are obliged to follow.
- One of the more difficult situations is where a property might have fences that for some competitors (eg. small children or older runners) are very difficult to cross, while for others on the course, the fences pose no problems. This is a potential threat to fairness. In Tasmania, with our small number of courses, and the requirement to plan courses for winning times, we sometimes overlook the mix of people who might be running a particular course. Consequently, where there are difficult fences (or other obstacles) on a course, the course planner and controller have to consider the fairness to all competitors and if necessary provide crossing points (eg stiles, gates, sacks, etc.).
When providing crossing points of any kind, there are a few guidelines that we need to follow:
- Crossing points can be provided either as ‘marked crossings’ which are there for a competitor to use if she or he wishes, or as ‘compulsory crossings’, which competitors are required to use. Maybe there is an in-between category where the crossing might not be compulsory, but competitors can be encouraged to use it. For such a crossing and for a compulsory crossing, there should be a control close by to ‘lead’ competitors into the crossing point (which might well double as a drinks control).
- A crossing point becomes another point feature on the map, and must be placed exactly on the map and in the terrain. This can have some disadvantages, because these points become extra aids to navigation and reduce the quality of some route choices on courses. Many of us have competed in events where drink stations are put along tracks. It might be quite tricky normally to pinpoint where you are crossing the track, but with drink stations set along it, that task becomes an easy one. (This is one of the major reasons why in Australia we have the convention of putting drink stations at actual controls rather than creating new points on the map.)
- Any crossing point must be marked clearly on the map and on the ground (in the terrain). Competitors need to know what coloured tapes have been used to mark the crossing, and these tapes need to be visible from either side of the crossing. Even if the planner feels certain that everyone will be approaching from a particular direction, because it is a marked feature on the map and in the terrain, a competitor may well use it to navigate by or relocate from.