Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Bruises and Boggarts

I think I have been watching too much CSI. I found myself looking at the bruises on my legs and wondering what the coroner would make of them if I died in an accident today. They are particularly distinctive small bruises in little lines. I must admit, the first time I had them I was stumped for quite a while, until I realised they were from squeezing through the strands of wire fences while I was out orienteering. The more athletic young males of course vault over the fences, barely touching except maybe for a hand on top of the fence post for balance.

This is where we were orienteering on Sunday.

The longer courses went right to the top of the hill, but since I do the "short red" course - technically difficult but not too strenuous - the course setter took us mostly into the forest at the bottom of the valley on the right. Since I'm just getting back into orienteering after doing very little last year, I was grateful for the shortness of the course and lack of significant climb. Nothing comes without a downside and in this case it was lots of boggy swampy ground, and lots of prickles. But overall I was pretty pleased with my efforts which show that all my hill climbing in the last few months is paying off. The winner took 52 minutes, I took 1 hour 22 minutes, and the slowest on the course was 2 hours 30 minutes (someone who got lost and added a big extra loop to the course).

If you'd told me when I was a teenager that one day I'd be competing in organised sport, I'd have laughed. This is because I lack coordination for ball sports, and I can't run. OK, to some extent I believe that anyone can improve at anything they want to if they practice enough. But I also believe in inborn differences between people. And I think I have good reason to believe I can't run. I was a real outdoor kid, often found up trees, loving the beach, able to swim long distances (slowly) and going for long Sunday afternoon walks with my father. I loved the outdoors. But I wasn't speedy. Fortunately I went to a small primary school and there wasn't much in the way of athletics. Once a year we went to the interschool sports day where I would take part in the obligatory running race, finish twenty or thirty yards behind everyone else (and that was the heats, not the final), feel stupid for a little while and then enjoy the day in the sun with my family, with treats such as pies for lunch and ice creams.

The humiliation I still remember though was at Brownies. Once a Brownie had passed the initial simple tests like learning the Brownie law and promise, it was time for enrolment. And the enrolment ceremony involved being chased by a boggart. Not a real boggart, of course. Another Brownie was chosen to be the boggart. I had to start at one side of the fairy ring, the boggart started at the other side, and I was chased twice around the fairy ring before running to the centre. The story was that if the boggart caught you, you couldn't be a Brownie. I don't think it ever occurred to anyone that the boggart would ever catch anyone. After all that would mean running 33% faster. But just before I got to the centre, I felt the boggart tag me. And of course the leaders had to pretend that it hadn't happened. So, apart from feeling utterly humiliated that I was so slow that it hadn't occurred to them that anyone could be that slow, I learnt that adults should really think carefully before they threated a punishment that they have no intention of carrying out.

That was all sprinting, of course. Maybe if we had had cross country running at school, it would have been a different matter. All my children seem to have had to run cross country at school, but it didn't seem to happen so much back then.

After I first heard about orienteering and thinking that sounded fun, it took me a while to get into it because I thought I would have to be able to run better. But in fact there's room for all abilities, and good navigation makes up for a lot. When I started, my children were small. Walking round the easy courses with a two or three year old in tow is a wonderful excuse to be slow. I'm not expecting to win anything this year, unless the faster runners in my age group make some huge mistakes in navigation, but I aim to get to no more than 25% slower than the winning time.

Blogger has forced me to upgrade, finally. It seems to be OK. But it works no better with Safari than the old blogger does.


paris parfait said...

Boggart! That's a new one - never heard of that before this fascinating post. Good for you for doing so well with the orienteering.

Anonymous said...

"I was a real outdoor kid, often found up trees, loving the beach, able to swim long distances (slowly) and going for long Sunday afternoon walks with my father. I loved the outdoors. But I wasn't speedy. Fortunately I went to a small primary school and there wasn't much in the way of athletics."


i was 'volunteered' for orienteering at high school by my younger brother. i don't remember enjoying it much at all. to this day i abhor running, though i do it occasionally as part of my fitness regime.

Deb R said...

I like it when you post about orienteering. I don't think I'd ever heard of it before I started reading your blog!

I think Blogger is finally forcing everyone to switch over, as I'm seeing almost every "old blogger" site I visit switched over now.

Crafty Green Poet said...

Hi Catherine, good to read about your orienteering. I should try it one day...

Gosh I'm glad the Brownies over here never had the boggart thing! I'd have been caught immediately!

Catherine said...

Crafty green poet, they gave you such a big head start that no one was ever caught. Except me!
Deb, yes, blogger is making everyone switch now. You can leave comments on blogs with the old blogger account, but as soon as you want to make a new post, you have to switch.

Tia said...

I quess I have been fortunate until today. I still managed to post with the old blogger. Whew!

I hated the stupid organized, competetive sports in school. That is the sole reason I swore off crosscountry skiing for 30+ years! I used to be able to taste blood in my mouth, praying to reach the finish line, only to get my skiis crossed 100 yards before I reached it! Torture!

Jan said...

Enjoyed reading this piece. It's brilliant that you're enjoying sport NOW.
Lots of folk get totally put off it by school experience.
I remember the Games teacher telling me I handled my lacrosse stick more like a frying pan....and WHAT was I doing playing such a crazy game in the 1st place?!
Its great that folk eventually find sports stuff they do well with AND have a talent they didnt know they possessed...

Crafty Green Poet said...

Catherine, no really i think i would have been cauight.... I was physically a very slow child, though pretty quick academically...