Rogaining—go your own way


Photo: Grant Jeffrey

Being lost in the bush at 2am is just one of the joys of rogaining, according to Dr Helen Robinson of Indigo Veterinary Services in Beechworth, VIC

“Rogaining is a sport that was devised by three students at Melbourne uni back in the 1970s. The founders, Rod Phillips, Gail Davis and Neil Phillips, used a combination of their first names (RoGaiNe) to give the sport its name. It’s also commonly said to stand for Rugged Outdoor Group Activity Involving Navigation and Endurance.

“The sport consists of teams navigating their way through the bush to reach as many checkpoints as possible, in any order, within a time limit. Each checkpoint has a different value—an easy one might be worth 20 points, a difficult one 100 points. A big course can be 100 square kilometres in size and the event can last for 24 hours. In an event like that, I might plan a course of 80km but the elite teams will run for the entire 24 hours covering well over 100km.

“I first discovered the sport when I was at Melbourne University about 30 years ago. I got back into it again 15 years ago, teaming up with the sister of a veterinary classmate. We enjoyed some success, winning the Australian Women’s Championship in 2006 and 2007. I also won the Victorian Open Championship about three years ago.

“To be honest, I’m not doing so well at the moment. I’m the sole veterinarian at Indigo Veterinary Service and the work days can be long. This has been impacting on my rogaine training and fitness.

“If you’re going to make a mistake while rogaining, it usually happens between midnight and 5am when you’re physically and mentally exhausted. At night, it’s very easy to misjudge how fast you’re moving through the bush and miscalculate where you are on the map. There are a number of strategies to get back on track but valuable scoring time is lost.

“Rogaining attracts competitive endurance sportspersons but for many, it’s just a pleasant way to have a bushwalk with a bit of focus and personal challenge. Rogaines on bicycles (cyclogaines) are popular too, and in the past we have even done them by canoe or on skis! At the end of the event there are no medals for the winners, just a big meal and bragging rights.

“I really enjoy the company of the other rogainers. I also like the challenge of navigation and using that to explore the bush. There’s also something very quirky about a sport where everyone heads off in different directions and you have no idea how you’re going until it’s all over.”

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