What is Rogaining? I gotta have more Rogaining, baby!

Photo: Jen Ray . That’s me with Jouni N. and Esa L.

Rogaining is a team sport (2-5 people) involving running and navigation that was invented by some guys in Australia and has now become popular in a few parts of the world. It should be much more popular because it is so fun (and very safe in epidemics!). I had never heard of Rogaining before moving to Finland. Now I can’t get enough Rogaining.

What and why?

Rogaining events are timed so you sign up for a race that can be as short as one hour or as long as 48. The distance is how far you can run in the allotted amount of time. I have personally competed in Rogaining events ranging from 1 hour to 2, 6, 8, 12 hours and even to two 24 events. Apparently some consider 24 hours to be the original model.

Organizers provide a map before the start of the race. Participants usually get some time to review the map and decide on a route before the actual race begins. This amount of time depends on the length of the event. In a short event, you might only get 15 minutes to plan your route, whereas in a longer event you get several hours. You cannot start the race early, even if your planning is quick. 

Map planning for a 6-hour event

Once the race begins, you use the map and your compass to navigate to checkpoints (rastit). The more checkpoints you collect during the race, the more points you get! However, some checkpoints are worth more than others, so it pays to plan in advance. Almost always, even the best teams won’t have enough time to collect all the checkpoints. So, will you go for many low scoring checkpoints or will you go for the higher point values – usually harder to find and further away? Yes, you must read your map as you run. Below is video of what this can look like.

One of the few road sections in this event. Video – Bebbe

Rogaining events usually don’t provide aid stations like trail running races; you have to carry all your food with you and most of your water (usually the map includes a few places to refill water). 

You can quit the event anytime you want, but the longer you stay out, the more points you should collect – just don’t be late because you lose points quickly. It is almost never worth it to be even a few seconds late, so most teams arrive well before the final cut-off. In a recent 2 hour event, my buddy Jaakko and I made it back with only 30 seconds to spare. That was close!

Rogaining is a team-sport, though shorter events often allow solo entries. Running with someone else is both a blessing and a curse: Your partner might be better at navigation or running than you, so you feel bad for slowing them down. Or maybe you are a better runner but your partner is a better navigator? This has been my experience a few times (in longer events) since I come from an ultra running background and have only learned navigation in the past few years. However, a few of my partners have outshined me in both running and navigation even in long events (Manu H. and Matti V.)! This picture below shows me with Teemu H. and Jaakko L. planning for an 8 hour Rogaining.

Before the event begins
During the event. This is what a checkpoint looks like. One of the team members carries an electronic tag, or EMIT, to swipe at each checkpoint.

Each runner brings their own unique skills, and depending on the event, your team’s combination of these skills can help you win or be the reason you lose.

Me during a long Rogaining in the beautiful Finnish forests

Rogaining during an epidemic?

I’ll just come out and say that Roganing must be one of the safest sports during the COVID epidemic. You are running in the forest with one or two other people and you might not see other competitors at all. Organizers could allow participants the planning time to take place in each person / team’s car, rather than in a small building as usual (hash house).

Still unsure what Rogaining is? Watch this 2-min video from a guy in Australia.

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