One of the most common questions we get asked at Dig Deep is ‘how hard is the navigation on … (choose between UTPD, Peak Trails 50 or 30!)’. The following blog is an attempt to put some perspective on that question and also help you to make your own mind up.
The UTPD, Peak Trails 50 and 30 all follow circular routes through the Peak District and are, for the most part, unmarked. Im some of the high moorland areas the route can feel relatively remote but the trails are mostly on very well established paths and trails.
So, whats it actually like?
Well, the starting 10 km is fully marked on all 3 of the ultras. This part of the route leads to Burbage North car park (CP 1 and water stop). We mark this part route in preparation for the shorter races on the Sunday so it will be VERY obvious where you need to go. Once at this point then its time to start navigating! The reality is that unless you’re fighting for position at the front there will be a decent amount of people in front of you leading the way. However, as always, dont just follow everyone else! If we had a £1 for every person who told us that they went the wrong way because they followed someone else… well…
Further along the way there are a number of checkpoints. These are really useful as a navigational aid as they are clearly shown on the race maps. So, when you reach one it is important that you check the map – some of the checkpoints are significant splits in the races and you dont want to head off following someone running a different distance to you!
After you leave the first check point the actual navigation isnt difficult. You will be mostly following linear features (like the top of Stanage Edge) and the significant changes in direction are often where the check points are. However, there are a few twisty sections where a recce would be beneficial (Bradwell would be a good example).
As you get closer to the finish of your routes the way will once again be fully marked. For the final 9 – 10 km you will have the comfort of signs pointing the correct route back. Very helpful when you are tired!
The following is a list of the most common reasons why people have got lost (temporarily mislocated sounds much better);
Missed checkpoints (there are time penalties on each one) i.e. ran straight past them
Not checking the map
Not checking the compass
Batteries ran out on GPS/watch/phone/headtorch etc etc
Being tired and not concentrating
Going DARK and not knowing how to navigate in those conditions
Not having a decent/bright headtorch
OK, so what can you do to prepare? The following is a list of top tips:
- Look at the map before hand and make notes about features, hills, checkpoints and significant turns.
- Keep focused on navigation throughout. Concentrate on where the checkpoints are and where you are on the map.
- Know how to ‘set’ the map (either use a compass or use ‘map to ground’).
- Know how to take a simple compass bearing. This really helps to make sure you are heading in the right direction.
- Know roughly how fast you are travelling. E.g. if you are running at roughly 10 minute mile pace then you know that if you have been running for 25 minutes you should have traveled 2 1/2 miles.
- Keep the map in your hand at all times (this stops complacency) if you are in an area you dont know.
- Look out for checkpoints. So many people run straight past them when they are tired!!!
- Carry spare batteries if you are using electronic devices.
- Use a good quality head torch (beg or borrow one if you dont have one already) if you think you are going to be out in the dark.
- Whenever possible recce the areas you dont know.
The reality is that there isnt any difficult navigation on any of the Dig Deep routes. BUT, the navigation becomes a significant factor when you get tired, especially if you dont know the route very well. However, what makes these races special is that they are self navigated. In every year since the start of Dig Deep people have lost places (including top 3 places!) through navigation errors and by simply missing the dibbers at checkpoints! Keep focused and you’ll have no trouble! Good luck!
We run race recce days in June/July before each race. Fell Running Guide David Taylor also runs navigation courses in the Peak District.