Interview Rod Costigan
Membership Secretary: 1983-85, President: 1985-87, Immediate Past President: 1987-88, Editor Australian Rogaining Newsletter (late 80s). Writer and producer of the manual, Organising a Rogaine, for the International Rogaining Federation, first edition 1992 and second edition some years later.
1. When did you first rogaine?
I helped on one in 1978 and participated the following year in 1979.
2. How many rogaines do you think you have competed in?
I vaguely recall some decades ago counting to about 50. Maybe 80 or more.
3. Describe your most memorable/strangest moment rogaining?
I was quite enchanted by my first one, an MUMC 24: the rolling green Strathbogie hills strewn with granite boulders and wattles; the deeply still frosty night; discovering that we could actually read our maps by moonlight; the mild but entertaining early hours hallucinations; cockatoos and galahs waking at dawn as we walked beneath them; and, most memorably, stopping in the dead of night beside one of those grand canyon style erosion gullies that you sometimes find in seemingly flat farmland, and hearing a stranger’s voice groaning in the dark moonshadowed depths, “This.. always happens.. to me…”.
We didn’t stop to investigate or lend a helping hand. One thing we knew, even as novices – it was a competition and we certainly had the edge on that guy.
Be that as it may, whenever I climb some endless hill, or cop a branch of prickly moses thwacked right into my eyes, or in the earlier hours I sink knee deep in freezing mud or stand astride some rusty sagging wire only to find, against all odds, it is electrified, those mopish words still cross my mind.
Now I mention hallucinations and, Kate, you use the word ‘strange’. I do remember seeing a bona fide Pegasus once. It was of course a cold and gloomy night, what else would it be? I was with Jim Grelis on an Aus Champs and we were having trouble staying awake even while walking, to the extent of repeatedly waking up part way towards hitting the ground. At least I was. Don’t know about Jim for sure. Anyway, I think there probably was a flesh-and-blood white horse running along a fence. It was the way it flew up and into the distance that set it apart. Seemed pretty real at the time.
4. What’s been the hardest moment on a rogaine?
If you come to it with a really competitive attitude that outstrips your fitness, a 24 can be quite wearing and a 6 hour can be nausiating. So, in general, hard. But I can’t recall any moment being particularly harder than another except where an injury has been involved.
That’s physically. But as the pundits say, rogaines are won and lost between the ears, and if something is really hard it is because it is hard on the mind.
Which brings me to.. spiders. I really don’t enjoy those courses we occasionally get that are absolutely festooned with orb-weaving spiders. You have probably experienced them yourself, Kate, but in case not, they’ve got a body like a football, a leg span like a beach umbrella and a web that’s strong enough to hang a man. And they are always at face height. Now imagine walking into one in the dark every 30 seconds from dusk until dawn. I sweat more from fear than exertion on these events. Ugh. The feeling of your face against its abdomen while its legs wrap around your head and shoulders. And you can’t even brush it off because your arms are tangled in its web. I have to stop now before I black out. I’ll go to the next question.
5. What’s been your greatest triumph rogaining?
I didn’t have any huge triumphs in competition. But I was quite satisfied with my time as President. When I took that position, the association, to its enormous credit was enjoying great success in terms of attendances, but the some events were looking as if they were on the brink of becoming a shambles. Let me emphasise that this growth had overtaken us rapidly and I wouldn’t criticise the way things had been run prior to that. But suddenly it was getting to be too much work for too few people with too little equipment. So from the outset we made it our mission to cap attendance numbers while building up our systems and so forth. I think the operation of the association was very different at the end of those two years as a result. We were for the first time planning an annual budget and had confidence that event and admin costs could be met; we were able to plan expenditure on our own equipment, starting with the first marquee; we had developed standing how-to documentation on every aspect of running an event; we had streamlined our membership system; and although I personally had little practical input into it, I can say that we finally got the permanent course established. I once read the old annual reports of that time and was disappointed to see that I hadn’t really crowed about all this, but worse than that, I hadn’t named all the individuals who had conceived and executed the various projects either. I was shocked because I feel grateful to each one of them to this day. Awful. I put it down to youth.
6. What is your favourite geographic area to rogaine in?
Still the Strathbogies.
7. How has rogaining changed since you started competing?
Well, overall the whole organisation is so much more sophisticated than it once was. I’d say that’s partly as a result of continuous improvements made by so many smart and enthusiastic volunteers, partly because the core individuals are themselves older and more sophisticated than we were way back when, and partly a reflection of the new technologies than can be used.
Checkpoints are closer together than when I started. That changes the nature of the challenge in some ways, but I have no view as to whether for better or worse.
There is very little farming land on courses these days. It always involved a lot more work for organisers so that’s totally understandable.
It seems to me that the courses are less varied in their layout and value allocation, which many would say is good, just as tennis is always played on the same size court and always flat. But I liked the interest when course-setters tried different approaches.
Results are now very accurate and amazingly fast.
The average competitor age is higher and surprisingly the older competitors are holding their own.
There is more participation now in short events. I think I was president when the first of the ongoing 6-hour events was run. It was planned just before I took that position and there had been one or two abandoned experiments in earlier years. None of it was my personal initiative. But I still feel responsible for creating a monster. Think Frankenstein’s monster. It seemed like a good idea until it developed a will of its own, and became unstoppable. Logically, they sound like an introductory challenge. So newcomers will naturally want to do a 6 hour first. It’s such a pity because a 12hour is a much more interesting and physically less intense experience. So in my view a 12 hour is a much better introduction. Personally I think it was 6hr events that started the drain on entries in 12 and 24s, though there might be other contributing factors. Whether or not that is the greatest change, it is the one that I feel a bit guilty about.
I always regret the passing of the time when results would be announced from bottom up for the entire field. It was a very inclusive thing to do, even if a little embarrassing for teams with negative scores. But I also understand that it reflected the times and the younger demographic and probably wouldn’t work any more.
But let’s get to what counts. Here are the two massive improvements that I notice, and all strength to those responsible..
These days the checkpoints are reliably in the right places.
The results are accurate and amazingly fast.
8. How has being involved in rogaining changed you?
Too deep for me, Kate.