A couple of weekends ago for the Maverick Adidas TERREX Exmoor X-Series event I was working on the route. Helping on the Friday pre-event with laying 9km of the Middle route with Britt followed by a (very) early Saturday morning course check of the same segment with Jake.
Having done a mixture of course laying, checking and collecting over the past 6 years with Maverick Race the nature of it is, well, second nature. I know what to expect and I know that it can be both the absolute best job in the whole world and also the most exhausting, lonely and frustrating job in the world (Peaks I’m looking at you at 6am with mile after mile of stripped signage to re-lay). However if you’ve never done it, it is quite a bizarre day of work.
So what does it really mean and what is actually required to ‘work the route’?
Route laying - Simply, You fix the signs for trail runners to follow using a pre-plotted route. I average 5km/h, yes that slow, but even then I’m prepared for it to take longer especially when the segment requires additional signage for route splits, road crossings, technical trails and outposts.
When route laying you have to carry all your signage and tools with you in a rucksack (she’s a heavy gal). The blessing here is that your bag gets lighter as the day goes on. However, carrying a hammer around is quite literally a pain in the back!
To be a good route layer you have to be a very confident map reader. There is absolutely NO room for going off-piste, plotting an ‘alternative’, or laying signs that are ‘this general direction’ because it’s close enough. All routes have been risk assessed and have been granted permission for use well in advance so you gotta stick to the plan!
Route checking - Simply, you go out on course the morning of the event to check that all signage is still there and to make alterations in the event of bad weather. The trick here is to go out as close as possible to the start time of the event to ensure a minimal interference window, but also to be ahead of the front race runners so you have time to make any corrections/alterations should you need to.
Route checking is something that Maverick does very well. I dread to think what would have happened in some cases if we hadn’t had good route checkers on course, as signage does get stripped/turned around to go off the edge of mountains (Snowdon, 2018). Fortunately because of our route checkers we’ve been able to rectify these things and keep runners safe.
To be a good route checker you have to be efficient, make good decisions and act quickly as the count down to the start of the event is on! You also have to be able to reference a map as although you should theoretically be following pre-laid signs you can’t always trust them and need to be able to correct a route if it’s gone tits up.
Route collecting - Simply, collect all the signage that was out on course. We aim for our signs to be up and down within 24 hours for an original event (slightly longer on an X-Series event, slightly shorter on a Dark event) so that we cause minimal ‘distress’ for the people who have an aversion to signage.
Route collecting is good fun as you still feel like you’re part of the race unlike route laying and checking where it’s a fairly solo affair. However, the worst thing about route collecting is that your bag gets heavier as the day goes on and fills up with signs. Amen to seeing an outpost and shamelessly tipping your bag of signs upside down into the van before continuing on. Cheers Martin!
To be a good route collector you have to follow one simple rule... DO NOT LEAVE A SINGLE SIGN BEHIND! Maverick Race is a very friendly and fun place to be and such a great team to work for. HOWEVER, leaving a sign out on the segment of the route you were meant to be collecting is the number 1 cardinal sin! A stray sign after our event has ended becomes fly-tipping and understandably that does NOT go down well even when it was an honest mistake. So check and double-check those fences, gates and waymarkers for signs, you do not want to be the person who left a sign out on course.
So that’s working the route folks.
It’s a job I never thought I’d do mainly because I didn’t know it was a job that existed, but it’s a job I absolutely love and even if I do say so myself I’m pretty good at it due to my eye for detail. It’s also a job that holds some of my fondest Maverick memories, such as laying across Black Ashop Moor with JB in 2017, collecting up Llanberis Path and down Watkins path on my own in 2018 and checking Exmoor with Yanks & Jay in 2019 then again with Jake in 2022. If you ever want to join us then fill in the volunteer form below :)