Charlie Fish's account:
Milton Keynes is creepy. Everything is so neat and regular and big and spacious and just a little bit soulless. It's like a factory for turning people into machines. Frankly, it needed some full-on tasking to brighten it up.
On August 27th, the big UKØ gathering culminated in The Journey To The End Of The Mid-Afternoon. Now, some of the taskers are schoolmates, and Vixen travelled internationally to be with us, so it kind of
fulfils the task's criteria, but the important thing is that it was full of awesome - and that, after all, is what SFØ is all about. Call it a creative interpretation.
We started at Milton Keynes Central train station. (This is actually a photo of the Extreme Hopscotch
before we started the Journey, but unless someone replaces this it'll have to do!)
We ran to the first checkpoint, taking advantage of our five-minute head start before the chasers were allowed to follow. Secret Agent and I were at the front, and we ended up running together most of the way.
At the first checkpoint, the Wetherspoon's, we recruited a jolly local to help us. Here is a picture of him signing Secret Agent's sheet to show we had been there. Little did he know that he was about to be bombarded by the other runners!
The second checkpoint was the concrete cows, Milton Keyne's most famous attraction. Says it all, really. Secret Agent got a hoofprint.
Checkpoint three was the Xscape. It's buildings like this that make Milton Keynes feel like a David Lynch film.
At the fourth checkpoint, the Theatre District, we met a guy who assured us he was a famous Indian actor. He didn't mind posing for a photo and an autograph anyway.
We were told we weren't allowed to take a photo of the sales counter inside John Lewis, aka checkpoint five, so we asked to see the manager and took a photo of him instead.
By the time Secret Agent and I had got to checkpoint six (and persuaded yet another poor passer-by to take a photo of us), we still hadn't been chased and we were getting cocky. We decided that we would get close to the finish point and then blindfold ourselves with our ribbons for the final stretch.
It never came to that though. We got ambushed by two or three chasers and we split. I ran until my lungs hurt, then I noticed Secret Agent was behind me. I assumed he'd been caught so I double-backed into John Lewis and quick-marched the long way around towards the finish point.
The finish point was the centre of a labyrinth in a park - and there was only one sensible entrance to the park. A bridge over the motorway. (I later discovered that Secret Agent ignored this sensible entrance and just crossed the motorway
. Loon.) Inevitably, I was ambushed again as I entered the park. There was one chaser behind me, and I could turn left or right.
Another chaser popped out of the bushes to my left, and then another to my right. So I went straight through the middle - of a rose bush. OUCH! Update: it's nearly one month later and I still have a big rose bush scar on my hip...
A couple more mad dashes later, I got away, but then got lost looking for the labyrinth. In the end, Secret Agent finished first, donned a chaser ribbon, and then caught me when I was about 20 metres away from the finishing point. Exhausting, but exhilarating!
Everyone else got caught - or so we thought
. GYØ Adam called to let us know he was on a train to London
- he intended to do the Journey there as a completion of the Misuse of Maps task! That man really will do anything to avoid having to run.
So we handed out the prizes, and recorded some material for the video podcast, then we were getting ready to leave for supper, when guess who pops out of the bushes? None other than GYØ Adam, having pulled off the ultimate con, which allowed him to walk the entire course unheeded and stroll into second place. (Although not before being pursued by angry chasers back around the labyrinth shouting "Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu**" to everyone's immense amusement.)
Not being a person capable of running very far at all, I attempted to use cunning to escape the orange-banded wrath of the chasers, and hid in the side of a flowerbed just off of the route.
It wasn't very pleasant, and the five minute headstart for the runners before the chasers were allowed to set off seemed a lot longer than that, however, I was quietly confident that they'd be running past fast enough to miss me.
Jake was slightly behind Ben, and when
did Ben decided to turn round to see where he was?
Caught before the first checkpoint. Curses!
I had my plan. At the beggining everyone ran off towards the first checkpoint under the road and I strolled off towards the railway station and the bus area. At this point I decided what I was going to do and walked towards an area of grass known as Grafton Gate where I sat down for about 10 minutes to wait for the chasers to get past the first checkpoint and then I went to walk towards it. Whilst I was there I quickly dived behind a bush as I saw Tom getting caught by Jake and Ben.
I decided to wait a little while longer and went back to reading my newspaper. After about 25 minutes I moved on to checkpoint 1 then I went inside to the toilets and changed my t-shirt so I would be less noticable to others. Whilst I was walking to Checkpoint 2 which was quite a way east I rung up Tom and told him I was on a train to London Euston to complete misuse of maps and I did the same to Jake to throw the chasers off my tail. I knew they would now tell the people they caught and that would take the heat off me.
This is me with my map and my watch at Checkpoint 2 where I thought I saw Tom and had to hide in Starbucks (.. yeah I was hiding). I had a coffee, read my book a bit and took a long stroll towards Xscape stopping in Waterstones to have a browse around. I hid behind a bush near an overpass when I thought I saw Tom but it was infact an old woman in a red t-shirt. By this time I needed to use Xscape to go to the toilet, the place is a dump. I'm not sure if urinating on the floor would even have been noticed.
Checkpoint 4 was the Theatre District which was another typically dead bit of Milton Keynes with some rather generic looking restaurants and bars. I saw Secret Agent run past in the distance at this point I think he was probably going from the last checkpoint to the finnish. I moved inside and on to John Lewis where I managed to sit in the café for a bit with a cup of tea. It was miserable. The shopping centre in MK is huge and so walking to the library was alot longer than it looked on the map and a man approached me about photography.
I went to Milton Keynes Library for the last checkpoint and got an access code for the internet so I could check my email and what not. It's quite a nice place actually. By now Tom and Jake, and everyone else, were under the impression I was in London so I gave them one final ring to make sure they weren't waiting for me and they weren't. I walked on to Campbell Park, found the labyrinth and then got chased around it screaming "fuck off" because I was so close to the end. That was until I realised I had already entered the safe zone.
I had come second despite coming to the finish way, way later than everyone else. I was very proud of myself and kept my runner ribbon on whilst we walked alllll the way back to near the start for tea.
Sombrero Guy's Account
At the start I went with the majority of runner on the most direct route to the first checkpoint. I travelled with Tom for the first minute, and we fell slightly behind the others. When he chose to hide in a ridiculously obvious place, I jogged ahead to catch up with the next runner, Flash Harry. We arrived at the first checkpoint just as Charlie Fish and Secret Agent were leaving, and took a couple of quick photos. We decided the fact that the photos were on our cameras was proof enough that we were there. This also saved a bit of time.
We kept catching glimpses of the two ahead of us as they ran towards the second checkpoint. By the time we reached checkpoint 2, the famous cows, they were nowhere in sight.
We then had to navigate a shopping centre the size of a small planet. Even my local guide got lost trying to find the right exit. by the time we were out and got to the third checkpoint, the Xscape building, we thought we were probably behind the chasers.
We were wrong. On the way to checkpoint 4, a quick movement on the other side of the road caught my eye. It was Jake, trying to block our route to the next safe zone. We could have turned back, but we started to run parallel to him on our side of the road until there was a gap in the traffic. We sprinted across the road and made the safe zone around the checkpoint with Jake only a few metres behind.
Ben and Kristina then came along as well, and we tried to persuade them all to leave us alone by telling them how far ahead Charlie and Secret Agent were. The three chasers moved away, and we waited until there was a considerable distance between us before moving on ourselves. However, we had barely gone 50 metres when we heard the sound of feet behind us. I turned and saw Ben about 3 metres behind. I ran.
Somehow, I don't know how, I made it back to the safe zone. And thus the Theatre District saved me a second time. Looking around I saw that my companion had been caught and I knew I'd have to go on alone. Luckily they didn't wait for me. Once they'd gone, I retraced the route to the shopping centre, continuously glancing behind me.
Luckily there are maps of the shopping centre, so I eventually managed to find checkpoint 5, John Lewis. I was relieved to be in a safe zone at last. I had been expecting a chaser around every corner, but none had turned up.
Coming out of the shopping centre to get to the library, I saw a hat that I recognised. It was Kristina, walking along with someone who I took to be Adam, because of the colour of his T-shirt. I realised later that it was actually Jake. They were walking in the opposite direction from the one I needed to take, so I waited to make sure they weren't turning around and continued to the library.
On the last stretch of the journey I was the most paranoid I had been all day. Always expecting an ambush from every direction, I followed the exact route I had seen the two chasers walking ten minutes earlier. However, even when I came to the final underpass, there was no ambush. If anything, this made me even more cautious, although I was starting to think I could finish, or even win. I knew that all the chasers had gone after Charlie and Secret Agent and wondered if they had been caught.
My hopes were crushed when I saw the whole group from the bridge across a main road. They were waiting at the finish. I decided I would just get as close as I could. Unfortunately I wasn't thinking well at that point, and took the most direct route to the finish point.
Tom appeared from behind a bush ahead of me and we just stood there for a few seconds, a metre or so apart. We were probably both thinking the same thing: Was I just going to let him catch me?
I darted sideways between two bushes and Tom shouted out to the others. Coming out onto grass, I saw Ben and Jake running at me. I ran through another bush, holding my sombrero in front of me to avoid being scratched by branches. I then ran down a bank, heading for a passage between two hedges. Out of the corner of my eye I saw someone moving round to block that route as Ben tagged me from behind.
My journey was over about 5 metres from the final safe zone.
As told in the above account, I managed to make it to checkpoint 4 through a mixture of sprinting, luck, and absolute failure at navigating through a shopping centre I have known for pretty much my whole life. Dubious skills, but still. After I'd made it to the Theatre District safe zone, I got a bit cocky, and just walked out towards John Lewis, expecting the chasers to have moved on.
Ben caught me minutes later, and there followed a moment of confusion as I realised my blue ribbon had fallen off my jacket at some point (I still don't know where), but i took up chaser orange and joined the hunt. We decided that the people to catch would be Charlie and Secret Agent, and so cut ahead to the only sensible way across to the finish line, where I lay in wait in this lovely little corner of our fair city:
After meeting Tom and Ben there, we waited in the bushes until Charlie came strolling past, at which point I dropped down and charged after him. In retrospect, this may have been a mistake, as I was wearing a surprisingly loud coat at the time. Hearing me, Charlie looked round, swore, and broke into a run, narrowly avoiding Tom bursting out of the bushes at one end of the bridge. He eluded us, but we felt sure he'd be caught by Ben at the other end of the bridge, until he ran through a rose bush. However, I then watched him run off in the wrong direction, and realised we could have stopped anyone finishing so far, given that we hadn't seen Secret Agent cross the bridge. So we ran to the finish line, only to find him standing there, having apparently run across the motorway and through several hedges. Madman. He took a chaser ribbon, and we then staked out the labyrinth entrances, managing to pick Charlie up a little way outside the safezone.
Haberley's Account: The Journey before the Journey
Right, has everyone finished with all the interesting stuff? I'll start my bit then...
All I can say is that organising this sort of event, even with the tiny amount of people involved this time, is a nightmare. I honestly don't know how people like Dax and Lincoln sorted out all this stuff for a full size JTTEOTN, I think anything bigger than what we did would have killed any lesser mortal. As one very prolific member of this site once remarked to me, getting SF0 players together to do one thing is like herding cats - and I can well believe it now, we lost about half the people planning to come up by the start of the race!
The main thing that needed sorting was the route itself - this is meant to be a scaled down/scaled up version of a normal Journey, so how long to make it? I ended up using the standard six-checkpoints-plus-finish method, and as far as I can work out it's almost as long as a normal Journey as well - so maybe not scaled-down sizewise, but definitely people-wise. So much so, in fact, that as the runners went their separate ways at the start I was dreading the possibility that we would not see anyone again until we hit the finish line. Thanks to Tom's fail, this wasn't the case.
What I tried to not tell anyone on the day, but was constantly runnign though my mind, was how close the whole damn thing came to not being around at all. You see, it had a major pitfall in that it had me organising it... I am somewhat of an organisational retard, and so getting me to sort out anything is always a bad idea. The idea to do a JTTEOTN2 at the Gathering occured to people about the same time as the Gathering itself was being thought up, and in a flurry I created a route, tested it, wrote up maps and checked the checkpoints for running viability in the same day. I was so happy with this, thatI sat back and forgot about it for a while. Two days before the event, I realised I needed a few minor things for it - you knwo, ribbons, maps and info sheets, PRIZES... This is why the ribbons in the pictures are blue and gold, rather than blue and red - they're the two colours I could find two days before the event! Also, due to the scaled down Journey, we have suitably scaled-down prizes - make no mistake, these are no mere toys, but priceless childhood memories that I felt deserved somewhere better than my attic. Therefore, they're now in the caring hands of new homes... or at least two of them are, Ben managed to leave his in the pub. Eejit.
A few notes by Secret Agent:
I'm quite pleased with my completed manifest (when the scanner gets working again it may appear). I got it signed by a drinker at the pub, by a cow at the cows, by a robot at X-scape (it had to just mark an 'X' since it didn't have proper appendages), by a famous Indian actor at the Theatre District, by John Lewis himself at John Lewis (I know, I wasn't expecting to meet him there either, but there you have it), and by a writer at the Library (Mr. Fish, of course).
I feel a little bad for scaring Charlie off a good route near the end. When the chasers' ambush happened he ran faster in the right direction, and I had to loop a bit to evade them. I thought we might still be able to try our blindfolded finish, but I lost him when he cut into John Lewis. Oh well. I was still paranoid going through its parking lot towards the bridge, thinking that would be another obvious ambush point. So, since the motorway was only wee (only two lanes each way), and didn't have much traffic, I went under the bridge instead of over it. If I'd realised I was completing a task
, I'd have documented it, but it didn't really feel like much of an accomplishment.
The finish, anyway, was too easy. There was no one guarding the end point, and I was trying to figure out how to take a picture of myself there before donning my true colours when the others started to arrive. I sort of felt bad catching Charlie, but it's just in the nature of a secret agent that you can never know their true allegiances. Be warned.