The 24 Hour Walk

By David Hogg
The Australian Orienteer, June/July 1986

This is an extract from the full two page article, explaining the origin of the Intervarsity 24 hour competition, which established the form and rules of the sport that was later named rogaining.

The 1960’s saw a new development in 24 hour walks – the attempt to introduce an intervarsity competition. This originated more for ‘political’ rather than purely sporting reasons.

MUMC was the only club affiliated with the Melbourne University Sports Union which did not engage in intervarsity competition or other competitive sport. As a result it tended to be regarded by some elements within the Sports Union as ‘second-rate’, and this in turn was felt to prejudice the level of grant support it received from the Sports Union.

A proposal to overcome this problem came in 1963 from Max Corry who suggested an intervarsity 24 hour walk. On approaching other universities and bushwalking clubs, an enthusiastic response was received from some quarters, particularly Monash and Adelaide, who joined in the first unofficial intervarsity contest held as part of the open event in May 1964. Following the success of the first event (which was won by Melbourne) the intervarsity was repeated in 1965, this time with New South Wales also joining in.

Following that event, a move was made to have the Intervarsity 24 Hour Walk officially recognised by the Australian Universities Sports Association. Despite strong support from the Sports Unions of participating universities, conservative elements in the AUSA managed to narrowly defeat the move, one of their arguments being that there was no national body laying down rules for the event to follow. The unofficial intervarsity competition still continued, however, being held in Adelaide in 1967 and Newcastle in 1968.

Then in 1968 the break came - a couple of copies of the first edition of John Disley’s book, Orienteering, appeared in a Melbourne bookshop. I managed to get the last copy, which included the rules of the recently formed English Orienteering Association. I used this as the basis for preparing a set of rules for intervarsity orienteering, and, after a little redrafting, this time the AUSA was satisfied. ‘Intervarsity Mountaineering’ in the form of a ’24 hour orienteering contest’ became an official intervarsity sport.

The first official intervarsity orienteering contest started on 31 May 1969 in the Blackwood-Daylesford area. Unlike the traditional MUMC 24 hour walk it was a score competition rather than a cross country event, reflecting the preferences of the majority of participating universities. For the first time, red-and-white cloth markers were used (with a white diagonal strip over a red background as copied from Disley’s book) instead of the traditional strip of white cheesecloth.

The Melbourne team of Ron Frederick and Bob McNaught won the men’s section while Monash won the women’s contest. The first part of the evening was complicated by an intervarsity car rally taking place simultaneously in the same area. As one team passed a car rally check point, they were asked “Are you in the competition?” Reply: “Yes!” Rally official: “Well, where’s your car?”

Original Reference:
Hogg, D., “The 24 Hour Walk”, Australian Orienteer, June/July 1986, p14, p15