HERE'S a first. The first time I've ever competed in a race to be greeted by heavily armed soldiers at the gate, and then during the run itself to be accompanied by the sound of gunfire.

No, it wasn't the Baghdad Half Marathon but the Longmoor Training Camp just north of Petersfield.

The area around Bordon and Longmoor has been used as an Army training camp since the 19th century when the land was bought by the War Department in the mid 1880s.

The Longmoor and Bordon areas are the historic home of railway' soldiers.

The original railway line was built to move a complete camp from Longmoor to Bordon in the early 1900s.

From this relatively minor start the British Army's railway transport system was built which was to develop into a major railway artery during the Second World War.

Within the Longmoor Training Area, there is a Second World War memorial near the site where the pilot, Richard Pryce-Hughes, was killed on April 15th, 1942, when his damaged bomber crashed as he guided it away from the residential area.

The centre was disbanded in 1969 and today the camp is primarily used by cadets.

It was those heavily-armed cadets who were strutting around in their khaki uniforms brandishing rifles when I turned up with a friend, Julian Lyne to compete in an Army orienteering event.

Julian, who belongs to Southampton Orienteering Club, is an old hand at the sport. I wanted to include orienteering within the project to demonstrate the range of different running events.

The problem is, I can't read a map! Give me a compass, and I'm all over the place. I did ask whether I could bring a SatNav with me, but was told that was no use at all.

So we were at Longmoor for one of a regular summer series of races, and I was going to shadow Julian on one of the novice courses.

It was a time trial, and when we turned up there were competitors milling about deciding which of the five different events they would compete in.

The races are graded according to difficulty. The harder the course, the less detail you get on the map which is given to you.

Today there was a 4km brown/blue course, a 4.1km event known as the Corridor, a No Paths race over 5km and a 1km event called the Line.

The aim, quite simply, is to navigate your way to one of the many control points hidden along the course, which are marked by an orange and white control kite.

Each runner carries an electronic key with them, which is laid flat at each control point to record their time.

For the novice course, which was spread over 3.8km, we had 10 control points to work our way around. I carried a map with me, a coloured map with different coloured shadings and marks, and the 10 control points marked. The problem was to find them.

This was the first, and probably only time in the 80 race challenge when I competed in an event and I wasn't in control. I was in Julian's hands. He had the map and compass, he knew what he was doing. I tried to follow from the map, holding the map in the direction we were following and trying to pick out features.

More than once, I was jogging along trying to fix a point on the map and Julian was off, cutting across a ditch and over the heather.

We had a dodgy start trying to find the first control point, but thereafter we seemed to ease our way around, criss-crossing other competitors. There's no point following them because they could be tracing another course.

I was surprised at how quickly Julian moved between the control points. A good 15 years older than me, he was still swift of foot, and managed to cut a fast swathe through the clinging heather, and through heavily forested areas.

One of Julian's mottos is that the best way of orienteering quickly is to know when to go slowly. Another is never get yourself lost in the circle of uncertainty.

I was a passenger in this run, trying to keep up over the hilly and barren terrain - jumping over tank tracks, circling round barbed wire, looking up at the circling helicopters and accompanied by the cacophony of gunfire in the distance.

Eventually, we found the tenth checkpoint, Julian inserted the electronic key, and we then moved swiftly to the finish. It took us 35min 2sec for the distance. We probably covered about 4.5km.

It was a little anti-climactic since we finished, and then trotted off to the car to wait for one of Julian's friends to finish. In the end we finished ninth from a field of 45, some seven minutes behind the winner, which was good.

Running is often brutal aggression and speed. You can lose yourself in your running, allowing your mind to wander off. With orienteering, you are constantly thinking on your feet, there is no time to relax.