WHAT IS ORIENTEERING?
Orienteering is a competitive sport combining running fitness with navigational skill. You use a specially drawn, large scale map (usually 1:10,000 or 1:15,000) to navigate around a course from point to point. Each point is called a control and is located at a particular feature on the map (see map section below). Younger orienteers and beginners use paths and simple features that are easy to find. Older, experienced orienteers will run through complex terrain, navigating their way to more difficult features. At each control point is an orange and white control flag as well as an electronic punch which records that you have visited the control. The winner is the person who visits the correct controls in the right order and the quickest time. When you finish you get an immediate computer print out which tells you your overall time, and your time between each control. An event will have courses that are run according to age class and sex, or courses that are classified by length and difficulty. Winning requires running speed and stamina, as well as the ability to find the quickest route between controls. At the elite level it is a highly competitive sport involving intense concentration, skill and fitness, running against the best in the world in international competition.
WHO CAN DO IT?
Anyone! Orienteering can be competitive for people of all ages from toddlers who are taken around a string course, to their grandparents on a technical course, as the lengths of the courses and degree of physical challenge are planned according to age.
WHERE CAN I DO IT?
Orienteering by its very nature takes place on terrain: forests, moors, fells etc. The most challenging orienteering is usually in the more remote areas where there are fewer paths and the terrain is more demanding. However the challenge of finding the best route in the quickest time can be as difficult in the local park as in the most remote forest!
WHAT DO I NEED?
To get started all you need is a pair of trainers or all-terrain shoes with good grip, and outdoor clothes (full body and leg cover is mandatory). A lightweight cagoule may be useful (and sometimes required) if the weather is bad. The other really useful item is, of course, a compass. The map you use will be given to you at the event.
Orienteering is very much an acquired skill at which practice makes perfect – the more you do, the better you will get. Start at a level which requires less technical skill and move up once you have mastered that level.