Northern Championships Festival of Orienteering, Summerhouse Knott

Orienteering is a phenomenally diverse sport; in terrain, location and difficulty. And an orienteering competition can be daunting, although behind the apparent complexity is an incredibly simple concept. It’s this: You get a map with a course on it, and you run round the course as quickly as you can. There are usually lots of courses to chose from. From dead-easy, to dead-hard. So the best way, and certainly the most fun way to have a go, is to compete. This begs the question, as often it does, What’s the easiest course you can enter at an orienteering competition?

It’s the string course. Most competitions have a super-easy course called the String course. Day One of the Northern Championships Festival of Orienteering had a string course. How does it work? Well, how long is a piece of string? You follow the string round the course, and you can see your route on the map. The courses get progressively more difficult through a series of colour groups until you get to black. So you stick a pin on a colour that suits you, and have a go.

I was having a go at Brown, and soon found myself walking off for Control One. I say walking as I resisted the temptation to dash off with more enthusiasm than sense. It was a good course, lots of woodland and I always like that. But a bit short. I spent a lot of time forcing myself to navigate and keep map contact. I got frustrated and longed for a decent bit of uncomplicated running, but it wasn’t that sort of course. These were ‘Middle Distance’ races and a cool head was needed otherwise you might easily end up enthusiastically running a long distance in the wrong direction.

This was my first experience at competing at this level and it was good fun. Although frustrated at the my slow progress I forced myself to keep concentrating and resist the temptation to dash about. Not exactly a podium position but sufficiently distant from the back-marker to give me some satisfaction and hope. I wondered what tomorrow would bring …

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