My children and OH have been orienteering for a couple of years and love it. I've spent most of 2019 giving it a good try and think it's great - but, I'm a lot less good at it than I hoped! I seem to have 3 main areas to work on; (1) running on terrain [very slow!], (2) making occasional big navigational errors and (3) not getting much information from the map when running [combination of poor eyesight and oxygen-staved brain while running!]
Has anyone got any advice / tips for a latecomer to orienteering (M50)?
You are in a very competitive age group so don't be disheartened if other people are putting up very fast times!
I would address the map-reading while running first: I know that a lot of people run with special reading glasses that are sort of a bit more extreme than half moon specs, so when you look down you can see the map and when you look up you can see the terrain. Mr Ultrasport should be able to sort you out. Other people have had success with wearing a single contact lens though I imagine it takes some getting used to. Additionally have you been using a thumb compass? This makes a big difference when following a rough bearing, but also allows you to very rapidly find the relevant section of the map. Generally you want the "ruler" section of the compass parallel to your route, maybe 5mm offset so you can see the area of interest. If you aren't familiar with this technique then get someone to show you. The lack of oxygen/mental space is harder to address, partly the decision making gets easier as you practise. Make it easier on yourself by choosing "safe" routes, unless you are specifically treating the run as training in which case you need to slow down a bit. Work backwards from the control to your attack point to your approach route.
Running over terrain is a skill that takes time to develop, but again can often be avoided by staying away from undergrowth symbols etc. If you run at other times then aim to at least run on grass to get used to lifting your legs higher, and also practise keeping your head up.
I always made big nav errors so probably can't give good advice on that beyond making sure you always have a plan for a leg rather than just running and hoping.
Good luck! Part of the appeal is that you don't have to be the best/fastest to enjoy it.
1. Find a good runner in your club who's usually at the same events as you, who wouldn't wouldn't mind talking about your route after you're done.
2. Check out any summer or evening 'training' events which often break the skills down into constituent parts (map memory, speed, control flow, etc) Work on the bits separately. Ask to 'shadow' a better orienteer around a course to see when they 'go direct' or take more deviant route choices. Don't look at your map, just concentrate on following them through terrain at speed.
3. Go for your regular training runs 'on terrain' rather than open moor or paths etc. Get strong by spending time bashing through brashings. See the benefit of using more specific orienteering shoes (with tungsten 'dobs') rather than lighter fell running/training shoes.
4. Use the various route capture devices and route comparison websites to compare your performance to others. Ask others why they went the way they did. Identify where you lost time and how to you can eliminate those incidents.
5. Enter week long events in the summer - six days of orienteering on Scottish terrain (or Scandinavian, Czech, etc) is either going to see you improve or . . . .
Thanks very much for the very detailed (and rapid!) reply. I've come to realise that I'm in a very competitive age class, and most people in the class have been orienteering for years!
I usually run in contact lenses. They're great for distance vision, but not so good for anything close (e.g. reading a map!) My glasses are probably better for map-reading, but they're no good if there's any drizzle / mist / low sun etc. I use a thumb compass (with attached magnifying glass - which has helped a lot) The problems with getting information off the map seem to be more 'mental' than 'physical' - I feel under pressure to 'keep moving' rather than stopping and reading the map.
I agree that I need to get out and practise terrain running (I never have in the past) and I'm coming from a few years of road running - so I'm very bad at it (and susceptible to rolling my at the merest hint of uneven ground)
Thanks again - I'm really enjoying this new challenge, but there's SO much that can go wrong!
some really good advice from those already responded, no point me repeating but I would also advise getting a copy of Carol McNeill's great book called "orienteering" and also have a look at the videos on the British Orienteering Federation website under "skills"
finally - have fun! sounds like you are already.
Thanks Jim - loads of good ideas there.
1. I do a lot of talking through maps with other runners (especially my kids and OH) It all makes sense when I'm sitting around a table discussing routes, but it seems to go to pieces when I'm at an event and making my own choices.
2. Really like your idea of shadowing a better orienteer (there are lots of them around...) I'll have to pluck up the courage to ask! I do spend quite a bit of time looking at Routegadget to see where other people went.
3. Totally agree - need to practise terrain running (I don't at the moment)
4. I use my Garmin to capture my track on larger events (where there will be a Routegadget later). I can usually find where I lost time - but it's eliminating / minimising these errors that's proving very tricky!
5. I was entered for the Scottish 6 last year, but suffered a very badly rolled ankle the week before, so I spent the week hobbling around the assembly areas on walking poles, providing logistical support to my kids and OH...! I've entered for the Welsh 6 - looking forward to Portmerion!
Thanks again - lots of food for thought!
I wasn't aware of the book - I'll look into it, cheers!
I've watched the videos as they were being released last year - the presenters speed and clarity of thought seems to be a million miles away from my floundering around in the mud and brambles with an upside-down map... I think I'll give them another watch I think.
I certainly am having fun! But it'd be nice to not be last all the time!
I don't wear glasses but I'm colourblind and find getting info of orienteering maps when running fast really hard. (There should be a colourblind classification by the way, for us wronguns) I use map memory so I don't have to, instead I 'check in' at key points. I think most people do this tbh as you can't be looking at the ground and a map at the same time.
My old club (sadly orienteering has been replaced by kids swimming lessons and football training) runs sessions with the only maps attached to the controls, but it's easy to replicate by just not looking.
You can pick routes that play to your strengths too. Often a much longer route on big paths can be faster for you than the short technical one that everyone else chose. It's a bit like choosing climbing routes, push yourself on safe ground or address your weaknesses.
Join your local O club, most are very welcoming to new members. Get to the club training nights and learn from running with others - shadowing does help.
Try a few of the mini mountain marathon races - larger maps with some more time to think between controls.
Permanent O courses; find your local one, get the map, practice practice between the same set of controls, but with different route choices.
finally think of CAR.
Control; identifying the control you are approaching- what is it.
Attack; attack point that you’ll use close to the control feature.
Route; how will you get to the ATTACK POINT, not the control.
I'm a member of SYO (my local) who have been super-welcoming, and the club nights are great. I need to ask about 'shadowing' - it's not been mentioned by the club before.
I agree that the longer courses (with more time to think between controls) give me a better chance. However, I'm keen to improve my weaknesses - middle distance is my current nemesis...
You're right about CAR - I should try breaking down each leg a bit more strategically. It's currently very random - sometimes I land on a control, but often I don't...! I tend to find a control, breathe a sigh of relief, then run off in the general direction of the next control without a plan...
Greg gives good advice.
I always used to break it down to three stages.
Leaving a control - quick bearing to get you in the right direction, hit the largest close by linear feature. (path, wall etc)
Once on a big feature and running along it, plan your route to the next control (easier to read and run at the same time while on a path) pick your attack point. find the easiest route to it. (In my experience easier = faster, within reason)
Once at your attack point take a bearing and distance measurement to close onto the control and check the feature it's located on. sometimes its worth looking for a catching feature beyond it, so you know if you've run too far. And if the control is on a junction of some kind (stream, wall, etc) aim off it, so you know whether to go left or right when you hit it.
A thumb compass is essential, and fold the map so you only see one leg at a time.
Oh, and always check the number.
Getting to the end and realising that you miss-punched early on in the run is heartbreaking.
Thanks - good advice again. I generally get near to the control circle, but it's often the final 20/30 meters to the actual control that take a lot of time. I need to take a bit of time to actually read the control description. I tend to just hope that I can see a flag when I get near.
Regarding checking the control number / mis-punching - yes, I've learned the hard way! So that's probably one of the few aspects of my orienteering that I'm comfortable with!
Loads of great tips already.
Try a few types of glasses, some are half lenses others full, some steam up etc..
Speed.. don't worry it will come. Outstanding route choice will more than make up for slow running. Use the flat tracks to read the map as you run faster, slow it all down on rough ground etc.. as said a thumb compass is more practical.. on very rough ground don't directly follow the bearing, pick a tree/boulder/feature 25,50, 100m in line and take the easiest fastest terrain to there and repeat.
Look for some permanent courses (POCs), you can practice without pressure. You can also often just buy O maps without any course on them to go out and run.. there are few in the lakes, Loughrigg for example.
Mileage is key, just pick the easier course and give it time, at big events if you get the option select an early start then you are not feeling under pressure of being last in.
Absolutely always orientate the map as you go.
Learn your strengths; precision compass on the shortest route through tough ground, or fast legs around a longer more tracked route... contour around or over the hill.... how many paces at your usual running pace for 100m on a track.
> Thanks - good advice again. I generally get near to the control circle, but it's often the final 20/30 meters to the actual control that take a lot of time. I need to take a bit of time to actually read the control description. I tend to just hope that I can see a flag when I get near.
> Regarding checking the control number / mis-punching - yes, I've learned the hard way! So that's probably one of the few aspects of my orienteering that I'm comfortable with!
Get a wrist holder for control descriptions and learn the code. Have a scan early en-route so you know what you looking for, top or bottom.. hidden on the other side etc.. and the number if you can remember it.
You can often in some instances print these yourself at home in advance, it gives you more time to plan.
> Get a wrist holder for control descriptions and learn the code. Have a scan early en-route so you know what you looking for, top or bottom.. hidden on the other side etc.. and the number if you can remember it.
I've got a wrist holder and I've been trying to learn the codes (and the extra info - middle, top, beneath etc.) I've been using the MapRunner on-line quiz https://www.maprunner.co.uk/cd/
It all works fine when I'm sitting at a desk, but once I'm running at an event it goes to pieces! For example; I can be running towards a control, I glance at the control descriptions and I think 'OK, It should be control 120', then within 20 seconds I've forgotten the number. I presume it's the panic and pressure of running a competitive event vs. just training?
Self imposed pressure... that's orienteering, unless you think you'll be in the top few most of the time you are racing yourself. Cringing after at obvious mistakes afterwards, failing to understand how you missed that obvious path, striving to reduce your min/km pace.
> Self imposed pressure... that's orienteering, unless you think you'll be in the top few most of the time you are racing yourself. Cringing after at obvious mistakes afterwards, failing to understand how you missed that obvious path, striving to reduce your min/km pace.
Yup, that pretty much sums it up!
(I am enjoying it though!)
Just do more..
Good orienteers think 2-3 steps ahead.
I'm a pretty good navigator, and a decent runner, yet somehow get destroyed orienteering. I can be solidly competitive in a mountain marathon type event these days but good orienteers still destroy me.
I've got better from partnering with them and seeing how they think ahead and are constantly planning the next leg. They are also good at working out when they can put their foot down and run with confidence.
The main thing I'd do is try and do some doubles events with good orienteers.
Best advice is to stop orienteering and go geocaching instead
Or, as most advise, break it down into parts and work on each part.
If you are nervous about your ankles then lots of people tape them or wear ankle supports.
It sounds like you are struggling with the final approach to the control; this was always my weakness too. First you you need a good attack point with a realistic plan to get from it to the control. This could be a bearing but if so you need to be clear about how far you can go in the relevant terrain on a bearing. Alternatives include contouring round from a known point, travelling down or up the fall line. Then you need to think of a catching feature to stop you going miles too far. If contouring then this might be the bearing of the slope, but more typically it will be a linear feature. Don't forget to slow down once you get to the attack point!
Try to use any easy sections to plan ahead (ideally more than just the next control), identify which sections will be tricky and spend the most time planning those. Make sure you don't just keep running indefinitely though...
SYO is a great and active club so you are bound to get lots of help if you look for it.
Thanks - I am definitely nervous about my ankles and have got as far as buying some tape. Now I just need to start wearing it...
I think that your advice about slowing down once I get to the attack point sounds very sensible. Running too fast seems to be at the root of many of my problems!
Also, I seldom manage to plan more than 1 control ahead - I'll attempt to address this.
When running I think like a traffic light.
Green - I know exactly where, and how far I can run - so run hard, map in hand, reliant on memory
Amber - I have a good idea, but I need to track tick features more - run moderately, looking at my map often.
Red - I'm on approach, constant map and ground watching, slowed right down. Or I'm mislocated, and stopped. Never lost ;)
All great advice on this thread - so not much to add. Orienteering is just the best. I got more nervous prior to big events than before climbing!
Green, Amber Red is a great technique and the "Green" zone - or whenever you are on a track or path - is the time to plan ahead - as many controls as you can. This helps flow and the concept of running "through" controls rather than arriving and wondering what to do next.
Good taping with good quality tape "Leukotape" helps ankles a lot. I always taped for competitions.
In the end it's all about maintaining concentration and focus - so a consistent pre-start ritual that eliminates distractions and allows you to "switch on" when the whistle goes is crucial.
Thanks everybody for the advice on this thread - really appreciated!
Plenty for me to ponder and apply as my orienteering adventure continues...
Final point... pay attention to the scale and contour separation. 1:15000 1:10000 or even 1:5000 for urban sprints.
In case anyone got the wrong impression from the OP, I've looked at Dave's BOF ranking. He might want to get better (don't we all), but he's not an orienteering bumbly.
Being a bit of a geek I looked at the splits for a couple of your recent runs. You've obviously got the basic speed (e.g. coming 1st on the run into the finish leg) but it seems you're making too many big errors (i.e. big time loss on a leg). You're never going to do the perfect run, you'll usually have at least one or two minor errors (legs where maybe you could have saved 30-60 secs), so don't worry about them. The trick I think you need to master is making all your errors minor errors.
The main skill for this (I still find that I sometimes haven't totally mastered this), is to recognise earlier when things have gone wrong. Then STOP, RELOCATE and carry on without worrying about the time loss. It's difficult to do because you get to near where you think you should be and you start wandering around trying to spot the control. This always takes up more time than you think. Half the time you're probably right and the control is just around the corner, but the other half you've cocked up and it's nowhere near.
So as soon as you start "wondering", stop and consider whether you need to relocate and re-attack or whether you really are near the control.
Even when you master this, it'll still probably go wrong occasionally (very annoying when you do - FFS, after all these years, etc 😁). Analyse each run and estimate what your biggest time loss was on any leg. When that regularly comes down to <2 mins (and ideally <1 min), then you can start worrying about not remembering control numbers, running faster on rough terrain, etc.
Of course I'm saying all this from a desk knowing full well that in the middle of a run, when you're getting tired, this can all go out the window 😁.
> Final point... pay attention to the scale and contour separation. 1:15000 1:10000 or even 1:5000 for urban sprints.
I think this is what I struggle on most when in sprints and short events. I'm fine on mountain terrain with typical maps used in MM's. Give me a very large scale map and the contours get me. I do them so rarely I'm always about half way around a course before I've got my eye back in.
Thanks Michael - loads and loads of great food for thought there! The bit about 'recognise earlier when things have gone wrong' has a particular resonance with me. I definitely have a reticence to admit that I'm not where I thought I was, so I tend to flounder around for longer before I finally accept the inevitable and relocate. I'll try to keep this in mind in future. (But it is such a sinking feeling...admitting that you've blown it...!)
My errors tend to be big and induce a bit of a panic which then impacts on judgement for the following legs. I do feel a pressure to 'keep moving' rather than stop and think. Again, this is something that I'll have to address.
The return of large numbers of people to national parks and other upland areas in England has brought a spike in littering, wildfires and mountain rescue incidents. Some issues appear to be worse than during equivalent periods in past years.