Friday, April 02, 2010

Looking for a new challenge? Try orienteering!

Getting bored of plain old running? Using a trail just too mundane for you? Maybe it's time to check out something new?

Well that something new might just be orienteering. That fun sport where you run through the woods with a map and try to find "controls" and complete a course. It's a lot of fun and it's a great way for runners to get a workout in. But to give you a bit more information on orienteering, the NETT News Team recently sat down with Andy and Kristen Hall, NETT's resident orienteering experts, for a quick Q&A on the basics of the sport.

Q: How long (time-wise or distance wise) is a typical orienteering event?

A: It depends on the type of event. Sprint courses like the CSU Park Series are typically around 2km. How long it takes you depends on how well you navigate - winners will be about 12 minutes, those who have to stand still to read their map/ get lost/ run way past the control before realising that they should have stopped after 100m will take a lot longer.

Weekend events normally have a wider range of courses, varying from 2km to 8km (shorter ones have easier navigation, based around trails; longer ones are more technical for the navigation and may rely on you not running on trails to be fast - there will often be trail routes but they will take you a long way around). Winning times are, of course, longer (expect the fastest to be around 8 min/km)

Q: Do you need any special equipment to participate in an orienteering event the first time? (Fancy compass, shoes, GPS?)

A: No, but it helps to have a compass. Compasses are sometimes available to rent at the registration. GPS are not allowed. If the sun is out, it is generally in the south, so you don't necessarily need a compass

Q: What advantages would I have as a runner in an orienteering event?

A: Fitness is the runner's biggest asset.

Q: What disadvantages would I have as a runner?

A: Runners tend to run faster than they can navigate, meaning that when they make mistakes they are really big. Dave Dunham took a long time to realise this fact. He now tends to run slower when orienteering and therefore orienteers faster!

Q: Any other advice or words of wisdom you give to first-timers?

A: Go slow and make sure you know where you are on the map AT ALL TIMES until you are confident with your navigating abilities. It is a great way to get out in the countryside, in places that you wouldn't necessarily go otherwise.

Cambridge Sports Union has a great weeknight series of shorter races. See the 2010 Boston Park Orienteering Series here that has events in familiar places like Fresh Pond, Arnold Arboretum, Cat Rock Park and even Boston Common on Thursday nights starting April 15.

Another great resource is the New England Orienteering Club, which has events coming up in Westwood, Nashua and even Prospect Hill in Waltham (April 18).

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