Sunday, October 24, 2010

Orienteering should be enjoyable - well said that man!

At the AGM of our Orienteering club last week (as part of the follow up to a motion last year on increasing membership and participation) we had a 'brainstorming' session. And there was one comment made which struck a cord with me - Orienteering should be enjoyable!!


(picture of the author in a fell race with a big silly grin on his face!)

Now what one person calls 'enjoyable' is not necessarily exactly what another would list, and it very much depends one each persons' perspective.

For instance, a long way to the start for one person is ideal for a thorough warm up. For the younger and older participants, it might be as long as their course, so might seriously increase the physical challenge to their limits. And for parents with split start times, it can be very difficult. From my own family experience, a long walk to the start can sometimes mean we just don't go to the event.

Some people like a good physical challenge - lots of climb or rough underfoot - the enjoyment comes from testing yourself and coming through it strongly - the calls for full on Classic distance courses are a case in point. For others, if it is too physical, then they can't enjoy the navigational challenges of the course.

On the other side of the coin, pandering to everyone's needs can lead to a proliferation of courses, with only a handful of people on each one - if enjoyment comes from competing against other people, and comparing routes and splits afterwards, then this goes out of the window if there are only one or two people to run against.

Some then argue for cutting down the number of courses - if you want to run a 10k or half marathon or a marathon, then everone runs the same distance - you don't run 10% less distance just because you're that bit older! It's good to have lots of people to compare yourself against - witness the limited number of courses offered at Urban-O events. It also reduces the workload for the event officials, surely making their jobs more enjoyable!

Of course, then some people like a bit of 'head to head' racing, whereas others prefer to run in total solitude, without distraction - total self reliance. Is 'using' other competitors all part of the game, or is it 'cheating' - the IOF seems to think that mass start classic distance races are the way forward for the World Championships.

I know you can't predict the weather, and access restrictions mean some areas are only available at certain times of the year, but bad weather on an exposed area can certainly reduce the enjoyment factor!

I guess that with Orienteers being so individualistic means that you are never going to please all of the people all of the time.

So if I were planning an event, here are some of the things I would try to incorporate, in an effort to try and make the event as enjoyable as possible for as many people as possible:

  • Start no more than 5-10 mins from car parking/assembly.

  • Finish as close as practical to the car park/assembly.

  • Find the nicest, most scenic and most runnable bits of the area and make sure as many people as possible go through them.

  • Use short legs to thread people through the nice bits and longer route choice legs to get people round the not so nice bits.

  • Find the interesting things and the nice viewpoints in the area - and take people there! Castles, sculptures, caves, ponds - anything memorable!

  • Try to minimise the climb, or at least the effort of the climb - zig-zag up or down a steep hill, or at least make the leg diagonally up or down the the slope - or at least give an 'over or round option'.

  • Try to avoid the bad vegetation - bracken, deep heather, brambles, tussock grass!
And my most 'enjoyable' event of the last year? I think it must be the North East Score Champs in Bishop Auckland Park - just about ticked all the boxes!!

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