The Big O

I experienced something this weekend that I haven’t experienced since middle school. Orienteering. It’s a very popular recreational sport in europe, and a common aspect of gym class and summer camp activities over there. Basically it is cross country or trail running, combined with map reading and open land navigation. The Orienteering Club of Georgia was having its fall season kick off meet, which was completely free. It was a surprisingly large event, but with equally surprising small number of actual runners. The bulk of the crowd seemed to be made up of family outings, hiker/walkers, boy scout troops, JROTC squads and the like.

This is how you play: You receive a blank contour map of the area, with markings for man-made objects, trails, and color coded for clearings, non-passable woods, water features, etc. Depending on which event you are running, you go to a Master map and transfer a series of check points onto your map. You then go/run/race to each checkpoint, marked by a square box-kite-like orange and white flag, and punch your card with a uniquely patterned hole punch. When finished, your turn in your card and they log your time. There was a beginners course (white) and an intermediate (yellow) with the checkpoints laid out in a loop that you ran in sequence. The big one was called a Score-O. It involved about 20 or 30 checkpoints spread much farther afield. The object was to get as many points scored within a certain time limit, in this case 60 minutes. I skipped it as I was pressed for time after completing white and yellow, but will definitely do it next time.

Good article here.


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