Was I supposed to turn back there? I think this trail looks familiar – doesn’t it? Yes, this is definitely the correct way,… I think. When was the last time I saw a course-marking ribbon?
If you have ever had these recurring thoughts as you navigate a trail, then orienteering could be the perfect cross-training to complement your trail running; one might call it cross-training for the mind. It is “the thinking sport” boasts the website of Cascade Orienteering Club.
Cascade Orienteering Club welcomes all ages, physical abilities and experience levels. In conjunction with the Sammamish Orienteering and Rogaining Club, there are two Wednesday evening events coming up in the next month:
• July 14 at Robinswood Park in Bellevue
• August 4 at Luther Burbank Park in Mercer Island
Registration for these events begins at 5:15 p.m., with the meets beginning at 5:30 p.m. Unlike a trail running race, however, at an orienteering event, start times are staggered. If your work schedule does not allow you to be there by 5:30 p.m., then take advantage of the uniqueness of these events which stagger starts all the way up to 7 p.m.
Race results are based on the “chip time” it takes you to visit predetermined “controls” on the race course. And, if you are the competitive type, orienteering has still not gained the popularity that it has in Europe. While trail and ultra races frequently fill up and can be knee deep in competition, in orienteering, trail runners may find themselves snagging a top spot!
If you have never attended an orienteering event, Cascade Orienteering Club’s website offers a 10-step guide to your first meet. To summarize: show up, dress comfortably for the weather and have fun! Very much like trail running, the final step of your 10-step introduction to orienteering is that you should stick around after you complete your course: “Orienteers are a friendly bunch, and we always love discussing courses afterwards!”
As runners will attest, trail/ultra running is very different from road running – trail and ultra runners have a very strong sense of community that you do not find at a 10K or corporate marathon. The same can be said of orienteering: a recent survey by Cascade Orienteering Club reports that two-thirds of respondents say a “sense of belonging” is important to them, and a whopping 95% say they felt either very or moderately welcomed the first time they attended an orienteering meet.
Terry Farrah of Cascade Orienteering Club reassures that the directionally-challenged runner will be just fine. “To to be decent at orienteering,” she says “ you don’t have to know which way is N, S, E, or W . That’s a great thing about it. You just use your compass to orient your map with the earth, and then follow the map.” Farrah also notes that orienteering is a great way to find your running groove, “if I’m orienteering, I hardly notice that I’m running — I’m so engaged in navigation.”
Perhaps after attending your first couple meets, your mind will re-orient itself from questioning whether you are on the correct trail, to asserting “hey, I’m thinking of signing up for Barkley!”