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  • It's a great challenge for your body and your mind.
  • It's an enjoyable way to improve your health.
  • It's an important step in learning to know and respect the nature and the environment.

  • Orienteering brief description
    The main instruments of the sport - the map and the compass - were invented in China, one of the world's oldest cultures, more than 3,000 years ago. In the Scandinavian forests, they became tools for training and competitive racing in the late 19th century.
    Today, orienteering is a sport, a hobby and a lifestyle for people of all ages, on all continents. Navigating through mountain terrain as well as city parks, they and explore the nature and the neighborhoods in the search for defined control points. At ultimate speed or at a pace of ones own, they complete courses from a few hundred meters up to marathon distances.
    Orienteering can be practiced anywhere and by anyone, both day and night - on foot, on skis, on a bike or in a wheelchair.

    At the elite level, it is one of the world's toughest sports. For the recreational orienteer, it is an amazing and amusing way to relax and develop many skills. Combining physical activity, knowledge and decision-making, fun and competitiveness, orienteering is also branded "an investment for life".

    What is orienteering?
    As the motto of orienteering suggests: "Finding your way through an unknown terrain," it is a sport where you have to combine both your physical and mental skills. It is a sport where you have to navigate in terrain as fast as you can with your only navigational tools being a map and compass.
    At the starting line each competitor is given a map with controls marked on it. The controls are connected with a straight line and each runner has to collect them in given order - but this is the only "restriction" involved. Otherwise everything depends on your own decisions - it is up to the runner to choose the route to the control. The obvious strategy is to find the fastest - though often not the shortest - way possible as it is only time that matters in the finish.
    Orienteering is practiced by both women and men, at elite or at a recreational level. Many people do it for fun, and for the pleasure of being in the nature. As well, the age range is wide - the categories spread from children at 10 years of age to masters of 85 and older. Orienteering can be practiced in several disciplines. The most common is foot-orienteering, though with time and development of the sport other forms of orienteering have started to flourish. Mountain-bike-orienteering has marked significant growth in the numbers of participants in recent years. Ski-orienteering is a regular, well-established orienteering discipline, as well as trail-orienteering - all of these with own World Championships.

    What is so special about orienteering?
    Statistics in Finland, where orienteering has long traditions, show that more than 80 % of the orienteers on the labor market have a university exam. It is a sport that attracts highly intelligent people, probably so due to its nature: You do not only need to be well trained in order to move swiftly through terrain - you also have to have certain mental capacities to be able to understand the way the terrain is reflected on the map. Another special aspect of orienteering is its mass form. Most events are public, common to ordinary athletes and the elite, with an average participation of around 1,000. The biggest, multi-day events attract 10,000-20,000 participants, thus also working as large social meetings where the thing uniting everyone is the sport itself - orienteering. One more specialty of the sport: It is probably the most challenging and developed sport with regards to organization and know-how involved.

    Map creation, electronic time-keeping and punching (marking of control points), transferring of data from the forest to the speakers' computers, course-setting, logistics, sanitation and many other aspects of an orienteering race require such an amount of know-how that it can hardly be witnessed at this level in any other mass-sport.

    What can you learn through orienteering?

    At each control, you have to decide your way to the following control point. An elite orienteer usually makes this decision in 1-5 seconds, as this has to be picked quickly, under pressure and among several alternatives. This is something we more or less have to face several times a day in our every-day-life. Orienteering thus trains us in the implementation of this very useful quality - to be able to make decisions.

    Overcoming obstacles
    At each orienteering race you face dozens of obstacles. Either in the form of finding the controls, or in the form of crossing marshes, streams, dense forest, fallen trees, hills... Mostly, you can only rely on yourself, and thus learn to know your limits but also how to cope with difficult situations and how to solve problems on your own. Through this, you can learn also learn another thing: Overcoming all these obstacles you subconsciously strengthen your will.

    An orienteering race lasts from 15 - 150 minutes, depending on the discipline and age category. At any distance, all the time, in order to succeed, you have to be very focused on map reading and keep up the concentration. If you fail to do so, you often find yourself "lost" on the map, losing precious seconds or minutes. All of this, an elite orienteer has to do at a heart rate ranging 160 - 190 beats per minute.

    All orienteers who do the sport at higher level have to train hard in order to succeed. Thus not only they keep their shape, but also learn what it is to commit to something. You learn what it means to be focused on a target, with all the challenges and obstacles involved in reaching it. There is no need to say that most orienteers also have to learn to deal with failure, as everyone can obviously not succeed. Still, this quality is once again something you find more than useful in every-day-life, as commitment to one's work is absolutely necessary if a person wants to do it properly.

    To be able to do orienteering at some level, you have to be fit, and an average orienteer's fitness is much higher than that of the ordinary population. This also means that your performance at work or at school is higher compared to the common non-sporting public.

    Cultural and Social Overview
    Due to its nature, as expressed in the motto above ("Finding your way through an unknown terrain") orienteering involves a lot of traveling, and thus learning to know many new places and habits. Traveling abroad is also frequent and common to the vast majority of orienteers, who thereby gain an extraordinary overview of lifestyles and cultures across the globe, at the same time increasing the foreign language skills and making friends across all borders.

    Combining all the qualities you can gain through the sport, it is no wonder that orienteers are often very successful in their every-day-life, active in many spheres of the society, with friends all over the world. Orienteering is a sport that provides you with something extra, something that non-orienteers may never have a chance to learn or gain...

    To put in another words - orienteering is about finding your way in the world.
    © Nadace OB 2003