Active Interns: Orienteering

Take a left... No…A right? Uh-Oh!

In this post of the Active Interns we explore the sport of Orienteering with the Alberta Orienteering Association.

This blog entry will take a look at the history of orienteering, my experience with the Alberta Orienteering Association and finally how you can get involved with the sport!

Before we get started, here is a brief intro to the sport! 

History and Background: from the barracks to the city

Swedish runners Orienteering in the 1960s

Swedish runners Orienteering in the 1960s

Orienteering is a sport that requires navigational skills using a map and compass to get from point to point in an unfamiliar terrain while running. Runners are given a map which they use to find control points (map check-in locations).

Orienteering started as a program in the Swedish military. This program tasked soldiers to navigate unknown territory with only a compass and map. Orienteering would become a competitive sport among military officers and would catch the interest of people outside of the military. The sport grew in popularity and expanded across Europe to nations such as Russia, Switzerland and Hungry after the Second World War.

The Nose Hill Park Orienteering course

The Nose Hill Park Orienteering course

My Experience with Alberta Orienteering

I showed up to my first orienteering session with a smile and was ready to run! Planning in advance, I made sure to watch a couple videos online to get familiar with the sport.

After I registered, I met the Executive Director of Alberta Orienteering, Bogi Gyorfi. Bogi was very welcoming as well as the rest of the crew that was onsite. For the event I attended, there were three different course difficulties for runners to select: Intro, Intermediate and Advanced. I picked the intermediate course as I ran a little cross country in junior high and was feeling confident about trying a more difficult course.

My Orienteering gear (compass, finger stick and my map)

My Orienteering gear (compass, finger stick and my map)

Before we began, I was given a map, compass and my finger stick (image on the right) for checking in at the different points.

The finger stick acts as a transmitter that is used to send race data back to the race marshals at the start gate. If even a single check-point is missed the runner must find it before stopping the race timer.

Upon starting, I quickly realized how key my map and compass would be as I began seeing other control stations but none were what I was looking for.

What you will notice on the orienteering map is there is a list of numbers one through 12, next to those numbers is the number that is visible at the control stations. After running past my first station by 20 metres, I looked back to see Bogi waving at me from where our actual first stop was. 

One of the many skills Bogi was great at was using landmarks on the map. Finding control stations got easier after she showed me the importance of using both my map and my eyes to spot certain locations on the course.

Another challenge racers face is choosing the fastest path from one point to the next. Although a straight line may be the fastest route, you might end up running through deep, tall grass (like I did) which takes more time.

After crossing the finish line, I was overcome with a sense of accomplishment as I had just finished my first race! I finished the race with a time of 44:56 which Bogi told me was, “not terrible,” but I think she was just being nice to me. 

Bogi and Matt after finishing the intermediate course

Bogi and Matt after finishing the intermediate course

Why you should try Orienteering!

After finish the race, Bogi and I talked about the sport and why more people should try it out!

The audio for the interview can be found below

Registering for Orienteering is easy! Alberta Orienteering offers various programs for all ages and skill levels to try out and stay active in the sport.

For Kids in Calgary and the surrounding area, SOGO Adventure Running & SOGO Access programs are available on the companies website. For people over 18, the Foothills Wanderers Orienteering Club has a strong history of orienteering in the Calgary area for over 30 years and offers various opportunities to try out the sport!

Stay up to date with Alberta Orienteering by following their social media accounts on Twitter, Instagram and on Facebook!

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I had a lot of fun trying out Orienteering! Thanks once again to Alberta Orienteering and Bogi for letting me try out the sport. I will definitely be back in the future and will be sure to wear long socks next time! Make sure you also check out the Sport Calgary Member Profile Podcast our own Rob Kerr completed with Alberta Orienteering’s David Roberts at All Sport One Day 2019! 

Thanks for reading and stay tunned for my next article!