Starting an Orienteering Course

Starting an orienteering race is simple but does consist of a few vital steps.


First you need to warmup as you would for any run – hip, knee and especially lower legs need to be primed and ready for the effort to maximise your performance and, most importantly, avoid injury.

Clear & Check

Then you walk to the start area where there are Clear and Check control points, which you use to clear the old data on your Sportident timing stick and check the stick is working correctly.

Choose Map

You then need to pick out the map of the race you’re doing.

On bigger races, there can be quite a range of maps to choose from so you have to make sure you’re picking the right one for your chosen race. Typically the maps are in shallow trays, labelled according to race, and helpers are around to make sure you get it right. This part obviously is key as on any race there will be easy, moderate and hard maps.

On many bigger races too, depending on the type, runners will be released in small groups at 30 second intervals to avoid crowding amongst the starters.


Lastly, walk or run to the Start Control and insert your timing stick into the control to start your race proper. And you’re off!

Read more

Orienteering – How To Use The Compass

Make sure that the map and the compass flat and you turn the map around until the blue lines point north – the same direction as the red arrow on your compass will be pointing. This is called orientating the map.

Thumbing the map is another technique where you use a finger or thumb set against your route to measure your progress. For instance, on a fairly standard 1:10,000 scale map, 1cm on the map means 100 metres on the course, or about the width of a finger.

Folding the map is a common technique too where you fold up the map to just see the part of the course you’re on, making checking the map rapidly and often much easier as you run between controls.

Read more

Orienteering – How To Speed Up Through Checkpoints

Not stopping at controls/checkpoints is a key part of mastering faster orienteering. It’s about control-flow, or moving through the control smoothly, which is about the approach and planning the exit from the control.

For the approach, you use the symbols in your control description paper to work out the features close to the control and the control’s position relative to them. A control might be close to a boulder, but to the east side of it – and this would be shown in the control description. Of course, you will need to know the symbols denoting this information.

Planning the exit is about looking ahead of the control immediately ahead of you to the next and plotting a direction and something of the route in advance. This route planning and visualising in advance is one of the major challenges of orienteering.

Read more