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MapRunners – Orienteering made simple and cool.
By Rolf Boswell - Sat 11 Apr 2020 2:26pm
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MapRunners

Orienteering Waikato have been using MapRunners technology at events since 2017 and now use it for all our Urban events with great success. The level of interest from other clubs has been rising and we have been happy to share any information we have.

Perhaps the easiest way to portray the potential of MapRunners is to describe our Urban Rogaine series.  We run 10 events on successive Wednesday evenings from October – December. These events have been steadily growing in popularity and have the following advantages:

  • No Controls to put out or pick up.
  • No need to visit the area prior to do course planning.
  • No Computer system needed at the event.
  • Instant results online including GPS tracks for all competitors.

We have taken it a step further and don’t even need to create/update our own base map. We just tap into the Open Street Map resource.

We also don’t need to muck around trying to organize a bunch of Setters & Controllers. We employ an experienced club member who designs all 10 courses from home (1-2 hours effort for each course).

This means we can focus on ensuring the rest of the event is well run and is fun for the competitors. We have a prize giving after each event and also series champions etc

Because we had such great success using MapRunners for our Urban Rogaine’s, we have also started using it for our Summer Series (Park or Sprint ‘Linear’ Orienteering series). After 2 seasons I think we have had reasonable success with this. We have tried a few different ways of administering and delivering the event/courses and I think we have now figured out a fairly successful approach which we intend to keep using.

So what is MapRunners?

MapRunners (http://maprunners.weebly.com/) has a smart phone app “MapRunF” that competitors load onto their phones.

This software is the brainchild of Peter Effeney an Orienteer from Brisbane. With a bit of funding from Orienteering Australia but mostly with a huge amount of enthusiasm, Peter has created this app which is now used in Australia and in other countries around the world.

How does it work?

MapRunF uses the GPS on your smartphone to track your location. When you get within a few meters of the control site, your phone beeps and vibrates to tell you that you that the app has registered the control. If it is a Rogaine, you are automatically allocated the control points and can keep running without a pause. If it is a linear orienteering event, the app ensures competitors do the controls in the correct order and allows for the normal complexities such as pivot controls.

Whats the catch?

Like any technology, it is not perfect. Because GPS accuracy varies between phones and between locations, the competitor can sometimes be required to move around until the control is registered on the MapRunners app. As with any technology, a small proportion of competitors may have trouble with their phone or the MapRunF app, resulting in them getting an incomplete result. Our experience is that the number of problems is steadily reducing as phones and the MapRunF app become more reliable.

What is the cost?

Currently, there is no charge to use MapRunners although we have sent Peter a gift or two. There is now a donation option on the website.

Should your club use MapRunners?

This depends on the quantity and quality of club events that your club currently delivers. Although MapRunners delivers a bunch of advantages, it generally does NOT provide the same precision as an SPORTident Orienteering race. The fact that one competitor may have to run a few more meters to get their GPS to register means that it is hard to see how it could be used for a championship race, but for a normal club event, what a runner benefits on one control, they will probably lose on the next, so it averages out over the run.

If you are a club that is delivering a comprehensive programme of events using SPORTident AND you have no problem finding course setters AND people to run the SPORTident, then it is hard to see why you would want to use MapRunners technology.

MapRunners could help your club in 2 ways:

  1. If your club would like an easy way to boost the number of events in their programme, then it is real easy to create a series of MapRunners Urban Rogaines. We at Orienteering Waikato could make a series of events and race maps all ready to go for any urban location in NZ without even visiting the location (sorry we are not offering!).
  2. If your club is struggling to have the volunteers with the time or skill to run the SPORTident system (do you have the same person(s) who sits and operates this system at every event?) then having some events using MapRunners can ease the pressure and reliance on these people.

How do you get started with MapRunners?

We setup a test event, printed a few maps and invited club members to come and try it for free at a certain day/time. In return they had to stay at the end and if give feedback. (this was pre Covid19!)

You can start by having a look at the website http://maprunners.weebly.com/. There is a heap of information on the website including instructions on how to get started including the email address to contact MapRunners. The MapRunF App offers various options to get started easily, and try it out, without needing to publish a full event. See: http://maprunners.weebly.com/maprunf—new-user.html

If you were willing to pay someone for a few hours, then our resident MapRunners Rogaine course setter might be willing to help out and create you an event. (No, O Waikato does not normally pay our course setters, but setting 10 events is a big ask!)

There is a discussion thread on www.maptalk.co.nz with some ideas and suggestions from users of MapRunners in NZ.

[Editors note: There is now an OChat NZ Slack Channel #app-events dedicated to it. Join the the OChat NZ Slack conversation  The OChat NZ uses Slack so it can be easily used on the web or in Android/iOS/OSX/Windows apps]

Covid19?

This article is written while NZ is at Alert Level 4 which of course means it is inappropriate to setup a MapRunners event as your club members are not supposed to drive to exercise. (With MapRunF “QuickStart” you can easily create an event from your own front door). Once the Alert Level drops it may be possible to use MapRunners to have an event and yet maintain social distance and avoid a gathering.  An example approach could be to make an Urban Rogaine event that is available over a weekend with the map being sent by email or put on website for competitors to print themselves prior.

Good Luck
Rolf Boswell (Orienteering Waikato)

About Contributor: Rolf Boswell

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