Well congratulations for finding your way here – to the coaching blog, the self-help section of this website. You have managed to correctly orient yourself. Here is where we care about you as an orienteer.
Many have mulled about the name “orienteering”. While certainly not as unfortunate as “rogaining”, it has never been an easy brand. Bumper stickers like “orienteering – the family sport”, “orienteering – direction protection” and “orienteers, we do it in the bush” have not vividly sold the lifestyle dream, or given credence to our elite sports people. However, at the root of the word, it certainly very aptly describes the essence of our sport, and orienteers should always keep in mind what in fact they are. To orient – “to adjust with relation to, or bring into due relation to surroundings”, or more purposefully “to direct or position toward a particular object”.
When people ask about our crazy compass sport I always tell them the story of Pasi Ikonen. Pasi is one of the most talented and mercurial orienteers of all time, who famously won the world champs without a compass. The compass was a barrier between Pasi and the map. Any fool can orient a map using a compass. A glance at north and alignment of the map is all it takes. This process is redundant if the orienteer is constantly translating, and therefore oriented by the features in the terrain. For Pasi using a compass was equivalent to Jimmy Page only using chords to play Stairway to Heaven. Rough enough was not good enough.
A fundamental feature of orienteering is our exploration of unfamiliar terrain. As soon as we step of the start line we must find ourselves on the map. We orient. We use what is visible to find ourselves. We discover our spatial relationship with our surroundings and as we progress through our course we manage this relationship. The precision and consistency of an orienteer is determined by the priority given to this task; speed and fitness are the other variables towards results.
We constantly orient. Every detail that we see and can translate from ground to map, or map to ground orients us. A point feature, a type of vegetation, a particular slope, or an absence of features puts us in our place. We can choose to run with the map orientated by the compass, bypassing detail, or we can learn to orient ourselves constantly at speed using the information given to us by the terrain or the map.
Whatever you do, on your orienteering journey, however fast you can run compared to your competitor, never ever forget you are now an orienteer, and therefore you must orient.