Orienteering: Eltham Parklands

A couple of novel concepts were introduced to me for today's race. One was an orienteering event held in daylight, and the other was a race on a weekend that didn't start at or before sunrise. Both a bit different to my experiences this year. I was really looking forward to the course taking the variable terrain of some off road sections. That's just not possible in the Wednesday, night time, street orienteering I have been competing in.

The sky was a mix of bright blue and dark grey clouds. It kept trying to rain on us, but somehow the sun held its ground and we had perfect conditions. From the unmarked map (a map of the area to be used, without the controls posted), it looked like the best options were likely to be a circular route around the borders with some offshoots into the middle controls. There was also going to be a fair mix of hills and some moderately rough terrain. Just my type of event.

Soon enough we were off and running it what I could only describe as kind of a subdued start. Maybe because it felt like a lazy weekend. Maybe it was because the guys racing were actually reading their maps. It was far from the mad dash of overly fast sprinting that is common in the fun runs.

The opportunity for different techniques was so much beyond simply counting turns and roundabouts that the street orienteering usually presents. Today I tried my hand at estimating distance run before turning off the track between the first two controls. I was slightly out, but luckily a good portion of the field were behind my shoulder and provided a beacon to my error without any real loss for me. From that control and onto the third there were two route options; follow the track or go cross country. I chose cross country and enjoyed every stone, ditch and drop that had been placed in an attempt to slow me down. Soon I hit the control and discovered that cross country was better by a long way.

Now ahead of the pack the plan was simple in design: keep it that way. My competitive juices were really flowing today. For some reason I really, really wanted to win. The next few controls were no-brainers, it was simply a matter of following the trails and double checking the exact location of them on the approach. I used this opportunity to plan the rest of the race. To win I decided I had to put myself in that position. That position required getting every control. The hard part was there was one control on the opposite end of the map, well away from any others on the steepest and highest point available (#5). How I got to it would be important. I made my decision, ran it over in my head a few times and now, even with hindsight I believe I made the best route choice possible. On fire today.

Until today, I hadn't really had the opportunity to obviously see any direct benefits from my parkour training. While my sprints and anaerobic abilities had definitely improved, the other techniques haven't really been on any use. There is direct transfer from parkour to orienteering beyond just of concept of navigating efficiently and quickly through any environment. Fences, seats, stones, ditches and uneven surfaces presented opportunities instead of simply being there to slow me down. Fences were easily vaulted. My increased confidence in moving through obscure settings gave me the speed I needed in the variable terrain.

Eventually I hit that control at the highest point. The run up the steep ascent had my lungs and legs burning, but I now had plenty of time to recover. About one kilometre of downhill running greeted me as I made my through the last part. Sure enough my legs freshened up and allowed me to really pick things up through the last few sections. The last control was punched and was an almost flat, straight run to the finish. I was surprised to see some others run up the steep hill back to the road to head to the finish, not only adding distance, but a hill as well, when you could see the finish from that final control.

Post race there were the usual discussions; "which way did you go... that would have been better... I got lost at... I should have taken number whatever first..." The key question for today's race was who got #5. I wasn't able to find anyone else who managed to cover all controls today. That doesn't mean there wasn't anyone, but at least it puts me in good standing for a win. I'll be watching for the official results in a few days.

p.s. Maybe it is all the coffee I've been drinking in the last few days that added the extra spark. As a note for Ewen, the TV and recorder are all sorted and ready for the Olympics. I had to have it all for the Tour anyway.


  1. That sounds like a really fun challenge! I love those post-races conversations.

  2. Jason, Tea pointed me to your blog (Thanks, Tea!). I'm here in Melbourne teaching a class then off to Perth on Saturday. I'll check out your blog. I've had a chance to do Orienteering in Sweden:


    Here's last night's post:


    Nice to meet you.

  3. Results are up. :-)

    Well done.

    I don't want to burst your bubble (too late!), but some of the faster guys aren't on that list - Bryan, Adam, IanD. Tony is nearly impossible to beat.

    So will we see you running in the bush? That will test your parkour skills to the max...


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