Orienteering: perhaps it conjures up images of trudging through the countryside with a map and compass, or maybe of muddy and miserable PE lessons. Whatever the memories, you might want to adjust your preconceptions. Gone are the days of sedately walking around a forest clipping a piece of paper. Today’s orienteers use electronic timing chips to record their routes and GPS tracking to evaluate their race after the event. And they run. They run long distances, through hard terrain and in all seasons.

The principles of orienteering are the same as they have always been; read a map, navigate yourself around a course, and do it as quickly as you can. But the sport has undergone a makeover of sorts and now sees more glamorous races added to the calendar – the London City Race around St Paul’s, regular street races and novelty races such as running around Westfield shopping centre in East London.

I have orienteered most of my life and the reason I love the sport is because its an exercise that uses the brain as well as legs. I find that I get bored easily when I run and struggle to get motivated to go out in the first place. Orienteering presents constant challenges, through navigation, fitness and terrain – before you know it you have covered vast distances. It also teaches the fundamental skill of map-reading – with the introduction of satnav so many people have become lazy, and just listen to directions instead of navigating themselves.

Of course, I would say all this – I set up my coaching and mapping business four years ago and have taught everyone from corporate groups embarking on an expedition to climb Snowdon, to a group of schoolchildren learning to navigate around their school grounds with a basic map. But I do think it’s a sport that anyone can do at any ability level, and by putting it in different environments with different emphasis, I have – I hope – been successful at changing people’s preconceptions.

Personally, I run “corporate orienteering days” for businesses, consultation services for schools, mapping for outdoor centres and coaching for clubs. But there are events on all over the country most weekends and many evenings – you just need to get in touch with your local club for more info. Events cater for all abilities and ages and there are always people on hand to help with any queries you may have.

Further information

joshjenner.co.uk – Team building, mapping, permanent course installation and coaching

bsa.org – British Schools Orienteering Association

Britishorienteering.org.uk – NGB for orienteering

Did you do orienteering at school, and did it put you off for life – until now? Have you given the sport a go, and if so, how did you find it?

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