Whether you go to a small local event or a bigger regional one, the process is roughly the same.
There is a full list of all events in the UK on the British Orienteering website. You can filter events to those within a certain distance, the type of event or set a date range.
If you have a look at the club's website for the event you are interested in, it will give you more details about courses available, where to park, how to enter, and any other relevant details. It will also give you contact details for someone in the club who can answer any questions you might have.
If you are new to SMOC, we'll put you in touch with a club member who can help with advice on what type of event to try and how to get started.
Check the club's website for details on how to enter. You may be able to enter on the day, or you may have to pre-enter. Pre-entry tends to be a bit cheaper than entering on the day, and you will be able to reserve your dibber in advance if you don't have one. Sometimes entry numbers are restricted so by entering in advance you won't be disappointed by entries being full before you get there.
Entry fees range from around £5 for a small, local event up to around £25 for a big national event. The average is £10-£12 which includes a map for you to take home and a printout of your individual result. A lot of clubs can take card payments at events.
To start with, all you will need are the type of clothes you would wear for an active day out. Trainers are fine to walk or run in. Shorts are good for urban events but you should wear long trousers for cross country events as itís a safety requirement. A basic compass would be helpful to orientate the map.
Virtually all events now use a dibber, which is a small electronic timing chip that records your arrival at each control. You can hire one of these when you enter an event.
For cross-country events it is a good idea to have a whistle with you to be able to summon help, but it's not a requirement for most events. If this is mandatory for an event, you will be told when entering and you should be able to buy one before you start.
As orienteers become more experienced, they start to buy some specialist orienteering equipment like their own dibber, orienteering trousers, control description holders and a good compass. There are also special orienteering shoes which are studded to give better grip on rough ground.
If you have questions, find the enquiries / registration tent where there will be club members available to help you with advice about which course to enter if you haven't entered in advance. There will also be somewhere in this tent that you can leave your car keys (the "key drop") or a backpack if you came by public transport. At assembly there may be some other amenities like toilets, changing facilities, food vendors or sellers of orienteering equipment at bigger events.
Some events may allocate a specific start time to you (e.g. 11:13), or a start block (11:00 - 11:15), or you may be able to start whenever you like. The start itself will be signposted if you can't actually see it from the assembly area. Once you have entered, you can head to the start and follow the instructions of the helpers there. You will need to "clear" the memory of your dibber and check that it is working correctly. There will be a clock showing the time.
At small, local events you may get your map before you start, and some easy or junior courses will also get maps before starting.
The start is typically laid out with a number of "boxes" that you move through before you get to the start line. In one, you will get a control description sheet that gives you the detail on what you are looking for. They will also be printed on the map but having them separate is useful so you don't need to keep turning or unfolding your map. A downloadable guide to control descriptions can be found here.
In another box you will also be able to see a copy of the map.
When you are told you can go (which is on the long beep from the start clock), use your dibber to "punch" the start box and pick up the map for your course. The map will be pre-marked with your course on it. The start is marked by a triangle. You navigate yourself from the start to control one, then to control two, and so on until you reach the finish. Remember to "punch" the start, then each control and finally the finish.
After you have finished (well done!) you need to make your way to download where the times that you have saved onto your dibber are transferred to a computer. The route to download will be marked if you can't see it from the finish and is mostly back at the assembly area.
Once you have downloaded, you will be given a printout strip that shows you the time it took you to reach each control and where you have finished relative to everyone who has finished on your course so far.
At download you will also return your hired dibber.
Even if you don't visit all your controls, you MUST visit download as that tells the organisers that you are back safe and not lost somewhere out on the course.
Orienteers love to discuss a course when they have finished and you will see small clumps of people poring over maps and jabbing at them with a finger! It's always interesting to compare your route with someone else and is a great way to learn and improve.
Some events have "live" results which are finish lists that are refreshed every few minutes during the event. Results will also be uploaded to the club's website and to the BOF website within the next day or so.
Eat, sleep, orienteer, repeat.