Getting Started

Orienteering is a sport for people of all ages and fitness levels. Everything is done at your own pace: competitors include toddlers, octogenarians and champion fell-runners.

Starting orienteering requires no special equipment - just wear what you would normally wear for a walk or run in the countryside. A compass is useful, but we can usually lend you one, and show you how to use it.

The aim of your day is to get round all the control points shown on the map, which will look something like this. The colours differ slightly from OS Maps: open land is yellow, forest is white if it's easy to run through and gets steadily darker green as it gets more impenetrable, and people's gardens are in olive green. (We have a lot of those in Milton Keynes; you're not allowed to run through them):

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Choosing Your First Event

The best event to attend is the next one that's happening! Our Fixtures page lists SMOC's events and shows links to events nearby.

If there's a Keyne-O coming up shortly, that's ideal. There will three courses: 3km Amble, 5km Trot, and 7km Run. The Amble course will have the easiest navigation and any road crossings will be marshalled. But if it's the wrong time of year for Keyne-O, all events have introductory courses on offer. Most events offer a range of courses coded by colour to indicate length and technical difficulty (TD1=easy, TD5=difficult):

Colour Level Description Length
White TD1 Easy and short - all on paths, mostly used by under 10 year olds and family groups 1.0-1.5 km
Yellow TD2 Slightly less easy and a little longer - uses simple linear features (paths, walls, streams, etc.), mainly under 12's and families. Try this one if you like a Keyne-O 'Amble'. 1.5-2.5 km
Orange TD3 Not all on paths, and longer again. Progressing to basic use of the compass and route choice, ideal for novice adult orienteers. Similar to Keyne-O 'Trot'. 2.5-3.5 km
Light Green TD4 Navigation skills needed; longer again. The technical ability requirements begin to increase, crossing terrain using simple contours and 'point' features. Ideal for improvers. Might not be as long as Keyne-O 'Run' but a bit more technical. 2.5-3.5 km
Green TD5 The shortest technically difficult course. Uses contour features, 'point' features. Used mostly by experienced under 18's, and adults wanting a short but challenging course 2.5-5.0 km
Blue TD5 Technically difficult but a longer and more physically demanding course in comparison to green. The distances are more varied between controls 5.0-7.5 km
Brown TD5 Physically demanding and technically difficult. For experienced adults only 7.5-10.0 km
Black TD5 A gruelling opportunity for elites to show their friends how tough they are 10-15 km

Entering the event

There are three key things to check prior to the event.

  • How to pay. Smaller events are cash on the day. Medium-sized events allow online pre-entry. And a few of the biggest national events require you to enter in advance.
  • Where to find the car park. Forests and parks don't have postcodes; better to print any available maps and directions, rather than rely on a satnav.
  • When to start. For the majority of events, there are a range of start times. Provided you arrive before the last start, then you can go when you're ready. If the event has a mass start or allocated start times, this will be clear from the website.

Once you've got there, the event team will explain everything else. You'll need some way of showing that you got to each of the controls. This usually involves hiring an electronic "dibber". You may also be given a list of control descriptions, which tell you what you're looking for: a boulder, stream, path. These use international standard symbols which can be rather baffling at first. Don't let them worry you: on a simple course, they are unlikely to be needed and you can learn them as you go.

Once you get going, life gets much simpler. You just have to find the controls. Please remember that whether you visit all the controls or not, you must always report to the finish. This is the golden rule of orienteering, preventing the organisers from having to spend the afternoon searching for you and maybe calling the police.

After the event

Event results are usually online on the day of the event. After checking how you did, it's time to plan for your next adventure.