“Orienteering? What in the world is that?” No need to be ashamed if those questions popped into your mind after reading this headline; I can assure you that you are not the only one. So for those of you who may not have heard about this increasingly popular “thinking sport”: What is orienteering? According to the Quantico Orienteering Club who participates in the U.S. Night-O Championship:
“Orienteering is the sport of navigating with map and compass. The object is to find a series of points shown on a map, choosing routes – both on and off trail – that will help you find all the points and get back to the finish in the shortest amount of time. The points on the course are marked with orange and white flags accompanied by electronic or mechanical punches, which provide proof that the point was visited. Each “control” marker is located on a distinct feature, such as a stream junction or the top of a hill.”
This sport involves map reading and decision-making, while also being very physically demanding. When asked what made him decide to take up the sport the Board of Directors of Orienteering USA and Quantico Orienteering Club volunteer, Greg Lennon shared, “My wife and I started orienteering about 20 years ago; we liked being able to combine a mental challenge – navigating – with a physical one – running.” Greg will be competing in the Night-O and then working the following two events in Virginia. Greg stressed the importance of volunteering because orienteering is a non-profit event.
Like most sports there are different skill levels. According to the Executive Director of Orienteering USA Glen Schorr, a first place winner at the elite level is known to finish a race in about an hour. With that being said there is a great range of difficulty from course to course from easy to intermediate to hard. The difficulty level for each course is based on the climb, course length, and placement of “controls.” When asked if he has noticed any increase in popularity for the sport over the years Glen replied that it is, “Growing steadily among all age groups…especially among adventure racers in 20s and 30s and teenagers.”
Now that everyone has a sense of what orienteering is about it is important to note an upcoming event happening this weekend in Baltimore County! The U.S. Night Orienteering Championship is taking place Friday, November 14th and will be the first of a three day event known as the Long Day’s Night Challenge. The events which are to begin Friday, November 14 and end Sunday, November 16 will be hosted at three different parks in Maryland and Virginia.
The U.S. Night Orienteering Championship (Night-O) will be held at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville, MD on Friday the 14th. The event will include a series of courses through the park of up to 10K. Glen anticipates there will be at least 200 orienteers participating in the Night-O. He expects there to be about the same turn out for the other two events as well. The orienteers will be competing for Gold, Silver, and Bronze medals.
Despite the fact that it is a non-profit sport, which makes the events low-cost, there is a great deal of prep work that goes into getting each park ready for competition day. Those involved in the Night-O, which includes Orienteering USA and the Quantico Orienteering Club have been planning this event for 12
Day two of the Long Day’s Night Championship is dedicated to the Middle Distance A-Meet at Hemlock Overlook Regional Park in Clifton, Virginia. The third and final day on Sunday the 16th is when the U.S. UltraLong Championship will take place at Fountainhead Regional Park in Fairfax Station, Virginia.