Today I get to tell you about my favorite sport: orienteering. You probably don’t even know that this sport exists, and who knows, you might just want to try it after you read how much I enjoy it!

Orienteering is a sport in which you get to test your physical ability, your concentration, your ability to visualize the terrain by looking at the map, and the ability to choose the best route from one point to the other, and all that mostly off paths, in different terrains, and all kinds of weather. Sounds fun, doesn’t it?

As a shy and bookish teenager, I disliked running. Fortunately, I was convinced by a friend from high school that in the orienteering sport running is optional, and walking is OK. I was curious enough to try and liked the idea of a brainy sport that actually took place outside. In those first attempts, I walked, made mistakes, learned to read the map and recognize relief details, and enjoyed myself more than I ever did outdoor. I was into a sport in which, aside from all the benefits of nature and problem solving with a map, you don’t have to exert yourself. There is no pressure from spectators (who will see you in the forest?), or other runners (we each start the race separately, a few minutes apart). When I realized that in orienteering, when you make a mistake or slow down, no one can see you, I was hooked!

Orienteering is a sport I have been in for almost thirty years, with occasional pauses for periods of no sport, or more “serious” sport, like running the marathon. Yes, I ran the big one. And I was bored. Orienteering is more fun!

Have you heard of the runner’s high? It is a brief, deeply relaxing state of extreme joy or delight achieved by some runners after running for some time. Well, the orienteer’s high is double that! Together with the high from running, you also experience another kind of high when you complete the course with no or few mistakes.

Another benefit of the sport that I can vouch for is: orienteering is a sport for all age groups. When I was a teenager, I was a novice and learned through participating in the courses. When I was a bit older, I became more serious about the sport, entered the elite category, trained more, and ran in the junior national team. When I was pregnant, I ran or later walked the simpler and shorter courses anyone can participate in, called OPEN. Even later, I participated with a baby in a sling, enjoying the challenge of finding orienteering points with the ease of a short course and the baby close to my heart, sleeping peacefully in the fresh air.

Later, I ran again in the elite category, my kids safely playing in the meadow close to the finish, watched over by my clubmates. These days, my kids run or walk, as each of them prefers, in their respective categories, and my courses are a bit shorter but still technically challenging, as they fit categories over 45 years of age. As I get older, I am looking forward to running as long as I enjoy it, or walking as long as possible, in categories over 55, or 65, and even over 75.

About the Author: Sonja

Sonja is an explorer, exploring the outdoors by hiking, trail running, or her favorite - orienteering. Exploring is also embedded in her day job which is always connected to research and new knowledge.
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