The Adrenalist

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What Is Orienteering?



OrienteeringPhoto Credit: FedOrientamento /

Nowhere has the “sound mind, sound body” principle been more applicable than in orienteering.

An extreme sport practiced the world over, orienteering tasks competitors with a map, a compass, and a list of hard-to-find checkpoints to visit. Each checkpoint has a corresponding point value. Whoever amasses the largest number of points in the fastest time is declared the winner. No GPS allowed!

Orienteering is like the scavenger hunts you did at summer camp when you were a kid, right? Wrong. Whether racing on foot, skis, in canoe or car, individually or as part of a relay team, competitors traverse rough terrain and use minimal technology to find scattered control point flags. To be successful, athletes must rely upon their sheer strength and agility as much as on their abilities to decipher complex topographical maps in lightning-fast times.

Begun as a military training exercise in Sweden in the late 19th Century, orienteering gained popularity throughout Europe in the early 1900s, with the invention of affordable compasses. The sport has many variations, such as precision orienteering, where decoys are set next to actual control flags, testing orienteers’ ability to find exact spots on a map, and ultrasprint, where competitors are placed in a maze. In addition, orienteering is practiced at the national, regional and local levels, among people of all ages and athletic abilities.

OrienteeringPhoto Credit: FedOrientamento /

Competition times range from short,12-15 minutes, to the standard, 75-90 minutes, to the incredibly long and grueling, where team-based Score-O, or ROGAINE events, as they’re called, can last up to 24 hours. Though orienteering has yet to be added to the roster of Olympic sports, the Olympic committee reportedly feels that most variations aren’t conducive to spectating  because of the missions’ inherent geographical dispersion, the World Games has professionalized this bastion of raw physical and mental power.

Intrigued? Well, grab your compasses, maps and protective eye gear (for branches and bugs), and head to the 2012 World Masters Orienteering Championships. They’re happening in Bad Harzburg, Germany from July 1-12. Wait, that’s right now. Hurry hurry, Adrenalists! There is still time!

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