Foot orienteering is an endurance sport which involves a huge mental element. There is no marked route – the orienteer must navigate with map and compass while running.
The map gives detailed information on the terrain such as hills, ground surface, obstacles etc. To be successful in foot orienteering, the athlete needs excellent map reading skills, absolute concentration and the ability to make quick decisions on the best route while running at high speed.
Orienteers run over rough ground, completely unprepared forest terrain or rough open hills – cross country in the true sense of the word. Therefore, considerable body strength and agility is needed. Fitness similar to that of a 3000m steeplechase or marathon runner is required.
There is a wide variety of orienteering events: individual competitions and relays, ultra-short park races and mountain marathon events. Night orienteering with the aid of a head lamp is also a popular form of orienteering.
Every year, the best foot orienteers in the world fight for the World Champion titles and the World Cup victory. The programme of the World Championships includes four competitions for both women and men; Sprint, Middle Distance, Long Distance and Relay.
Foot orienteering became a recognised Olympic sport in 1977.
RACING SUIT: A lightweight, stretchy suit protects from undergrowth whilst allowing maximum freedom of movement even if it gets soaking wet.
SHOES: Light, strong shoes with non-slip soles allow sure grip on all types of ground – including mud and bare rock.
MAP: The map provided by the organiser shows the course with the control points which must be visited. The map is designed to give detailed information on the terrain – hills, ground surface, and features such as boulders or cliffs.
COMPASS: There is a wide variety of sophisticated compasses to choose from. Basically they can be divided into two main categories: base plate and thumb compasses.
CONTROL CARD: To prove that they have visited all control points in the right order, the orienteers have to punch their control card at each control using an electronic device.
Photos: Erik Borg and Jukka Liikari