Sprint orienteering is about as far from our recent 24hr rogaine as you can get in the orienteering world. I’ve noticed sprint events on the calendar over the last couple of years, but they are generally late in the day and just didn’t work for us with two very young kids. This year, however, the Saturday Orienteering Series run by Bold Horizons are focusing on sprint events which has given us the perfect opportunity to try it out and see what it’s actually like. The set up of a sprint event is usually in the format of a line course ie visit the controls in a set order, with a much shorter distance involved. It’s also usually set in a built environment eg school or university campus, so that there are constant route choices to be made in getting from one control to the next.
The first week we made it to Chatswood High, got ourselves signed up and decided to stick to the short line course for our first attempt at a sprint event. I was heading off first, so grabbed a map and had a minute studying it and getting myself oriented before setting off. There were 16 (I think) controls to be picked up in a specific order, but the pace was fast as there was rarely more than 200m between them. Having absolutely no familiarity with the location before today didn’t cause too many issues as the map is marked in great detail, although I made a couple of errors in route choice – one minor one and another that was quite expensive time-wise when I missed a marked solid wall between me and a control!
While it wasn’t a flat course, there weren’t too many hills and only a few sets of stairs. Overall, I finished up in 21:29 for 2.5km and really enjoyed the format. It was very different to other types of orienteering we have done – the course was busy, with people running in all directions, some doing the same course and others on the long course. Everyone is constantly looking at maps to determine best route and check location while trying to keep moving at speed and not bump into other runners. Nick ran after me and finished two and a half minutes faster, being quicker than me on almost every leg of the course. Not many people ran the short line course with most choosing the long line course and Nick was second in the open division, while I was smack in the middle of the 11 of us that ran this course.
The second week was at Killara High – within walking distance for us. So again, we dragged our girls along for our second go. We had decided to give the long course a shot this time. Although overall distance wasn’t much more than the previous week, there were a lot more controls in the line up. I ran first again and it was interesting how passing the school regularly and having walked through it once previously increased my confidence in moving around it. The course took me back past the registration area three times, which the girls loved, giving them the chance to wave and cheer me on (and later, Nick). There were a considerable number of steps in this route to keep the legs working hard and paying attention to footing.
I finished in 22:30 this week for 2.6km and again, thoroughly enjoyed the speed and constant decision making required for this format. A lot more competitors in the long line course and I managed a respectable 17th out of 48, while Nick was 13th and 40 seconds faster. This week we seemed to alternate which of us was quicker on any particular leg, with several legs having identical timings. In this particular event, there are no separate categories by gender or age, everyone is thrown into the same result list, with the exception of school age runners who are split into high school and primary school for the result listings.
I’m looking forward to next weeks event at St Ives High School – my old high school. Since the high school and primary school are joined, the course will take in both so distances have the potential to be further with less overlap within the course. It will be interesting to see if greater familiarity (although it’s been a while!) helps me get around any quicker!