How to choose a course

 Orienteering is not only meant for the very fit and fast runner. It is planned so as to be open to and to be enjoyed by as many people as possible, with varying degrees of physical ability and from many walks of life. To facilitate this, orienteering events normally offer several different courses, which range in physical and technical difficulty, catering for everybody. In some events courses are planned in accordance with certain guidelines and are given ‘colour-coded’ names according to difficulty.

Consider the following before choosing a course.

  • Read the Planner’s comments on the various courses offered. He or she is the only person who knows how tough or easy they are.
  • The terrain. Look around you when you arrive. How well do you normally cope with this type of terrain?
  • How well do you know the area? When last did you run there, if at all?
  • Weather conditions. Are they conducive to easy running?
  • How well or fit are you on the day?
  • Is there sufficient time for you comfortably to complete the course before courses close at the end of the event?
  • How good are your orienteering skills?
  • Take into account both the length and climb of the courses.
  • Do not be tempted to over-extend yourself because you can do a certain distance (e.g. 5km or 10km) easily in a road race. Technical (navigating) difficulties can make the route very arduous if you lack the necessary skills or experience.
  • Do not move up a level unless you are easily completing courses at the level you normally enter AND you are positive about all of the above.
  • If you are in any doubt, ask for advice – the Planner and Controller are normally not far away from registration.

Different courses available

YELLOW. This is an elementary course, with only very simple route-following skills necessary. The route can be navigated by following “line features” (e.g. paths or fences) and using very prominent landmarks. Distance is usually between 1,5km and 2,5km with a planned winning time of about 25 minutes. It is suitable for children over the age of 8, families and groups of beginners. There are normally between 7 and 10 control points on this course. No compass skills are necessary.

ORANGE. This will be a little more difficult than the Yellow course, with slightly more distance (2,5km – 3,5km) and a planned winning time of about 40 minutes. A few control points may be a little away from line features and so not as easy to locate. Suitable for groups, families and newcomer individuals, who are prepared for the extended distance. Expect around 10 to 12 control points.

LIGHT GREEN. This is a “bridging” course, intended to introduce the competitor to a slightly more technical level. Some control sites will be more difficult to locate, and navigation away from line features, as well as simple route choice options, may be included on some of the legs. Distance could be anything from 3km to 5km, with a target winning time of about 45 minutes. Expect around 10 – 12 control points. Compass using skills are not essential, but may be useful, and this is where learning the skill begins to be important.

GREEN courses present technical Orienteering challenges with moderate physical demands. Compass skills are generally required. Control points may be situated away from line and prominent features, and competitors will be required to make sophisticated route choice decisions while navigating around the course. Expect distances of about 3,5km to 4,5km, with a planned winning time of about 50 minutes.

BLUE courses present similar technical challenges but are physically more demanding. Course lengths will normally vary between 5km and 8km with planned winning times around 60 minutes.

BROWN courses are for experienced and very fit orienteers as they are both technically and physically very challenging. Distances range from 7km to 10km or more, depending on the terrain, with target winning times of 80 minutes for the elite competitors who will normally run these courses.

When to move up a course
Starting out in orienteering, you will be advised to compete at either the YELLOW or ORANGE course level (depending on your age and fitness level). You will need to master the process of locating yourself on the map, correlating that with where you are on the ground, navigating your way around the course, finding all the controls, and punching your control card, or punching electronically depending on the system in use. Once you are comfortable competing at your entry level, then you are ready to move up to the next grade of course.

Before moving up to Light Green or Green, learn how to use a compass. Attend a compass using course, held every now and then by your club, or ask a competent member to show you how.

Further promotion up the grades will depend upon your physical abilities and your progress with navigation on the lower courses.