“Do Your Own Thing”

For many years the sport of orienteering has been about “self-chosen routes through unknown terrain”. Self as alone, done on your own.  Of course, if you are competing as a team such as in an adventure race or Rogaine the team can discuss their route choices. However, it is a strict rule in individual competitions that we are not to follow or seek any help from others.

Call it following. Call it cooperation. Call it collusion.  Whatever you call it, it is one of the worst problems in competitive orienteering. Two or more people get together to go around a course and they compare information when they are supposed to be moving on their own. It is grounds for a DQ if someone launches a complaint.

In Florida we are mostly pretty loosey-goosey about that.  Among our adult crowd we are generally not out to best anyone else. We just want to experience the thrill of finding things by way of reading that map.  Not so with the youth in the JROTC competitions. They are going for medals, trophies and ranking points.

In competitive orienteering the participants are meant to be moving on their own and making their own decisions. Naturally, they are going to see other participants while on their courses. Yes, it is fair game to keep an eye on the others but keep your distance. It is not fair game to follow and/or ask for advice and/or collude on a route choice.

Here is the funny thing about collusion: participants who get together to compare notes of where they are often end up actually losing time. One of them may get important information but the giver of the information has no way to get that time back.

Another dangerous thing about collusion is that one or both may become distracted from their intended route. For example, here attached are the split times for some orienteers on a Green course at a recent competition. I have removed the names. The names are not important. This could happen to anybody. In the lines of numbers, the first line for each person represents the cumulative time to each control. The second line is the time between controls.


Look at A. One took 3:14 to get to the second control. That was a good time but not the best. The other took 10 minutes allowing his teammate to catch up to him. We can see that they definitely ran together and ran well to control 9. One of them moved ahead of the eventual winner by two minutes at that point.  (Circles B). Then they seem to have lost concentration. Both lost concentration and they missed out two controls.

In competitive orienteering it is an unforgiving sport. There is no forgiveness for missed controls or punching at incorrect controls or punching out of order without correcting the order.

These two guys are good orienteers. I hope they learned an important lessons about running on their own and keeping concentration. Hard lessons learned for sure.

I hope all instructors and orienteering coaches can take this lesson and pass it on to their orienteers and urge them to  DO YOUR OWN THING!

Best regards,

Gord Hunter

Suncoast Orienteering

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