Chris Brasher, Olympic gold medallist, pace-maker for the first four-minute mile, the man behind the London marathon and boot-maker extraordinaire, had another – if lesser-known – string to his bow.
He is credited with bringing the – then – unknown world of orienteering to public attention, when, as a journalist on the Observer newspaper, he wrote of having taken part in “one of the best sports in the world.”
It was in 1957, and was the first official mention in the British press of a sport that more than 50 years later is one of the most popular pastimes for outdoor enthusiasts across the world.
Brasher, who in the ‘70s invented the Hillmaster walking boot and established the renowned Brasher footwear company, wrote in his article: “It is hard to know what to call it. The Norwegians call it ‘orientation.’”
Competitive and Exciting
Orienteering involves walking or running whilst navigating with a map and compass. The idea is to complete a given course between a set of control points in the quickest possible time, making it as competitive as it is exciting.
It’s a great sport for runners and walkers alike, and a sure way to improve navigational skills for those not confident in reading a map or using a compass.
Orienteering has become a major league sport in recent years, with professional events such as the British championships attracting huge numbers of entrants.
Competitions are held all over the country for those with all levels of ability, from experienced travellers in the wilderness to newcomers trying their skills for the first time in the local park.
This really is an all-round adventure sport for all, involving plenty of physical exercise and fresh air mixed in with a good helping of mental stimulation at the same time.
Orienteering maps are drawn to a large scale – typically 1:15000 or 1:10000 – and all use an internationally-agreed set of symbols for ease of understanding and to prevent confusion.
Orienteering maps are drawn using magnetic north rather than ‘grid’ or ‘true’ north, and are colour-coded for instant recognition of major features.
Black signifies man-made landmarks like buildings and the larger of permanent natural rock faces such as cliffs and crags.
Brown shows the lie of the land in general including contour lines, valleys and smaller hills.
Blue represents water – lakes, rivers, ponds and streams – while white-and-green shading depicts areas of woodland and whether it is likely to impede your progress.
Hues of yellow show different types of open land, such as easily-accessible grassy playing fields or rougher, more difficult terrain like heather-clad hillsides.
To try your hand at basic orienteering all you need is a decent pair of walking shoes or running trainers, a set of waterproofs, and a compass.
Nicki Williams is a copywriter for internet retailers Gear-Zone, specialists in waterproof clothing, walking footwear and running shoes
Picture source: Compfight