Running for nerds

Today was another sunny day in Raleigh… woo hoo. However there was a brief storm with hail around sunset last night…. WEIRD.

However part of this wonderful day today was that I got to go do an orienteering race. One of my favorite physical athletic pastimes. I like to call it ‘running for nerds’ as it combines running (& somewhat recklessly) over uneven, rough terrain. But then add in map/compass work. The perfect mix of a physical endeavor and mentally trying to figure out where you are and where you are going. The figuring out part is then further broken down with following a compass heading, interpreting the terrain around you and matching that up with the map.

An absolute joy for me.

In Pennsylvania the season ends in early November, so its been a while since I have ‘run around in the woods’, therefore today was something I was looking forward to. When I discovered they had a race today, Robin just sighed and said “oh paul” but of course knew that this is good for my soul.

The funny thing about orienteering is that while you never say your lost (or you might panic). Because you really aren’t, but there are certainly times when you live with the tension of when you have no idea near where are, but of course you know where you are. You can waste precious time once you arrive at an area where you think a checkpoint is, trusting your skills and instinct that you skills have you in the right area.

Then along the way as you cover the terrain to get to that area you have to find that balance between trusting you compass heading and making your you haven’t gone too far or not far enough. The trees, ditches, down trees, creeks and trails whizz by knowing that while they aren’t important right now they are in some ways are as they act as a sign post to ensure you are going in the right direction.

For example. “If I follow this compass heading should cross this creek, and it should be running NE & SW, that means I’m heading in the right direction.”

How often do we need to get somewhere in life, a big decision, job, relationship and know where we are going but need to pay attention to the way points and signs along the way. In orienteering the are simple things like ditches, or creeks coming into a river from a certain place, a trail crossing, a power line, a small gully. Small but yet very significant.

Furthermore,  sometimes where you think you are can look similarly like somewhere else. Requiring us to use even more patience and those outside clues to make sure we are where we think we are.

While the checkpoint is of course the reward, if I screw up the journey then… GLUP.

Finally, the winner is orienteering is the person with all the checkpoints in the shortest possible time. Forget setting some new speed record, because obviously its not. I run about  6-7 miles today and it took me 90mins. The actual course was measured (as the crow flies, with no screw ups at 4 or so miles) and look how many miles I ended up doing. Never perfect but completed. The cool thing is about half way through I teamed up with another guy doing the same race… we worked together and got er done. Perhaps I’ll tell you more about that another time.

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