I haven’t done any orienteering since I left school. But I have been (over 10 years ago) a personal coach to a professional orienteer and therefore got to know this sport. The orienteering community is like its own tribe. Although, I don’t know if they are still the same kind of community as they used to be. I do hope it hasn’t changed and I’ll tell you why.
Orienteering is an individual sport where every single orienteer belongs somehow to the same team. Men and women, Swedes and Finns, good orienteers and bad orienteers. If you have never been to the big orienteering event in Finland, JUKOLA, then you really must visit it. I’ve only been there once but it was at JUKOLA when I really understood what it feels like to belong to the same team as everyone else while still compete against each other. It is the kind of sport where you get the credit but you are still also part of a team.
Why is orienteering such a great sport? You get to be in nature. You can enjoy the scenery and the fresh air. No one pays any attention to you even if you just stop and look for some wood anemones in the middle of the race. The longer you stay in the forest the more you experience.
You can do all this while developing your logical thinking skills by figuring out where the next control point is. Without even noticing it you are developing your balance and you will improve body control because you are running in an uneven terrain.
You can go to races and join in amongst the top orienteers in the world and it won’t look odd. There aren’t many sports in the world where this is possible. If you put amateurs against professionals in a 10k race it will look and feel like there’s a huge difference. Perhaps I should really start orienteering.