Lada Kralova runs through the finish line of the B.C. Orienteering Championships with map in hand. The two-day event wrapped up Sunday on Camosun’s Interurban campus. Wolf Depner/News Staff

Orienteering championships put Saanich on the map

Why just run? That is the question that guides (pardon the pun) members of Victoria’s Orienteering Club, which hosted the 2017 B.C. Orienteering Championships.

Held over two days, it drew 80 competitors from across British Columbia and places beyond and wrapped up Sunday on Camuson’s Interurban campus, giving the club a chance to introduce the public to orienteering.

“Basically, you are cross-country running with a map, and the objective is to use your navigation skills to find a bunch of control flags as quickly as possible,” said Linda Hildebrandt, past-president of the club, and course organizer.

Orienteering, in other words, asks competitors to combine running (or some other form of locomotion) with land navigation. Rooted in military training, it has evolved into a global sport, which has been a part of the World Games since 2001.

“Some people refer to it as the thinking sport,” said Hildebrandt, who found out about the sport through her work with the Canadian Armed Forces. “Not only do you have to be athletic enough to run quickly, but you have to be thinking about where you are going and making really good route choices.”

Orienteering, in words, does not automatically reward the fastest, but those who can balance speed with surveying ability.

This combination makes the sport accessible to all ages, said Scott Sheldrake, club vice-president and secretary.

“It is a sport that doesn’t just rely on your fitness, it uses your brain, because you have to be able to look at a map and figure out your route,” he said. “So it involves a little bit of strategy. So your fitness helps, but it isn’t the only factor. So it can appeal to anyone, young, old.”

Courses vary in complexity, an aspect the provincial championships reflected. Its first day of competition took place in Camp Thunderbird near Sooke, a heavily forested area with only a handful of trails. “Camp Thunderbird is really quite challenging,” said Hildebrandt. “I myself ran the course there too, and it was quite a workout.”

The second day of competition meanwhile shifted to the buildings and roads of Camosun’s Interurban campus, a course that emphasized speed.

“And then there is everything in between,” said Sheldrake.

Victoria’s Orienteering Club is one of four clubs in the province. Competitiors also compete nationally and internationally, where northern and eastern European states dominate.

Czech-born Lada Kralova knows this scene well. Her family has deeply in orienteering – the Czech Republic currently ranks eighth globally – and she herself started when she was five years old.

So Kralova, who had taken some time off from orienteering to travel through Canada, jumped on the chance to compete this weekend.

For her, orienteering is freedom, with a dose of surprise. “You are super free,” she said. “You are running on your own in the forest.”

The map will also take you into the spots, where you might not gone otherwise, she said. “It is always surprising,” she said.

Those interested can check out to the Victoria Orienteering Club at https://vico.whyjustrun.ca

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