I have a new short story out on Wattpad this week. Lost and Found is a true story about loss, finding strength, and the importance of telling the people you care about that you love them. I hope you’ll give it a read.
Rediscovering an Old Passion
In the story, I write about one of my old passions: orienteering. It’s a sport I discovered by chance as a teenager and rekindled my love for more recently.
Orienteering is a sport of navigation and speed. In traditional events, competitors must visit a series of checkpoints, in order, in the fastest time possible. There are also score events, with a scattering of checkpoints, each with a points value based on difficulty, and a goal of gathering as many points as possible within a set period of time.
What I love about orienteering is that you don’t have to be a mega athlete to compete. This works very well for me! As I wrote in Lost and Found, you can be in the greatest physical shape, but it doesn’t do you a bit of good if you’re running in the wrong direction. Navigational skill and accuracy, plus the ability to read the terrain and make a decision about the most efficient route, is often more valuable than speedy legs. The top orienteers, of course, have both. But at most local events you’ll find people of all athletic abilities and ages, competing individually, in pairs, or in teams. And while you’ll always find serious contenders, most people are out there for fun.
A New Dimension to Walking or Running
I’ve always been a runner, albeit a slow one, but orienteering adds an additional dimension to traveling by foot. I love the opportunity to get outdoors and attend events in new parts of my local area. I love the challenge of navigating my own route and choosing whether to follow the trail or take a more direct route over rougher terrain. Scrambling down an embankment or clambering over an unexpected fallen tree trunk makes me feel tough. Sprinting over the finish line covered in dirt and a few bramble scratches makes me feel alive. Misjudging a route and getting lost makes me humble, and finding my way to the next checkpoint anyway makes me feel resilient.
Last year, I won my age group in a local Valentine’s Day score event. Okay, so maybe there were only two of us in my category and maybe my performance wasn’t much to write home about in the grand scheme of things, but I took home a prize—a box of chocolates—which made me feel extremely proud of my non-athletic middle-aged self.
Give it a Go
If you fancy a go at orienteering, Orienteering USA has lots of great information, including a directory of local clubs and tips on getting started. If you happen to be in the Los Angeles area, Los Angeles Orienteering Club is a wonderful, friendly group with events around the county. You can usual rent a compass and e-stick (for checking in at the controls) at events, and find someone to do a quick explanation of how to find your way around.
And if traveling by foot isn’t your thing, you could try a mountain bike or cross-country ski orienteering event. I’m thinking of making a ski event one of my goals for this year. It’s a pretty ambitious goal, as I’ve only ever been on a pair of cross-country skis once, and it didn’t end well, but I can see how I could really fall in love with it.
Let me know if you try orienteering and how you liked it.