Pointing the Way Orienteering Club Puts the Sport of 'Cunning Running' on the Map

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), August 24, 2007 | Go to article overview

Pointing the Way Orienteering Club Puts the Sport of 'Cunning Running' on the Map


Byline: Lauren Heist Beep Staff Writer

Chicago Area Orienteering Club

Web site: www.chicago-orienteering.org

Cost: $8

Upcoming events:

Aug. 25: Veterans Acres Night Orienteering Meet, Crystal Lake, 6 p.m.

Sept. 9: Deer Grove Orienteering Meet, Palatine, 10 a.m.

Sept. 16: Swallow Cliff Orienteering Meet, Palos Hills, 10 a.m.

You've gotta think on your feet to be good at orienteering.

And not just thinking and walking. Thinking while dodging branches, skirting ditches, hopping over fallen logs and running down leaf-covered slopes to reach a nylon orange-and-white marker hidden somewhere in the woods.

"They call it cunning running," says Peter Friddle, 33, of Lake Zurich, who was panting and dripping in sweat as he completed a 2.1-kilometer course through Linne Woods in Morton Grove, reaching 11 different points on the map in 17 minutes and 48 seconds.

It's a far cry from learning where north was on a compass when you were in Girl Scouts.

In orienteering, you meet up with other racers at a wooded location. Then you get a topographical map of the area, which is covered in small green and brown symbols indicating things such as hills, depressions, places were there are thick brambles, roots that are sticking up out of the ground, clearings and man-made objects.

Certain spots on the map are numbered, and you have to run from one point to the next and see how quickly you can make it to each location and back to the beginning.

The compass is really only used to get you started. You use it to line your map up so that north on the map matches north in real life. Once you know which way you're situated, you just start running.

"Reading the map is just looking for things you know you can identify," Friddle explains. "What we look for as we're running is attack points."

Gabriella Toth, 26, of Skokie, who was also at the recent orienteering event in Morton Grove, says reading a topographical map, as opposed to a road map, takes some getting used to.

"When you start going around in the woods and you get disoriented, it gets harder," she says.

In many ways, the sport mimics what ancient explorers had to do - use their wits to navigate unknown territory - but with a few modern touches. Racers have computer sensors they wear on their fingers, and at each marker (called a control) they reach on the course, the sensor records their time. When they get back to the beginning, they plug their sensors into a machine, and their final time gets logged into the computer.

The sport's especially popular in Scandinavian countries such as Finland and Norway, where more than 6,000 people will show up for a race.

Marciel Olaru, 29, of Arlington Heights, grew up in Romania and has been doing orienteering since he was 8 years old. In 1996, Olaru was the junior world champion in orienteering, and he continues to compete on an international level. Olaru says he likes the challenge of combining athletic endurance with figuring out where you are and where you're headed as you run. …

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