New to O?
If you've never been to an orienteering event before, what can you expect and what do you need to bring?
What do I do?
What do I need?
What if it's raining?
You'll get wet! (but wear suitable clothing). Maps at most events nowadays are printed on waterproof paper - if not you can usually borrow a clear polybag to put your map in.
As you continue with the sport, you'll probably want a few more of the things that you see other orienteers wearing or using, such as:
O-kit can be bought from the specialist suppliers UltraSport and CompassPoint. They both have mobile shops and attend larger events - check the event details to see if they're coming. HOC has a stock of second-hand generic and new club-branded kit - talk to the Equipment Officer or Club Captain.
When and Where to O:
Throughout the year, clubs stage events on Saturday or Sunday. Most of these will be friendly, relatively low-key (level D and level C) events which you usually can enter on the day by choosing a colour-coded course. Mixed in among these will be a smaller number of more high-profile (level B and occasionally level A) events which will have more facilities and many more competitors. HOC often has a club tent at these so that members can shelter from the elements and chat with each other. Events at levels B and A usually demand entry in advance and courses are organised by age category. However, you are free to enter whichever course you like. For more information about colour courses and age categories, look at the British Orienteering website. Most of these events will be traditional forest/woodland events; however there are a growing number of urban events.
A selection of the Saturday and Sunday events are designated to comprise the West Midlands League (WML). This is a club competition where you score points both as an individual and also for your club. The rules are on the West Midlands Orienteering Association (WMOA) website.
Clubs also stage low-key events on midweek evenings - these are often run from a car park or pub. In the summer these are called, predictably, Summer Evening Events (SEEs). In the winter two types of event are run; Night Street events (NSL) around towns and housing estates and Winter Evening events (WEEs) in woodland. These are held in the dark so you will need a decent headtorch. Within HOC, these events are organised into their own leagues.
Additionally there are championship events and team events dotted throughout the year, and around the country. These include: British Championships (individuals and relays), British Sprint and Middle Championships, British Night Championships, Harvester Night Relays, West Midlands Relays. The CompassSport Cup is a prestigious inter-club event where every club runner can make a difference.
Throughout the year many orienteers also attend multi-day events. HOC often tries to arrange a club hut or communal campsite so that members can share experiences and lifts. These events begin at Easter with the annual JK (Jan Kellestrom trophy) over 4 days. At the late May bank holiday the 3-day SinS (Springtime in Shropshire) alternates with the Tamar Triple in Devon/Cornwall. Then in late July is the bi-annual Scottish Six Days (S6D), alternating with Croeso (Wales) or the Lakes, which run over 5 days every 4 years. August bank holiday sees the 3-day White Rose in Yorkshire.
Improving your skills
Talk to the Membership Secretary who will seek a buddy or point you in the direction of any coaching opportunities. Alternatively check out these recommended books:
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How and when can you get some more experience between events?
HOC have some permanent courses. Download or buy the map as directed and make up your own course.
HOC members don't just spend all their spare time orienteering or doing behind-the-scenes work to support the sport. Obviously there's a strong crossover with athletics and other outdoor pursuits, such as...
parkrun - regular Saturday morning 5km runs. In HOC's area, parkrun takes place at Edgbaston (Cannon Hill Park), Redditch (Arrow Valley), Walsall and Worcester.
Open Street Map - free mapping, surveyed and maintained by volunteers. Orienteering's Ollie O'Brien is a contributer and has developed the Open O-Map version which allows anyone to get map extracts in a format suitable for urban and street events.