Sunday, 2 February 2014

Fast running Urban O (and shadowing children)

This morning's orienteering event at Jeppe Boys marked the first of our new Urban Series events. They're designed to be accessible and fun and family-friendly. The terrain is runnable and, if your navigation if decent, you can have pretty zippy runs.

I had a mostly decent run. I do find it challenging to run and read the map when the buildings and corridors are small. Trying to keep one eye on the ground and one eye on the map as you're bouncing all over the place as you run... I keep feeling like I need to bring a magnifying glass along! Our map was quite scaled down as two maps were printed on one A4 page. It was a 'map-swap' format where we completed the first 18 controls on one map and the next 18 controls on the second map. The map would have been a dog's breakfast if all the controls were printed on a single map. But that did mean that a few times I had to pause just to check which corridor was which one.

And this started from the first control! Goodness!

No biggie... but on fast courses like this, if you lose 15 seconds you can lose a place (or two!).

The other error I made was totally silly.

I went from 29 to 20! Not sure why other than that I was looking at the zero of the '20', which caught my eye. As I approached the control I thought, "I'm sure I've been here before" and realising my error turned around 180 degrees to get 'my' control 30, whih was then behind me. Not far away, but again, you lose 20 seconds and you slip places.

After I finished my course I had the opportunity to shadow my friend's son. He's 8 and has been orienteering pretty much since he was a few weeks old. First in a backpack and then toddling around with his folks. I've shadowed a few orienteering children before and I do enjoy watching what they do.

To explain a bit... when children first come to orienteering they start off on 'string' courses. There isn't really a string (not here, at SA events) but the controls are placed such that if the child turns in the correct direction, they'll see the control. We use fluffy toys and boards with cartoon characters as control markers. Even two and three-year olds do these courses - with their parents, of course.

And so they do these for a few years and then probably by the time they're four or five they're doing the novice courses, assisted by their parents. Once they start to navigate on their own - around age 6 and a bit - then the parents don't have to step in as much. The children then start to insist that they are left alone to navigate on their own. And this is then when shadowing starts. Initially I think the parent would help where needed but for the most part the shadow is just there for safety and comfort.

Connor, and his brother Cameron (7), are very much at the stage where they still have shadows - but not for long. Connor clearly demonstrated to me that he is more than capable out there.

What really stood out for me is that Connor is really good at keeping his map orientated, using the features around him and remembering where he started from. Compasses are not necessary on these courses; features play a big role. He makes very good route choices but just lacks a little confidence - almost seeming a little uncertain that he really is doing the correct thing. Most of the time, he is; and when he isn't, he really is not far off. 

He's also able to problem solve. To get to the one control we cut across a grassy fenced-in area and needed to get out the other side. He knew exactly where he was but seemed 'trapped' by a jumble of old furniture. Interestingly, he didn't take the easy option on the other side of the little building, which we'd passed, but instead wanted to push through the jumble, which we did. He wasn't wrong at all - only the nicer side would have been faster and easier going and it led directly to the exit gate..

It really is fun to watch these young minds at work - and quite amazing too. Connor certainly navigates better than most novice adults! 

In another two years he'll be buzzing a lot more confidently all over the place.

There are still another eight events in the Urban Series (all the way through to early June) and I hope to do decently in the overall rankings (best 6 count). If you pre-enter and pre-pay you get discounts on your entries. 

And don't forget my AR Club Summer Series events on Wednesday evenings at Delta Park. Two more to go. Everyone welcome. Pre-enter and pre-pay (by noon on Tuesday) to get your entry for only R30!

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