Sutton Park
I met Marti in November 1997. Since then she’s watched me go off to many orienteering events. Very rarely has she been at an event, and she’s never taken part. She’s not averse to sport – she doesn’t mind cycling, swimming or running – but has avoided O like the plague. Despite the fact that our 4-year-old doesn’t come home in tears after a run round a Yellow course, Marti’s been convinced that orienteering is, to coin a cliche, a “nice jog spoiled”.

Anyway, on Saturday I was taking Catherine to Sutton Park for COBOC’s little local event, and the sun was shining, and Marti said she’d come. I immediately took advantage of this (!) and asked Marti to take Catherine round the White course (or vice versa) while I got a bit of practice in for next weekend’s cup tie by doing the Long. Marti became a bit concerned when she realised that it wasn’t a string course, but the real deal with kites and dibber and compass, but I tried to reassure her by suggesting that although the map was confusing, the kites would be visible along the paths and she would just need to decide at each one whether to turn or carry on.

Sutton Park white

It was master maps so I drew them a map and off they went. A couple of minutes later, after I’d copied my map, I overtook them and left them to their fate! As I passed Blackroot Pool I knew they must’ve done okay – someone had already been round to collect their controls – and sure enough, they the two of them were, cheering me into the finish. 🙂 I did my 4.5 km in 33 minutes, and they’d done their 1.7 km in 20 minutes. Celebrations all round! Best of all, Marti’s comment was “That was easy” and she went off to run round her course again…

Marti’s orienteering phobia had its roots in her youth. As a teenager, she’d once or twice had a go at a course with a small group of girl friends, and got lost and had an uninspiring time. That reminded me of my own experiences in Hungary – I’d enjoyed the challenge and the terrain, but it was remarkable that colour-coded courses were almost non-existent, such that there must’ve been a magical process that allowed beginners to become proficient in the sport. All the events I went to were organised by age class, with a token “Nyilt” (Open) course which was probably TD4! So we are very lucky here to have a much better way of running events, and I have a happy wife!