On Facebook this morning has popped up a BOF plug for “Red Bull Robin Hood”. An orienteering event with a difference, with prizes. Let me take you through my part-positive, part-jaded reaction to this new thing.

1. Sponsorship/co-organisation: good.

2. Ooh PRIZES. I’m in favour of prizes, especially large cash ones.

3. Charity. Yay. (But prizes AND charity? Hmm.)

4. “Orienteering adventure race”: hmm. Who is this event aimed at? If I assume it’s kind of 50-50 orienteers and non-orienteers, I question the wisdom of mentioning the dread O-word in the first sentence, even if it is a “brand new concept”.

5. WHAT IS IT? “Those up for the challenge will require a combination of speed, stamina and navigational skills to find their way around the carefully mapped out course in Sherwood Pines forest, and there will also be a range of special tasks and challenges to overcome throughout the race. This will be a race to test both the body and the mind.” Yes, but WHAT IS IT? How far is it? Is it hard? Is it fun? How long will it take? Can you take part in teams? What do you have to do? WHAT IS IT?

6. “This serious orienteering event”: okay, so not fun. But what is this phrase doing here? If you’re trying to put non-orienteers off, you’ve just succeeded. If you’re trying to reassure orienteers, you must think we’re stupid.

7. Now comes the best bit:

“Red Bull Robin Hood is being held in Sherwood Pines, an area which is embargoed for orienteers who wish to compete in the Compass Sport Cup Heat on Sunday 15th March 2015. By registering for the event you recognise that by competing in Red Bull Robin Hood I will be breaching the embargo for the Compass Sport Cup Heat to be held at Sherwood Pines on Sunday 15th March 2015. As such will be declared as non-competitive at the Compass Sport Cup Heat.”

7a. So no local orienteers then. Ouch.

7b. Never mind the typos, what is this text doing on the Red Bull page? It’s important info, but it hardly needs to be on the general-public-facing page.

8. I notice that the blogpost went up on the Red Bull site on 9 September, for the event on 1 November. That’s pretty short notice. There’s a bit on the Men’s Running blog, but I doubt there can be much if anything in any of the running magazines.

9. As of this morning there are 7 entrants. After four weeks. I hadn’t heard of it before today, so although BOF may have been promoting it to orienteers they haven’t been doing it very effectively. Or maybe that was on purpose, since they want new people. Who knows.

10. “In Robin Hood’s hometown of Nottingham”: no. It’s about an hour away. Why not say it’s in Sherwood Forest? People have heard of Sherwood Forest. You know, Robin Hood…

11. Coming back to the prizes: the chances are that orienteers will win them, so they may also have a negative effect. A non-orienteer, a very good runner perhaps, might travel to the event in the hope of taking home the £500, but when they discover that they basically had no chance, they might be rather cheesed off. Hobby orienteers like me aren’t going to take the incentive seriously since we have no chance either, so that leaves a few good (non-EMOA) orienteers to roll up and roll off with the cash.

12. The Men’s Running article is pretty ugly. The tone is that orienteering is shit. Think about that: in order to promote the sport, the body that runs the sport is encouraging negative things to be written about the sport. Then think about it again, and cry.


I think most of us want to grow the sport** but BOF needs better advice. I’ve tried a few things over the years; most have failed, a few have succeeded. Maybe you could say the same about BOF, so what’s the problem? The problem is partly that BOF can potentially waste a lot more resources than I can, and whereas I might piss off a few people, BOF can lose the goodwill of its membership and make us a joke in the wider world.

To go back to those ominous words “orienteering adventure racing”. That isn’t a thing. Mixing things up creates novelty activities that are unlikely to interest anyone unless you have a big marketing budget. Orienteering is orienteering. Adventure racing is adventure racing. They’re very similar activities, but the value is in keeping them separate.

My belief these days is in Bleed. Put on or support adventure races, mountain marathons, MTBO, etc. Promote real orienteering events off the back of them. Some people will bleed into real orienteering from them. (Some, that is, as opposed to the very few who will bleed into orienteering from standard running/cycling activities.) This is not a question of not being proud of orienteering or dishonest. If it’s not an orienteering event as traditionally defined, there’s no shame in not calling it an orienteering event; rather, it’s pretty counter-productive to do so, knowing the prejudices that many people have against the word. BOF got this right with Xplorer.

My problem with Xplorer is different…


** I apologise if you don’t like the verb “grow” being used transitively like this; neither do I, really, but it seems appropriate here for some reason.