Love your map
Your map is your main navigational tool and you have to be able to read it as if you were reading a book. By being able to interpret every colour, line and symbol you will be able to fully understand how the land will open up in front of you….hills, streams, valleys…
The second navigational tool. Being able to take accurate bearings and check your direction of travel accurately will allow you to be confident in your position and always correctly orientated.
Always have a plan
It is critical to invest time at the beginning of the race to build your overall race strategy but each individual leg should also have a plan. This will help prevent mistakes but will also allow you to flow from control to control.
Only move at the speed at which you can navigate.
It is easy to race too fast and lose contact with the map, causing costly mistakes. By only moving as fast as you can navigate you can minimise that risk.
Keep your map orientated
This simply means that the features on the map are facing the same way as the features on the ground. It is a simple and intuitive thing to do but neglect to do it and mistakes will be made or time wasted as you try to fit the ground to the map.
Learn map to ground and ground to map techniques
It is all about making pictures. You should aim to be able to look at a section of map and picture in your mind what that will look like on the ground. Likewise you should be able to look at the ground and form an idea of what that will look like on the map.
Always have three points of contact
A climbing analogy: always try to have three points of contact on the map to prevent expensive mistakes. For example: You are running on a track (contact one), you are running steeply downhill (contact 2), you check direction with the compass (contact 3).
Understand those brown wiggly lines (contours!)
This can save you needless climb as well as helping as a navigational feature. The standard contour interval on an OS 1:25,000 map is 10m, roughly the height of two double-decker buses.
Accept that mistakes will be made but have a strategy to get back on track. For example: once you’ve relocated avoid the desire to ‘catch up’ and potentially compound your error. Instead, take greater care and concentration on the next leg or until things are going smoothly again.
Practice makes perfect
Navigation is like any skill. You have to practice it to improve. Get some coaching, try orienteering, study legends, take a map out with you when you go running training, read books or magazines about navigation, put a pile of maps by the loo…
Dave Rollins – Team Manager to the GB orienteering team and member of team Tri-Adventure