I had a request to write more about sprints. My sprint experience is
limited, that being one race in
Ust-Kamenogorsk, KZ, one in
Asiago, IT, and
in Roskilde DK at EOC. I took it easy in the
Asiago race, and was absolutely physically shot for the latter two. I
ran hard and had a good race in Kazakhstan. I've likely written some of the
following in one form or anther previously. This is also from someone
who does not know what it is like near the top; I could envision how people
near the top would have different perspectives. My comments are based
on urban/parkland sprint venues. I would take them as speculative at
- I think sprints are fairly far removed, as a skill, from
orienteering, much as rogaining is removed from O. Navigation skill, in
particular, is much less important, while physical prowess (speed in the
case of sprints, obviously) is much more of a factor. Route planning
has a bigger share of the mental component. As I've written previously,
I don't really believe in decomposing O into skills, but if we give O
a breakdown of 50% physical, 35% nav, and 15% route planning (which I
guess is debatable but seems reasonable to me), I would put a sprint at
70% physical, 5% nav, and 25% route planning. (I believe, like O, it
is more of a skill in and of itself, and also, the numbers will skew at
the top when there is less variance in physical prowess among the top
people. Then route planning dominates. In other words, in O, its not
just speed, but navigating at speed. In a sprint, it is more route
planning at speed. I think the required skills are easier to do at
speed in a sprint, and I believe you can run closer to capacity in a
sprint (not because of the distance, but because of the skills).
(By "navigation", I guess I mean contact and execution skill).
- Instance of booms (and poor routes) is more important than
of mistakes than in traditional O. While a 1 minute boom may be a disaster
in an O race, I think it is alot harder to make a mistake that large in a
sprint, but you really have to worry about the 5 second mistakes adding
up. I think relocation is easy, and almost automatic, in a sprint, and not
really part of the skill set. The one exception is that it is easier
to mispunch in a sprint. Code memorization is a more important skill in a
sprint, both because of the higher risk of mispunch, and the relative value
of time to punch.
- It is easier to read ahead in a sprint due to both the majority
of the running not requiring contact attention, and it is just simply easier
to do on a street or park than in a wooded area with tough footing and
trees in your face.
- In a sprint, you must have every inch of your route planned
setting out to the next control. I don't think that is entirely true
in traditional O, where planned feature hopping is sufficient, and you
don't need to worry about surprises between the features so long as the
map shows "forest", "trail" or whatever. It is more of an attention to
detail required in the planning. This is because the out of bounds and
uncrossable features are more subtle, and it is easier to miss the features
that can paint you into a corner. In urban settings, you will have out
of bounds features that cannot be mapped in olive or cross hatch, such as
ornamental hedges, walls with flowerpots, and so on. In traditional O,
I can only think of one feature that can trap you that doesn't really stand
out, and that is the uncrossable fence. Sprints in urban settings have
many more things that are more subtle to worry about. Moreover, O typically
doesn't have mazes of uncrossable watercourses, fences, and the like, yet
sprints may have mazes of uncrossable buildings and other obstacles.
- In a sprint, backdooring is more of a factor. You must always
the backdoor route, both at the beginning and end of your route. This means
consider routes were you "come in as you might leave" on the approach of
a control, and "leave the way you came in" when starting a leg. You may
be running away from the control to save time in the long run.
- Many route choices are "across the building" and the like.
They may look the same, but course setters plan them to be different, perhaps
only by 10-20 seconds, but this is alot. Analyzing the geometry and picking
up on subtle differences is important. Again, attention to detail is much
- Attackpoints are not a factor in a sprint. (Of course, if
your technique is like mine in traditional O, they are not much of a factor
there, either). Compasses are not a factor either except to perhaps orient
yourself at the start. Simplification, which may be a skill in traditional
O, may be a liability in many aspects of a sprint.
- Exploring the venue beforehand seems more valuable.
In Asiago, I had map in hand and explored the city, in order to find a bank,
grocery, etc. Before the race, I knew were everything was, what it looked
like, and what the spatial relationships between the features were. It would
be difficult and less valuable to get the same perspective by exploring a
forest in a afternoon. In Roskilde, I intentionally didn't do this, and had
my companions direct me how to drive. We were allowed in the city "as
and I limited myself to the main street and the Domkirke. While I probably
legally could have explored the city, I didn't. Other teams did. The
difference was noticeable when running -- that "knowing where that is" seemed
helpful. This seems somewhat contradictory to my assertion that navigation
is a small part of the pie; I guess I'd say that while the difference was
noticeable, its impact was still in the small part of the pie.
- I think if a nation were to try to quickly win a world
taking the route of drafting a world class runner with no O experience, the
sprint would be the discipline were this would be more likely to be
I think it would be easier to draft a runner and teach them to be effective
at a sprint than in a traditional forest race. It is both physically and
mentally more similar to road and track running.
- Footwear considerations are more important. You don't want to
wearing studded O shoes for a lot of street running, but may wish you had
such shoes if there is alot of parkland or woodland in the course, especially
if the forecast calls for rain. For the city races, it was obvious to wear
running shoes and not O shoes. For the WC qualifier, it was not obvious,
but the organizers "recommended" O shoes (turns out the terrain was mostly
grassy hospital grounds so this was a fine recommendation). For the WC final,
the organizers "made no recommendation" on footwear, and some competitors were
concerned. The speculation was that it would be in the city, so most people
wore running shoes, yet there was a good portion in grass and woods, and it
rained, and the running shoes were a liability. Many people were slipping
near the end of the race. The bottom line is to learn the most about the
venue as possible beforehand, and make sure you have appropriate footwear.
I'm not sure we think that much about this before a traditional O race.
(And I don't know much about running shoes, but there may exist the sort of
shoe that is a good hybrid to wear on both the street and parkland/light