FOR four decades now, Val Hodsdon has been using a map and compass to navigate her way to success in the world of what she jokingly calls “cunning running”.
Kiama Downs orienteer Hodsdon heads into 2016 ranked number one in Australia in her age group.
Hodsdon, a member of Southern Highlands Orienteers, topped the Women’s 65-69 age group, based on results from the three major national events in 2015.
These were the Oceania championships in Tasmania in January, the Easter carnival in South Australia in April, and the Australian championships in Victoria in September-October.
Hodsdon, 67, and originally from Melbourne, began orienteering about 40 years ago while in Canberra.
“I liked the challenge of the navigation; running through the bush and trying to find the checkpoints,” she said.
“Last year was probably my best orienteering year ever.”
According to Orienteering ACT, the aim is to navigate your way around a course with a series of numbered checkpoints called controls.
The course is marked on a map with coloured symbols, explained by a legend.
The skill in orienteering is in choosing the best route between controls.
Hodsdon said she enjoyed the challenge, saying that orienteering was for all ages, or a “sport for life”.
“You get a new challenge every time you get out there, and you’ve got to use your body and mind as kind of a balance.
“If you run too fast, you make mistakes, because you get in oxygen debt.
“I’ve been orienteering for 40 years, and I’ve had probably two perfect runs.
“So what keeps me going is you want to be getting it exactly right.
“It’s a fitness thing too, and a friendship thing, and also travel.
“We travel around the world and around Australia… You go to places and see parts of Australia you’d never see otherwise, that the average person wouldn’t see.”
Hodsdon said orienteering was experiencing somewhat of a resurgence.
“What’s really popular with orienteering these days is the street and park orienteering, rather than the bush orienteering,” she said.
“That’s the really growing one, and also mountain bike orienteering.”
Even in an era of easily accessible mobile phones and GPS, Hodsdon said these types of orienteering were attractive for younger people.
“The bush orienteering, which is my favourite, that’s just completely out in the bush and you’re navigating from contours and features.
“The street orienteering and certainly the mountain bike orienteering appeals to the young ones.
“Like in Sydney, they have what they call ‘space racing’, where they do events for kids.
“Every year we help out in the south-west Sydney schools’ championships, and they get about 300 kids there from various schools.
“There’s a fair bit of development going into the younger kids.”
Illawarra Kareelah Orienteers will be running some street events in the Wollongong area on Sundays in February.
Visit http://illawarrakareelahorienteers.com/ for more details on the club.
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