Occassional thoughts about orienteering

Monday, April 09, 2007

Lost little girl


Ivo posed a good question in response to yesterday's post:

what would some US elite orienteer do if some 12 years old girl cries in the middle of the forest, asking if he/she could show her where they actually are?

I'm not an elite US orienteer, but I happened to face this exact situation last summer at the Swedish 5-days. Here is what happened...

I went out in the chase start about 3 minutes behind Frank Steiner of Jarfella OK. I was having a good race when I caught up to Frank as he made a mistake. We were about 3/4 of the way through the race. All that was left was the section through the very flat, open forest (tallhed) and then a couple of controls just before the run in. I got a little gap on Frank.

I'm running through the open forest heading toward a bridge over the road when I come across a little girl who is crying and lost. She is really upset. She's asking for help. So, I stopped and helped. I looked at her map and showed her where we were. I could tell she was too upset to find the control, so I pointed the right direction and told her follow the vegetation boundary to the road, turn to the right at the road, and look for the control at the road/trail crossing. I pointed her in the right direction. The whole thing only took about 30 seconds.

After helping the little girl, I looked up and saw Frank ahead of me. I chased, but never caught up. Here is what I wrote in my log:

When I looked up, Steiner was ahead of me. Shit. I pushed hard but didn't catch back up to him.

I figure stopping to help the little girl cost two places. Sort of a bummer, but it was good to help the kid (who was really upset and crying).

Thinking about Ivo's question made me think about the issue of asking for, and giving, help in the forest. The orienteering cultures are so different in the U.S. and Sweden. In the U.S. a lot of orienteers wouldn't ask for help and a lot of orienteers wouldn't offer help. In Sweden - especially at an event like the 5-days - people ask for and offer help all the time. Which brings to mind another story from last summmer's 5-days.

I was running a long leg, pushing pretty hard, and my map contact wasn't very good as I approached the control. The contours didn't seem to fit and the vegetation wasn't what I'd expected. I hesitated a bit and stopped to take a careful look at the map. I hadn't stood still for more than a second or two when a young girls ran right up to me. She asked if I knew where we were. I told her I was a bit unsure. She then pointed at my map and said that we were right at the little marsh. She was helping me! I had thought she was the one who was lost. That would never happen in the U.S.

Back to okansas.blogspot.com.

posted by Michael | 7:40 PM


And I thought I was just faster than Michael on the last kilometers :-( during this race. Unfortunately I havn't had the time to discuss further.

I think if we look at the splits, you ran the last couple of controls faster than I did. But, you got by me when I stopped. Could I have caught you? Probably not, but I like to think so :-)

The main difference might be that at an event like 5-days there are so many people in the forrest at the same time that it is very unnatural not to ask the people around you when you are lost.

In any case, I don't se a big problem in this asking-for-help business as long as we are not talking elite runners.
But it does happen among elite runners. Competitors have been observed talking to each other, and stopping others to ask for help, at World Cup and WOC events. IOF officials refused to do anything about it.
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