Jamie has kindly asked if I start contributing to the Osquad blog. I think his term was that I'm one of the orienteering geeks. Funny it fits. Turns out I'm not the only one and checking through the list of other contributors I'm in illustrious company. So, being overly enthusiasticly orienteeringly geeky, I agreed.
But when I sat down to think what a middle-aged orienteer who didn’t run elites can contribute to the blog I was stumped. That’s until I thought to myself – why did I never become an elite?When I turned 21 I stopped orienteering. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but being a late bloomer I had finally discovered girls. Combined with other trappings of youth I lost interest in the sport I grew up loving. But why was it so easy for me to go off course? – if you’ll pardon the pun.
For me it was partly to do with being a lazy trainer but more so it was mental. Orienteering requires both skills equally. You can be the best navigator in the world but if you’re not physically capable then you’ll win only through the failures of others. I was a technical orienteer with match fitness and I only won sometimes. But that was the main problem. I focussed on the winning.
Orienteering is an individual sport. But unlike tennis or running races, it is just you against the map, the terrain and yourself. You can’t control what others are doing, you can only control yourself.
Recently I was watching a YouTube video on how to start running. I’m currently trying to establish the habit. The guy in the video said that running is in the mind. It’s getting out the door to train that’s hard. It’s getting to the top of that hill. It’s pushing to the finishing line despite not being able to breathe. And with that the penny dropped. I didn’t like training because I wasn’t mentally tough enough.
I’ve watched the rise of the likes of Lizzie, Matt and Nick over the last few years and I wonder what sets them apart. In my opinion, it is their mental toughness with a detail to all parts of competing. It’s achievable for others but it needs to be done consciously.
The last aspect that sets them apart from where I was at a young age (and I’m not claiming that I was in the same league as them) is that they focus solely on controlling their own race. They have no control over others only over what they are doing. Matt’s reaction at the end of the wharf after finishing the Rotoiti Classic last December wasn’t to be disappointed that he hadn’t beaten Nick for the series. It was of elation of having executed a damn fine race. Having returned to orienteering 15 years after giving it up that’s what drives me now. Being the best orienteer I can be and enjoying it when I am. It’s only now though that I’ve realised that includes running.