Preparing for a Single Race

training Alasdair

Alasdair Photo: by Steve Rush, Ali McLeod running in to win the JK this year

Many of the GB team travelling to Latvia have a single race at the World Championships that they are training for. This situation will influence the preparation and training for the weeks beforehand. The ideas below may help when you are thinking about an important race for you, be it the forthcoming World Masters, a home internationals, your club championships, or looking ahead at a particular championship race next year.


If you have an important race that you want to prepare for then there are a few extra things you can do beyond reading the final details. By preparing well you make the situations that will arise during the race less surprising, and you will be able to deal with them with more confidence. This will lead to a better orienteering performance.

Remember every race is unique. It is on a specific area, is a specific type of course and is planned by a specific person. There are ways to deal with all the things that make a race specific - by preparing yourself for them.


You can get an old map of the area, look at photos of the area on the internet and talk to people who have run there. Then you might want to try to answer these questions:

  • What will everything look like? (Will it be pine, will it be birch, what will be underfoot, what will rocks look like?)
  • What sort of orienteering techniques will I need for this area? (Compass bearings, contour visualisation, good leg planning.)
  • What sort of control features will I need to find? (Will they be big, will they be small, what will they look like?)
  • What areas will be fast to move through and how far will I be able to see? (Is the green visible, is the yellow fast, what time of year is it will there be leafy trees, will the brambles be up?)


From the map and the details of the race you can make some predictions of what you think the course might be like. This will help you identify what sort of problems you might face. Some things you may end up considering include:

  • Will the controls be close together? (Will I have to change direction quickly, will I have to know what is coming up next, will I have to concentrate hard for a long periods?)
  • Will there be route choice? (How far will I have to look ahead, how wide will I have to look on the map to see all the route options, how fast are different areas of running, what features make navigation simple and fast?)
  • Does the type of orienteering change throughout the course? (Does the area have obviously different sections where I will have to change the way I orienteer, might I have to change the way I orienteer if I get tired on a long course?)
  • Will there be external distractions? (Is there gaffeling, am I likely to see other people, is there a spectator control, how will all this affect my concentration?)


The planner is there to set a course that will challenge your orienteering skills. You are trying to outwit the planner by orienteering round their course very well, and they are trying to lure you into making a mistake. Looking at a map of the area in the mind-set of the planner can help you prepare for some of the challenges you might face. A planner often tries to:

  • Give you little time to make important decisions. (having long route choice decisions after lots of intensive short legs or right at the start of the course)
  • Make you change the orienteering techniques you have to use; for example having a vague leg where compass is important after lots of legs where compass hasn’t been used, or making you find a very different type of feature such as a boulder after only being made to find contour features before, or using areas where visibility changes and the distance you can see ahead of you has changed.


Prepare well, so that when the big race comes you can be focused and in the moment. When you are in the moment you should be able to do everything you have practised.

Final Thought

As I prepare this month for my WOC race - a specific type of terrain and a specific type of race - I will try to simulate that as much as possible.

On The Red Line Editorial. We wish Alasdair well in his continuing preparation for the World Champs Middle race (provisionally 5.6km, 250m climb) which is on 7th August at Sigulda in Latvia.

Previous maps of WOC areas.

Ali's previous articles:

Building the Basics

Let's Start Well.

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