Chris Smithard, JK Champion 2019, Co-ordinator Lockdown Orienteering, 2020.
At Easter 2019, Chris Smithard won the overall JK Individual Trophy with two hours and nine minutes running, by a margin of just seven seconds. Peter Bray was second and Will Gardner third (28 seconds down.)
At Easter 2020 Chris was coordinating an online festival "Lockdown" for 500 international orienteers. It included 12 stages, and a good deal of social media activity including TV discussions and live coverage of the final. A lot of people are learning a lot, not just about online activity linked to orienteering, but also improving their own skills.
"Lockdown Orienteering" has been the most newsworthy of many online activities in the second half of March and all of April as we "locked down" in the UK. Chris co-ordinated a further "sprint-focused" weekend two weeks later, and there will be another "forest-focused" one 8th-10th May (entries close May 5th.)
The final day of traditional orienteering before the shutdown was Sunday March 16th, the day for the qualifying round of the inter-club competition the CompassSport Cup. Many orienteers therefore enjoyed a nice day out with a focus on club and clubmates to take with them into the shutdown; perhaps we can see it as fortuitous timing.
The following weekend would have been the British Championships, but the sport decided to suspend the next day, in line with UK government advice. The more formal "lockdown" started in the UK a week later, with many businesses such as pubs waiting for the formal notice. And notably within sport the Cheltenham Horse Race Meeting went ahead with large crowds 16th-19th March.
The rest of March and the whole of April has seen many UK orienteers being creative. Such a lot of online activities, individually and collectively, but also ways of continuing to enjoy running with maps, or making them.
For the squad athletes, particularly those sprint-focused who've been working hard for months motivated by ambition to compete for places and at the World Champs (after a year without sprint World Champs) the wholesale cancellations have of course been tremendously disappointing. The position at the moment is there may be a World Championships in October, maybe maybe.
The Lockdown Orienteering weekends include a variety of entertainments, such as timed route choice, puzzles and quizzes, with an optional part using the game Catching Features. The game is chargeable - but note Lockdown can provide a discount code that saves more than an entry fee. There is a lot of work going on behind the scenes for each weekend, for example loading maps on the theme into the game.
A big part of the design of the weekends is social media linkage (optional for competitors of course), to create a community for the weekend. a dedicated Facebook group, Twitter and internet TV are all used.
Each weekend has been supported by 500 entries, and so far £2000 has been raised for good orienteering causes.
The first weekend was won by Casper Skepp (SWE).
The second sprint weekend was won by Malthe Poulsen (DEN).
The CompassSport Cup, intentionally designed and evolved to match the existing demographics of participation in the sport in the UK, gives no emphasis to strong open class runners (for example the class M60-M69 is as important as the class for M21-39.) But there were some open class runners out showing they've been working hard through the winter. The biggest winning margin was at the southwest heat, which included perennial finalists Bristol, where Ben Mitchell (Swansea Bay) led the men's open course by 14 minutes. In Yorkshire, which included other perennial finalists South Yorkshire, Alice Leake (Airienteers) led the women's open by 7 minutes. The strongest competition in the open classes was the Scottish round, where Graham Gristwood (Forth Valley), Thomas Wilson (Clyde) and Peter Hodkinson (Interlopers) headed the men's, and Emma Wilson (Clyde), Megan Keith (Inverness) and Kirstin Maxwell (Roxburgh Rievers) the women's. In the south-east, on Hampstead Heath in London, the women's open was won by Sarah Rollins (Southern Navigators) and the men's was led by two of South London's overseas members: Mihaly Ormay (Hungary) and Juste Raimbault (France).
CompassSport Cup Rules (8 page .pdf)
TheRunIn of hour long orienteering podcasts has maintained its fortnightly release schedule. The March and April episodes feature big-piece interviews with Fiona Bunn, Mårten Boström, Rachel Rothman and Aston Key.