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Discussion: Suggestions inspired by Ragnar

in: Orienteering; General

Sep 25, 2016 1:36 PM # 
I am writing this while participating in a Ragnar Relay. It's 3 am, I'm sitting in a Ford Econoline van with people I've mostly just met (I was a last-minute replacement), in the parking lot of a county fairgrounds along with hundreds of other Ford Econoline vans, in the middle of a 10-hour break between running segments.

At first I was depressed that it seemed like more people were participating in this single event than in all orienteering events combined in the US so far in 2016, but then I thought I should use the occasion to make some positive suggestions about how orienteering could borrow from Ragnar's success:

1. Inflatable archways. People love running through them. There should be one not just at the start/finish, but at as many controls along the way as possible. Sure, that makes them easier to find, but orienteering is too hard as it is.

2. Taking this idea further, we should think of controls not as checkpoints, but destinations. Let's have not only inflatable archways, but DJs blasting wedding reception favorites, branded giveaways, special finisher medals if it was a particularly challenging leg, hot soup fundraisers by the local Kiwanis club. Obviously it would be unwieldy to have every control be like this. Maybe every 6 or 8. The non-spectacle controls in between could be made optional, perhaps with a special limited-edition "navigators" medal for those who attempt them.

3. These first two ideas are unwieldy in a forest environment. An off-season amusement park or ski resort would work better. For an extra 25 dollars participants could buy a "speed pass" that lets them use the lifts or monorails or golf carts to get around. Courses could be designed to all but force people to do this. On the one hand, you could give people a special limited-edition "alpinista" medal for hiking all the way up a mountain, but on the other hand, you want to make sure you're maximizing revenues at all times.

4. Clearly we need to get rid of courses named after colors, which are hardly inspirational. Make red the "extremist", orange the "conquistador". White - where all the real action is - lends itself to "hero" or "champion".

5. Less competition. You can still have overall winners, but downplay this as much as possible and make it difficult for the average participant to even know who they might be. Even so, I would not recommend going as far as Ragnar does, which has teams predict their finishing times in advance, and penalizes them if they do better than their predictions. (A few hours ago, to avoid a penalty, one of the guys in my van had to sit by the side of the road for 5 minutes).

6. Branding, branding, branding. The OUSA logo should be on every control flag, every inflatable archway, every SI unit, every car magnet, every removeable tattoo.

7. We probably should just do away with SI units altogether. Surely our events can be managed on smart phones, which people are carrying anyway, creating all sorts of possibilities for live-tracking your friends and teammates.

8. Yes, teammates. Competing as an individual is too uncool these days. I think it's time for orienteering to develop a format where you are only running 7% of the time and resting 93% of the time. (Arguably, that's already how 2-day meets function, so maybe this one is already covered).

9. Come to think of it, navigating can really is kind of hard. Maybe lose the maps and compass altogether and make the whole thing more Pokèmon Go-like.

Well, I hope some of this proves useful, but now it's time move on and greet our next runner at a park-and-ride lot by the interstate!
Sep 25, 2016 7:54 PM # 
I would give 25$ to whoever, only to not have to run in a Ragnar relay.
Sep 25, 2016 8:23 PM # 
I was talking with a couple of Norwegians last weekend about what orienteers might pay $25 extra for. We figured not much, but maybe a "Plus" entry might give you:
* a flatter course
* upgraded refreshment stops (gatorade, food, ...)
* VIP tent at the finish
* VIP parking (valet parking maybe)
* laundry service on multiday events
* prefered start times
* maybe a course preview
Sep 25, 2016 8:28 PM # 
Why does everybody seem to think that the only way to grow orienteering is by attracting those who already participate in other sports? There are hikers and others who like the outdoors; there are those who like maps; there are those who like to challenge themselves mentally and would like to combine it with some sort of physical activity. Many, probably most of them don't like to run through inflatable archways - in fact, they may not like to run at all, but that's OK - they can walk at first and some will gradually get more competitive and will start to appreciate running. Most will not like loud music at controls and cheap "medals." Most will be annoyed by "extremist," "champion" and other ridiculous course names. Best of all, there is no need to "dumb down" or create special courses for such people, as orange and brown courses already exist specially for them and they can enjoy them from day 1 even if they have to walk (unlike athletes, who first need to learn to navigate at running speed to have fun).

Rather than thinking about how to make orienteering more similar to other sports, think about what is special and unique about orienteering and how to advertise it to those who may appreciate these unique aspects. And keep in mind that there are, undoubtedly, disproportionately many engineers and scientists among orienteers - that may give some hints as to what the target audience should be.
Sep 25, 2016 10:20 PM # 
For one, because if you are not at least somewhat athletic I can't see you enjoying the forests from Friday or Saturday. And if you stay with white or yellow courses on the trails it will hardly be mentally challenging at walking speeds even for beginners.
Sep 25, 2016 10:41 PM # 
I am so disappointed in this thread. I appreciated Reject's sentiments once I got over that the post was not going to reference Ragnar Lothbrok's heroics. False advertising I call it! Orienteering could do with some of Ragnar's foresight and intelligence.
Sep 26, 2016 12:13 AM # 
Well, of course, the definitions of "athletic" vary, but if some participants aged 85+ were able to do the brown courses, then I don't see why a 30-year-old, even somewhat out-of-shape, would not be able to do it.
Sep 26, 2016 12:53 AM # 
Well, there you go. The unwashed plebeians will enjoy their dumbed-down version of fun by the millions, all the while we, the chosen few, will savor our caviar and ostrich eggs and deceive ourselves in attention to detail passing for intelligence, until the last F95 passes away and there's nobody to turn the lights off. Well, there will be nobody to set courses for said F95 by the time she's an F75, but let's disregard that. It's obvious, so cannot be true.

Thanks for an artful troll, Reject. I'm surprised quite a few took your post at face value, but then, see attention to detail vs. overall intelligence. Signing off.
Sep 26, 2016 3:20 AM # 
@tundra/desert - "a few"??? I think you are guilty of your own accusation. See one vs. a few ;-)

@MChub - "Why does everybody seem to think that the only way to grow orienteering is by attracting those who already participate in other sports?"

Well, first off, "everybody" is quite an overstatement.
Secondly, "the only way" is also wildly misleading.
More relevantly though, "attracting those who already participate in other sports". The Ragnar Relay participants I can't imagine for a minute are particularly dedicated to that 'sport'. They're just looking for a fun weekend. And I think it is very fair to ask why we in orienteering can't provide them with something fun. I agree with Nikolay that there are no suitable courses for occasional orienteers - that would require long easy courses. I also agree with T/D that this is an important group to attjract because of the obvious financial benefit.

This discussion thread is closed.