Saturday, Nov. 10 — Centennial Park, Plymouth, IN
1pm Race Start — Registration ends Nov. 7.
“In road racing, the distance is accurate. In orienteering, you have no way to measure the route you are going to pick—especially because many times, the fastest way is not the straightest line.”
PLYMOUTH, IN—You will twist—and maybe even shout—as you come upon a marker during this cross between an adventure trek, road race and trail run. Devised to be a fun challenge for families as well as more conditioned runners, the Twisted Run on Nov. 10 at Centennial Park is based on the concept of orienteering . . . with a twist to appeal to area runners:
- 6K runners will complete two overlapping 3K loops. Half of the 6K participants will run loop A, the other half will run loop B. 3K runners will complete one loop.
- The “route” will not be marked. Instead of a set course, there will be checkpoints to find. The location of these checkpoints will be identified on a map given to each participant at the start. The “mission” is to discern the fastest route between the checkpoints. Thus, participants use wits as well as speed to advance ahead of the pack.
- No chip, finger stick: When participants find a checkpoint box, they plug in a finger stick that electronically stores their journey’s data.
- The course is on paved paths, paved trails, roads, sidewalks, grass fields, and, if you think it is the fastest route, then through some woods.
“Orienteering is a cross-country running sport,” said event planner Thurston Miller, a Washington State native and Notre Dame professor who has 30 years orienteering experience. He is a member of Orienteering Cincinnati and is active as an Orienteering USA volunteer.
Thurston devised the idea for a local event as way to help raise funds for the U20 orienteers involved in the Junior National Program. (There are 40 juniors in the U.S. program and three of those are from Indiana.) Net proceeds will help the juniors fund travel to training camps, attend the junior team trials, and cover expenses associated with the Junior World Orienteering Championships in Denmark in July 2019.
With access to the necessary special equipment, Thurston enlisted one of the organization’s well-skilled mappers to make a map of Centennial Park and the nearby school grounds. In typical cross county races, the course is marked out and has intervals of orange-white flags for check-in points. “With the Twisted Run, we take away the chalk markings and give participants a map of all the orange-white flag locations,” Thurston said.
Wits & Speed
Using their maps, participants will search out checkpoint boxes (25 for the 6K, 13 for the 3K) and electronically “check in” using a finger stick they have been given to wear. “It comes down to route choices,” Thurston said. “This is where you can out-think your competition. If two people are equally fast, the winner will be the one who was able to think the best about each route point and how best to get to the next.”
At race end, the finger stick is plugged in and a receipt is printed. Participants not only get their time for one 6K (or 3K) race, they are given splits for 25 (or 13) sub-races.
Groupthink is welcome here. Thurston suspects some may wish to run alone, but others may want to collaborate, which may mean moving slower, yet perhaps more accurately.
There is a learning curve to becoming proficient at running through the woods, and Thurston didn’t want that to be an issue for interested runners so he chose the park—an open setting as opposed to a heavily wooded one more typical of an orienteering event. “In the park, you may not see the exact location, but it will be easy to see where you are going.”
Think: “6Kish,” a concept that may be tough for road-racing warriors. “In road racing, the distance is accurate. In orienteering, you have no way to measure the route you are going to pick—especially because many times, the fastest way is not the straightest line.” A good rule of thumb, however, is to add 25 percent of the distance.
The sport of orienteering is well established in Europe and especially popular in Scandinavia, where large worldwide events are hosted annually. Some are multiple-leg relays, some only for women or kids, while others take participants through the night.
“What we are doing in Plymouth is a smaller version of those huge, popular races in Europe,” said Thurston, happy to introduce the sport to Michiana outdoor enthusiasts. While orienteering is an individual passion for Thurston and his wife, Bonnie, they love how well the sport adapted to their family lifestyle—adventurous, laid-back outings with kids and friends.