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Your First Event

Great! You've decided to attend your first orienteering meet! Here’s a quick overview of what to expect:

Arrival: If you’re new to orienteering, you’ll want to arrive 30 minutes early. This will allow you fill-out the necessary waivers and get everything in order prior to the event. Note that many of our events have a "start window" of 12:00pm to 1:30pm, which means you can arrive at any time and start whenever you want within that time period. Occasionally though, we do have events with a "mass start" when everyone starts together. These are referred to as “Score-O” events.

Get a quick lesson:  We always have volunteers available at our meets who are more than happy to give a quick 15-minute introduction for beginners. They'll explain a few basic rules, give an overview of the map and symbols, and show how to use a compass and electronic scorecard "e-punch".

Course Selection:  If you pre-registered, we already have this information. If not, you’ll want to decide which course to do. Most of our events have a wide selection of courses to choose from, so feel free to pick whichever matches your skill level. The different course types will typically be written on a large whiteboard near the registration table. And keep in mind that if you finish your first course, you can always try another more challenging course that day for free (assuming it’s within the time limits). Minnesota Orienteering Club hosts a variety of events throughout the year. Visit the Event Types webpage for a list of the most common type of events that are organized by orienteering clubs.

Registration:  Follow the signs to our registration table where you'll fill out a registration and waiver form, pay (unless you’re pre-registered), and receive your e-punch and rental equipment (if needed).

Start!:  Head to the start line and enter the chute for your chosen course. Most of our events have a “staggered-start”, so the volunteer will let you know when you’re cleared to start (usually 2 minutes after the previous starter). Once you’re ready to go, you’ll insert your e-punch into the "start" control point, be given your map, and you’re ready to go!

Navigating the Course:  Your goal is to find the checkpoints on the map in the shortest amount of time. It’s up to you to determine the best way to accomplish that goal. Beginners typically stay on the marked trails while advanced racers are off-trail. Keep in mind that what's best for a serious runner may not be what's best for a walking family, or vice versa. What's your motivation -- a fast, competitive time, or a leisurely walk in the park?  You decide, and that’s what is great about the sport.

Finish:  After you’ve completed the course and punched the "finish" checkpoint, you’ll go to the results table where a volunteer will ‘download’ your e-punch information and print out your results. This print-out will show you your overall time along with how long it took you to navigate to each checkpoint.

Compare Results:  Don't leave just yet! The true joy in orienteering comes from sharing your experience with other racers and comparing results and route choices. This is also a great learning experience; see if you can learn the route choices and tactics of the more advanced participants. Orienteers are a friendly bunch, and we always love discussing courses afterwards.



FAQ’s about Your First Meet

Q.  Is there a ‘packet pick-up’ like other traditional races?
A. Nope – just show up and we’ll get you everything you need once you arrive.

Q.  Are there awards?
A.  Not at our local meets. However, at national meets, there are typically awards based on age and gender classes.

Q.  Do you run meets in any type of weather?
A.  Yes!  You’ll find that orienteers are active, go-getter outdoor types who love parks and can enjoy them in any season. Just dress for any type of weather, bring a change of clothes and warm beverage! (However, we have cancelled a few meets due to severe weather for safety reasons, such as icy road conditions or windchills below -20 degrees)

Q.  Do I need to belong to the orienteering club to participate?
A.  Nope.  Anyone can show up on event day and attend. Belonging to the Minnesota Orienteering Club provides a few benefits such as event discounts, member-only races, and newsletters.
Q.  Can I do this together with my children/family/friends?
A.  Absolutely!  No matter if your focus is competing individually or enjoying a nice day with friends and family, you can participate solo or in groups. And additional maps can be purchased for other groups members if you’d like.

Q.  Can I keep my map and e-punch when I'm done?
A.  The map is yours to keep, but you’ll need to return the e-punch. If you participate frequently though, you may consider purchasing your own e-punch, which will cost around $50.

Q.  Can I try another course after I’m done with my first?
A.  If you finished your first course and the start window is still open, you can definitely try another course. Just let the event staff know and they’ll reset your e-punch for you.
Q.  Where are results posted?
A.  We typically publish the results in 4 places:

  • During the event, there are digital monitors which display the results of all participants who have finished the course up to that point.

  • During the event , there are preliminary results posted on the web at

  • After the event, we publish the overall results on our website (typically within 2-3 days).

  • For a more in-depth analysis of your splits, we also publish the results to an orienteering website called Attackpoint. This website lists the split times of all competitors and allows you see how you compared against other participants split-by-split.

Q.  Can I bring my dog?
A.  Before bringing your dog to a meet, please check with park management or on the park's website to learn about the rules regarding dogs at that park. Although MNOC does not have specific rules regarding dogs at regular meets, we would like to emphasize that club officers have worked hard to develop good working relationships with the park management. All participants in MNOC-sponsored events should conduct themselves in a manner that enhances that relationship on behalf of the club. Using your best dog-owner etiquette will help us maintain access to the club's most precious asset: the parks we orienteer in. Sometimes that may mean leaving your dog at home while you orienteer.

Please also remember that the chaos and congestion that occur at the registration and start/finish area create an environment that is not appropriate for a poorly behaved or unpredictable dog. And at certain events, MNOC prepares and serves food items, so keep in mind that dogs should be kept at least 50 feet from food storage, service, consumption, and preparation areas.

Q.  What happens if I get lost?
A.  All orienteers, elite or novice, occasionally get "disoriented." Keep in mind that most of our events are held at parks that have roads surrounding them, so the worst case is that you keep walking until you hit a road.  Another tactic that’s often used is called relocating. This is where participants find a major feature on the map (trail, building, etc.) and re-orientate themselves from there. And if all else fails most participants carry a whistle or cell phone. We’ve been doing this for 25+ years and we’ve never had a case where participants are not able to find their way back within the cut-off time.

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