Eddie Harwood

Name and age class

Eddie Harwood M65

Tell us about when/where/how you started orienteering.

Having originally joined the University club at freshers day I quickly discovered it involved running and therefore never went. I heard again about it as a couch potato teacher and decided to go to an event. I was so out of breath after running the 100m to the master maps, (yes we had to copy down our course after the start in those days,) that I needed a minute before I was able to start writing. I quickly discovered that going straight through dense brambles could be improved by using the paths. Later I looked at the legend to see that a certain symbol meant "windblow". Quite why I expected blown sand dunes in the middle of a bramble patch forest I have no idea - it turned out to be an area of fallen thorn trees which I crawled through getting several thorns in my head. At the finish I looked in awe at the winning time nearly an hour faster than me and I was hooked despite assuming that all orienteers spent their life picking thorns out of their bodies.

Why do you like it?

Variety, intensity, the thrill of picking up a map and seeing where you have to go, particularly on a brand new area. (I dislike modern geeking old maps and Google earth - the less foreknowledge I have the more exciting it is).

Your best orienteering memory?

So many but for no particular reason picking up my map at the start of a Canadian Championships comes to mind. There was a wall of green leaves in front of me and I had 500 metres to go through pathless green to pick up a ridge line and continue from there. I found the prospect so exciting I remember whooping with joy as I set off through the minimal visibility wild forest.

Your worst (and/or funniest?) orienteering memory?

The most frightening was in a senior home international at Linn of Tummel. There was a leg across a precipitately steep slope where most opted to drop about 200m height to a road, then climb back up to the next control. I chose to contour but was just too high and I was above a house sized cliff with no forward progress possible. Not wanting to turn round I went to look over the cliff but lost my balance and freefell. Below there was a small ledge then piles of smallish boulders between the birch trunks. Expecting that this was my end but at very best to wake up in hospital, I still planned to spring off the ledge to miss the worst of the boulders. I hit it and just crumpled ending up toboggoning on my back, head first over the boulders until stopped by trees. Miraculously I was still conscious. I got to my feet thinking I must get to the assembly but didn't know where it was. Looking up I saw my map at the foot of the cliff so went to get it, then realising I could still move I decided to finish. I actually passed Jason Inman who chose the road route on that leg and did the last 2 controls to win M35.

Your favourite O area?

Somewhere I haven't been yet. Locally Culbin East is so gloriously runnable and also has some wonderful low visibility stuff, and Loch Belivat (next year's Scottish Championships).

A top O tip for others/favourite piece of kit?

The most useful attribute is to be able to relocate when lost or mislaid. With increasing experience the less time should be lost, but be of no doubt it is an essential skill. Asking where you are is a cop out from learning this skill. If you are in a vague area and going round in circles has failed take a hit, choose which direction to go to most easily relocate and establish where you are. It is immensely satisfying to do it yourself. Once in a World Masters I contoured so high up a hillside that I circled a hill and as you can imagine I was totally befuddled. I knew I had to just go north until I found the start. I ended up only losing about 10 minutes despite doing over an extra km.

In your other life... what do you like doing when you're not orienteering?

bird watching, being in the mountains, woods, lakes, music, piano playing, working with the young folk with problems that I do with the Aberlour Trust

What's your orienteering ambition for the next year?

Just get fit again after a virtual non year. I have discovered how much more enjoyable it is when fit.