Mike Rodgers

Name and age class

Mike Rodgers (if I could orienteer I'd be an M55)

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

When I was in the RAF at Kinloss in the late 1980s one of the guys on the squadron kept nagging me to go orienteering. I used to run a lot and was a navigator. He said I'd be good at it. He was wrong.

I kept coming up with excuses but eventually ran out of them. And so it was that we went up to Sluie and Altyre, a few miles South of Forres one Sunday morning.  Looking at the list of courses on offer I thought that 6.5 Km might keep me out of mischief for half an hour or so. They said it was a Blue course. Two and a half hours later I came back re-educated.

I could have given up on the spot, but instead it became something of a professional challenge. I was supposed to be able to navigate, wasn't I? It wasn't just the navigation though. I couldn't figure out how people, some twice my age or more, were managing to actually run through all that knee-deep heather. Now that was a proper running challenge. And so I started on that slippery slope.

I did actually manage to pick it up quite quickly, but I will never forget how strange and difficult it seemed at first. I have no problem, 30 years later, empathising with any complete beginner.

Why do you like it?

It takes your mind off the pain of running.

Your best orienteering memory?

Any of the jollies that we used to get in the RAF. Going on a 3-week orienteering tour to New Zealand has to come close to the top of the list, but I used to really enjoy trips to the White Rose Weekend in Yorkshire running for RAFO. The RAF has a great club spirit and we always enjoyed great craic when we went away to this annual event. I'm really pleased that Moravian has cultivated this club spirit which makes orienteering so much more fun.

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

Probably being pursued by an enormous badger at Uath Lochans. Us RAF folk were always looking for excuses to explain away a bad run and this undoubtedly was my finest.

Your favourite O area?

When you live right next to Culbin Forest you can't really say anywhere else. Back in the day, during the period when orienteering wasn't allowed in Culbin, Chris Spencer and I used to run together for 2 hours or more, with just an old OS map for company and a faded photocopy of the 1976 WOC map. Just running free through that sensational terrain, not worrying about where we ended up, is something I'll never forget, especially now that I'm not able to orienteer any more.

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

Stop stopping! Keep your head up and don't waste time reading the map when you don't need to.

Quite often, when orienteering, there are really obvious features long your route that will keep you orientated. Learn to pick them out from the map quickly, and look out for them as you run. Don't waste time worrying about map detail that you don't need. That can wait til you get near the control circle. For me, the joy of orienteering was running through the terrain at speed, sometimes only half sure where I was. Sometimes it went horribly wrong, but when it didn't, the exhilaration and satisfaction of doing well after running "on the edge" gave me a huge buzz. Not everyone's competitive like that, of course, but if it wasn't for the competition I'd have given up orienteering long before I was forced to.

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

My leisure time used to be pretty much all outdoors - orienteering, running hill walking etc. I'm still trying to adapt to a sedentary lifestyle and might have to resort to going back to watching Inverness Caley a bit more often. Did I really admit that?

What's your orienteering ambition for the next year?

I would love it if some doctor could wave his magic wand to enable me to do orienteering of any kind. That's not going to happen, so the greatest pleasure I now get out of orienteering is seeing other club members improving, experiencing the enthusiasm of so many people who make the club tick, and watching the club grow in stature as a team.  I will be especially excited to see how some of our incredibly talented juniors get on when the British Championships comes to Royal Deeside next May.

Anything else you would like us to know?

There is nothing better in life than writing on the sole of your slipper with a biro.