Today marks the end of National Volunteer Week 2021. To celebrate, we have Jenny Lau who recently planned for LVO for the first time, Jenny is going to tell us a bit more about that experience….
Hi Jenny, thanks for joining us!
So tell us, how long have you been orienteering for and when did you join LVO?
Hi Juls, thanks for having me. I found my first ever control point almost exactly four years ago from today. I was visiting a friend in Surrey, and while on a walk in the Surrey Hills, I came across the then mysterious, yet still often illusive, control point in the woods. This was of course after seeing a number of ‘runners with maps’ flying by and I was absolutely intrigued. The control point was very usefully labelled, “Do not move. Property of South London Orienteers,” which was my first signpost to the sport. I read the orienteering Wikipedia page and immediately knew this was a sport for me. I was warmly welcomed by Suffoc who kindly donated their time and expertise to help me into the sport, and it has been a big positive learning experience ever since. I moved to Northern Ireland in January 2020, but attended my first LVO event at Belfast Castle on a trip over in late 2019. I attended the 2019 Christmas party, having only briefly met a couple of people and was immediately made to feel very welcome by the club. Perhaps I have been fortunate with the clubs I have been with, or perhaps the culture of the sport is welcoming and open to newcomers. I think perhaps the latter.
How did you end up planning courses for the WEE Series?
Someone planted a seed. There are a couple of likely culprits but I can’t recall exactly how it started. I wasn’t bold enough to think I was capable of such a complex feat as ‘planning an event’ a year ago! But with some gentle suggestions and nudges, I agreed to put my name down. Of course, that was the easy part. The story was meant to unfold from Spring 2020, but I was given an extra year to discover every best bit of the park before my event actually took place in May 2021. This spring, LVO / NIO (Stephen Gilmore and Philip Baxter) put on a very informative series of talks on how to plan an orienteering event – using Condes and the art of planning an event – which was excellent and gave me the basic skills to plan. While planning my event, I watched back through the talks on one screen with my map and course on the other and followed the process step by step, so I didn’t have any issues with the software. Most crucially, Philip offered his time and expertise as a mentor through the process, offering guidance and useful suggestions, for which I am most grateful.
How did you find the experience?
Thanks to having so much support, the experience was relatively stress-free, in fact very enjoyable. It was useful planning in a place that I know very well and I got to plan like how I like to orienteer; with some puzzles to solve and with some beautiful scenery on the way. It was like getting to share your new favourite gadget with your friends, but in this case, the brightest blooms and most runnable forests of the park.
I was told this would happen but was surprised by the extent to which it did; I learned a tonne while planning for the event. For once, I got to really take my time to think about route choices, control locations and the thinking that might be in the mind of someone taking part in the event. It just so happens that on every other occasion that is you, and those skills I am certain will help me improve my own practice.
I did have uncertainties at times, but again, I had people who were eager to help me through these and ultimately overcoming these further added to what I learned.
I have to admit that I was terrified as the first runners set off, but I was extremely relieved and grateful for the positive feedback from people as they returned.
What would you say to someone who hasn’t planned yet but they think they might like to take the leap?
Like many things, unless you have a very good reason not to do something, then you should do it! It was a significant experience for me, with a lot of thinking and reflection and ultimately a lot of learning. The club offered a lot of support, which made all the difference. It is a lot of work, which I expect becomes less as you gain experience, but it was truly enjoyable and enriching. It also feels good to give something back. Do it!
Finally, is there anywhere you would like to plan next or even in the future?
I don’t plan on being too ambitious too quickly and would like to plan another small event somewhere I am familiar with before too long.
More immediately, I look forward to looking at events that I am participating in, in a different light, appreciating the hard work, creativity and care that goes into every leg of every event. This is thanks to the time and extraordinary dedication of volunteers to whom I am extremely grateful.
Special thanks to Philip Baxter, Stephanie Pruzina, Cecil Armstrong and many others behind the scenes.
I am really looking forward to the Mourne Mountain Marathon this September!
If you would like to take the leap behind the scenes of orienteering, we would love to have you. You can learn to plan like Jenny and there are also plenty of other volunteering options available; from organising events to being a friendly face at the starts to helping collect controls or even taking photos and helping with social media accounts. If you would like to know more just contact Juls on firstname.lastname@example.org. The more you know, the more you grow!