Sunday 17 September 2023

One day one photo - 17: Orienteering on Hampstead Heath

A permanent orienteering course map of Hampstead Heath - ideal for jazzing up a Sunday run

Sometimes when running it is nice to jazz things up a little and not just do a plain old run around the park. I find that orienteering just gives a fresh take on running, albeit with the added dimension of looking for checkpoints. I decided to do that today, and also add in the complication of running uphill. That was something I somewhat underestimated in terms of the effort required. Running up Hampstead Heath is tough work!

I should know this already, having done a few National Cross Country Championships here. The run up from the Lido, up Parliament Hill is iconic - and a pretty brutal start to a running race, especially as lots of spectators gather at the top, so you want to look like you can handle it - even if you feel like you're going to keel over!

Orienteering is a great way to discover other parts of the Heath and run in places, and hills, you don't normally go to. 

I downloaded the map from the London Orienteering Klubb website, and set off from the cafĂ© at the band stand. The initial check points were unsurprisingly, up a hill, so I felt it was a lot easier walk. There were around 24 checkpoints I  totally. Not all of them were easy you find, and in fact the previous days efforts began to catch up with me.

It was too hard to search extensively for a checkpoint as I was too tired to run (or even walk) uphill. It was almost too much energy to think clearly. So I called it a day after 9 checkpoints, and rode to St Pancras Station, where I caught the train home, just as the rain came down.

Hampstead Heath is a great place for running and will definitely help improve your hill running. I hope to be back before long and do all the orienteering checkpoints. 

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