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Steve Hill, left, and his father, Goff, raced to the finish line at an orienteering event last Saturday near Ipswich, but participants can walk, stroll or get to the finish line however they please. The sport, popular in Britain, involves navigating an outdoor course with a compass and map. The red device on Steve's finger is used to electronically record progress at the checkpoints.
Steve Hill, left, and his father, Goff, raced to the finish line at an orienteering event last Saturday near Ipswich, but participants can walk, stroll or get to the finish line however they please. The sport, popular in Britain, involves navigating an outdoor course with a compass and map. The red device on Steve's finger is used to electronically record progress at the checkpoints. (Geoff Ziezulewicz / S&S)
Steve Hill, left, and his father, Goff, raced to the finish line at an orienteering event last Saturday near Ipswich, but participants can walk, stroll or get to the finish line however they please. The sport, popular in Britain, involves navigating an outdoor course with a compass and map. The red device on Steve's finger is used to electronically record progress at the checkpoints.
Steve Hill, left, and his father, Goff, raced to the finish line at an orienteering event last Saturday near Ipswich, but participants can walk, stroll or get to the finish line however they please. The sport, popular in Britain, involves navigating an outdoor course with a compass and map. The red device on Steve's finger is used to electronically record progress at the checkpoints. (Geoff Ziezulewicz / S&S)
Neil Rogers hurries to the finish line, while those behind him take their time.
Neil Rogers hurries to the finish line, while those behind him take their time. (Geoff Ziezulewicz / S&S)
Orienteers are given highly detailed maps at the onset.
Orienteers are given highly detailed maps at the onset. (Geoff Ziezulewicz / S&S)

Does anything beat the endorphin-fueled sense of euphoria you get after exercise, that overall good vibe that sets in as soon as you catch your breath?

Well, there are a few things, but that sense of well-being is hard to beat.

But, it’s raining out. Or you can’t find your sneakers. Or that rerun of “SportsCenter” is on again. So you roll over and skip the exercise.

Excuses are easy and for some it’s just boring running on a treadmill like some hairless hamster, wondering if it’s been 20 minutes yet.

However, a little pizzazz can trick the brain into enjoying exercise.

Rob Coulter, a British retiree, got sick of the repetitiveness of jogging.

Like tons of other Brits, he’s found solace in orienteering, a simple twist on physical activity that jogs the mind as well as the body.

In orienteering, a course of varying length is laid out in a forest or other wildlife area. Checkpoints are put up, and participants — armed with a map and compass — make their way through the spots.

“I jog, and it gets boring,” Coulter said at a recently organized event near Ipswich. “But I put a map in my hand, and it gets more fun.”

Best of all, Coulter said, you go at your own pace. So you can run through the woods at a tear, stopping only to navigate correctly, or just stroll along with the spouse and kids.

On Saturday, Coulter counted various families, some young and fit guys, and a 70-year-old woman among the participants.

“Most people are running against themselves,” he said.

Registry boxes are set up at each checkpoint, and an electronic device worn on the finger is used to register that an orienteer reaches that point.

Orienteering enjoys a wide popularity in the U.K., and various clubs are available in different areas.

Coulter said that Thetford Forest, located near RAFs Mildenhall and Lakenheath, has prime environments that often host orienteering events.

There are about 120 clubs with more than 10,000 total members in the U.K., said Caroline Povey of the British Orienteering Federation.

Smaller events such as the one Coulter was helping to run cost less than 10 pounds a person and supplies are provided, although folks should bring their own compass.

Orienteering has steadily increased in popularity over the years in the U.K., Povey said, and is now part of school curriculum, with its emphasis on geography, math and physical activity.

“It’s the sense of adventure, and it’s also very challenging,” Povey said.

“It makes a run or a walk more interesting.”

Orienteering is also very popular with the British military community, said Paul Lowe, a former soldier and Suffolk-area organizer.

“Between myself and a couple other people, we get a friendly competition,” Lowe said, adding that some of the courses can even get a military man confused. “I’ve managed to get myself well and truly lost before.”

Inclusiveness is the name of the game with orienteering, Coulter said.

“It’s not just a sport for elite competitors,” he said. “It’s a sport for all.”

To learn more about local orienteering opportunities, log on to www.britishorienteering.org.uk

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