How to get the best JK

I asked Toni O’Donovan for her hints and tips for running in the JK. 1967 saw the first Jan Kjellström International Orienteering Festival or “JK”, held in memory of Jan Kjellström. The annual JK moved to Easter in 1969, and now regularly attracts a field of four thousand or more. The 1974 JK was the first British race to attract more than one thousand entrants.  There is usually a great contingency of Irish in attendance.


Prep in advance
It’s a week to go before the JK so it’s time to do some geeking and thinking about the areas – first get old copies of the maps, look at routegadget to see what’s been on before, has anyone described races there on blogs, attackpoint, nopesport…. Both areas are very different and require different skills but your compass will be important for both.

For the middle you need to ensure that you use your compass when coming down into re-entrants to ensure that you are in the right re-entrant as it is easy to lose time with a parallel error. The terrain can be quite runnable and this sometimes makes it a hard decision to run straight across the spur terrain or to go around (up or down) to controls.

For Beaudesert, you will need to use your compass for accurate bearings into point feature controls in blocks of forest. The terrain can feel hard in Beaudeseert but it is for everyone. Consider going around where the terrain is tough. For the sprint look at aerial photography as well and try to spot tricky bits.


Favourite JK
I loved the JK in 2015 in the Lake District. I was pretty fit and so felt good while running and because of that really enjoyed the technical challenge. Technical, rough terrain is always my favourite and that isn’t exactly a good description of Cannock but really I just love to race so enjoy most JKs (the only thing I don’t like is brambles).

Advice for the Start Box
My advice is not to do anything different just because this is a ‘big’ event. Every event should be done in the way that suits you best. For me I’m always cheery in the start box, chat to the officials if I know them, say thanks as I move through the boxes and if there is chat between the competitors then I join in. This doesn’t mean I’m not focused, I always have my control descriptions in properly, have checked the first control description, and on sprint checked for any outside/inside/top of/bottom of descriptions, I will have checked north and watched what directions people are heading and set my compass on roughly the right bearing.

These are just routines that are good practice but don’t try new things at a big event and what you do on the course is more important than the start box and if doing something new in the start impacts on what you do on the course then it’s not worth it – the key thing is that I do the same thing at every event so I always feel relaxed and ready. For a major race that I have focused on and prepared for, I will remind myself in advance of all the prep I have done and reaffirm to myself that I am ready but I do that before the start box.


If things go wrong, how to regain focus?
Races aren’t over until the end. At the middle distance qualifier in the World Champs 99 I missed the second control – clearly although I made mistakes, it was just the type of terrain where others were too and so I qualified for the A final which was really exciting – ultimately if you are making mistakes then others may be too and it is good to practice putting mistakes behind you and thinking of the next leg as a new race and go through the same routines you would do when orienteering perfectly.

Reflecting on mistakes is something for after a race. When I struggle to refocus I use all my strategies, take a bearing, check my description/visualise and use talk O. In the long distance at the JK the terrain could be quite tough in marshes and green stripe – it would be easy to get discouraged and feel like the race wasn’t going well for you but remember if you find the terrain tough then others will too and keep pushing.

With so many controls, how do you keep from getting distracted?
If you’ve visualised your control in advance then the other controls shouldn’t distract you. If you have visualised the control, then be confident in yourself because getting distracted usually happens when you doubt what you have visualised.

Thanks Toni! So in short- go and enjoy!!!!

Orienteering in Ireland
Orienteering Ireland, Irish Sport HQ, Blanchardstown
D15 DY62, Ireland