A rainy-day activity with her father set Lyra Medlock on the trail to the oppressive Hungarian heat with the GB Junior Team, says Rachael Rowe
Rainy days are an unlikely start to a new outdoor interest. But when Lyra Medlock’s father suggested they get out and go orienteering, she jumped at the chance. ‘It was raining, and we were bored, so when Dad suggested it, I went. And that’s where it all started from there.’
For the uninitiated, orienteering is an adventure sport involving cross-country running through rough terrain (away from any footpaths) or urban sprinting, while using a map and compass to navigate between checkpoints guided by a specially-produced orienteering map. It is a thinking sport, requiring the mind and body to work together to run as fast as possible through difficult terrain without getting lost. However, if you live on your smartphone there’s a drawback – you cannot use a GPS or sat-nav and you run on your own. Some races last an hour, while others are sprints for 10 to 15 minutes. Orienteering is done on all terrains, from mountains to forests, urban areas to sand dunes.
Hung(a)ry for success
Once Lyra got into orienteering, she quikly progressed, joining the South West junior squad at the age of 12 and representing her region at inter-regional championships in Yorkshire and Cleveland. She has consistently won her age group (W14/W16) at the British Championships in all three disciplines (sprint, middle distance and long distance). The sport has taken her to Scotland, the Lake District, South Wales and many other places. Thanks to a grant from the Alice Coombes Trust, Lyra was able to attend selection races in the north of England. She was duly picked to orienteer for England Juniors, first against the Belgians and French, then against Scotland, Wales and Ireland – and she won both races. Lyra’s eyes have been on GB selection for a while. After six challenging events in Wales and Northumberland, she was chosen to orienteer for Great Britain at the European Youth Orienteering Championships in Salgotarjan in Hungary, this summer.
Lyra’s races were against 16-year-old girls from 33 other countries. Out of a field of 100, she finished in an excellent 9th place in the sprint event; the best GB performance of the weekend.
Lyra said: ‘It was amazing. I always wanted to get onto the team, and I was younger than others.’
Fontmell practice runs
In Hungary, Lyra twice had to run in forests where temperatures reached 37 degrees. “I drank lots more water than usual and kept to the shade as much as possible. It was the same for everyone. You just have to cope and move on.”
Lyra attends Gillingham School and is in Year 10. She practises her sport by running around Tisbury and the Fontmell Estate, and has got to know every path and run-through in the area. Lyra and her father, Jolyon, appreciate the efforts made by local people to keep footpaths clear, as this has helped Lyra achieved her sporting goal.
If you have read this and are interested in trying out orienteering, the Medlock family recommends the Wessex Orienteering Club, where they participate in events. Parents need to drive their children to various venues for junior events.
Orienteering is a sport for runners who can both read a map and make decisions at speed.