LogoKangasala-Jukola Logo from the Organisation Website

The weekend of 15th/16th June is the Venla and Jukola Relays in Finland. It's both a big festival weekend - the above logo is out directing traffic on the main motorways several days beforehand - and one of the main competitive weekends of the international orienteering calendar. The relays are a mix of top-level and participation sport like the London Marathon but with a team ethos. It's a tradition, and it gets a great deal of general interest in Finland. There is also something of a link to Finnish national consciousness with it moving round the forests and its naming from the first great work of Finnish literature.

Some numbers: The competition centre, accommodation and parking takes 70 hectares. There are about 1750 tents, 450 provided by the military. 50,000 people will be in and around the competition area over the weekend.

As they say "For a good accomplishment the orienteer needs resolution, persistency and brisk sports spirit."

And thanks to World of O "All You Need to Know" to follow the racing.

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ChampionsBritish Champions 2019, Photo: Rob Lines

Today is the 1st June and as the vegetation in the forests gets high the orienteering season for many of the leading British runners passes from a domestic focus to an overseas one. Most of the big domestic competitions (the "major events") have been run, and the first senior international races, in Finland, are next weekend. That is World Cup Round 1, which also includes a sprint relay in the centre of Helsinki the following Tuesday The weekend after is Jukola and Venla. These relays have a record entry of over 20,000 this year - the organisers attribute it partly to the "growth ... of fitness orienteering". In early July, test races for the World Champs take part, after which the British team will be selected. The World Champs themselves are forest disciplines only, in Norway in August, just after the Scottish 6-Days. And then, with more of a sprint focus, there are World Cup Round 3 (September, Switzerland) and 4 (October, China).

2018 Jukola After Movie.

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ph2Photo: Peter Hodkinson, the 2018 men's champion, with the (heavy) trophy.

This coming holiday weekend it is the British (Classic Distance) Championships, and also the British Mixed Sprint Relays and the British Relays. The three days are hosted by the Yorkshire & Humberside Orienteering Association.

  • May 4th: British Mixed Sprint Relays, Bradford University.
  • May 5th: British Long Distance Championships, Arncliffe & Kilsey North,
  • May 6th: British Relay Championships, Middleton Park, Leeds.

Final Details.

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KrisPhoto: Kris Jones in last year's World Champs Forest Relay, by Janis Ligats for WOC2018 Latvia.

(This is a republication of a post inadvertently deleted, although given how Kris's predictions turned out - not entirely Kris's fault with both tipped men not starting - we perhaps need not have bothered )

Kris Jones is not running the JK this year. He is currently recovering and training in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Kris wrote about his injury for "Fast Running".

Kris provides his thoughts about the racing, and bravely predicts which of his fellow GB athletes might take the wins.


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KrisPhoto: Kris Jones in last year's World Champs Forest Relay, by Janis Ligats for WOC2018 Latvia.

On The Red Line Comment. Most years the JK Middle is arguably the most competitive domestic race. This is because of the quality of the terrain, map and planning, the quality of the field (and that they are all going 100%) and the timing with regard to selection. This year the men's field has all the top runners from the UK ranking list (Alasdair McLeod, Will Gardner, Peter Hodkinson, Jonny Crickmore) an experienced international based in Norway (Matt Speake) plus a proven world-class international coming back from injury (Graham Gristwood). The Women's field has top runners from the UK ranking list (Megan Carter-Davies, Alice Leake) experienced internationals based in Scandinavia (Jo Shepherd, Jess Halliday, Charlotte Watson) and a proven world-class international coming back from injury (Cat Taylor.) And by the way It's one of three forest races in the UK this year with World Ranking status. As many will know the JK was in South Central England in 2013, again using Cold Ash for the long race, when the overall winners were Matt Speake and Cat Taylor.

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Kris

Kris Jones, winner of the JK Sprint the last three years (and planner in 2014), is not running this year. He is currently recovering and training in Albuquerque, New Mexico. So we will have a new men's champion. Kris wrote about his injury for "Fast Running".

Kris provides his thoughts about the racing, and bravely predicts which of his fellow GB Squad athletes might take the wins.


We think both these races look very open.

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chris Chris Smithard, last year's Senior Men's winner, pictured in the JK Sprint.

In the UK there are several “leagues” scoring over multiple races. The League that appeals to many runners in the open and top junior classes is concentrated in the main Spring season when most UK forests are at their best. Runners enjoy taking part in the top quality races where there are large fields and strong runners.

It is called the UK Elite Orienteering League. In 2019 the League will run for the fifth time. The races are within two months over five weekends, from a sprint race in early March to the British Champs in early May. The included weekends for 2019 are the Northern Championships Weekend, the Lakes Spring Weekend including the Red Rose Classic, the Scottish Spring, the JK Festival, and the British (Long) Championships. All but the last weekend include multiple scoring races. (The final league positions are best six scores from earlier rounds plus the final race.)

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SpainWarm weather trainng

British squad members Alex Carcas, Matt Fellbaum, Jonny Crickmore and Sasha Chepelin were in the Edinburgh University performance orienteering team (EUOC) attending a warm weather camp in Barbate, Andalucía, España. For a week they’d be switching the rain, wind and snow for the sun, skog[1] and suspicious parents. The Edinburgh University Performance Orienteering team is funded by Winning Students and the University, to help the athletes to produce good results at the British University Championships and at international competitions.

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Matt Image: Matt Speake, photo by Karl Orud for WOC 2019 Norway

It is a quiet time for the international orienteering calendar. In Britain we must wait until next year for major events (except for one - the Southern Championships are on November 25th - with On The Red Line staff involved.)

So we look ahead to next year's calendar. The World Championships (WOC) are just the forest disciplines, as the new way of alternating forest and sprint begins. They are in Norway, so will be different from recent experience in Baltic countries. It is not a year for the biennial European Championships. And as in 2018 there are plenty of athletes aiming for the selections for World Cup Round 1 and the World Champs.

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Alasdair Photo: by Steve Rush, Ali McLeod running in to win the JK this year

Many of the GB team travelling to Latvia have a single race at the World Championships that they are training for. This situation will influence the preparation and training for the weeks beforehand. The ideas below may help when you are thinking about an important race for you, be it the forthcoming World Masters, a home internationals, your club championships, or looking ahead at a particular championship race next year.

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