Reflecting back on a very successful weekend for ICXCAC, today we chatted to Orienteering star Michael Crone after his storming performance in Estonia in the World Orienteering Championships:
When did you get into orienteering?
I started orienteering just after high school. We had been invited to events, but they always clashed with other sport so I didn’t ever have a chance to go. When I started university I decided that would try it and I have loved it ever since. I was lucky that one of my brother’s friends ran the university club and so it was not very daunting.
How do you suggest that people get into orienteering?
In the UK it is much easier. Most cities have active orienteering clubs. There are two orienteering clubs in London. I am a part of south London orienteers (SLOW). There are generally events up to three times a week
What is your favourite thing about the sport?
It is both a mental and physical challenge. It doesn’t help to just run fast. It teaches you to make quick decisions under extreme pressure, instantly punishing you for mistakes.
It also takes you to unique places where you know very few people get to go.
What skills do you need to succeed?
Be able to run very fast in any terrain. Think fallen trees, through marshes, over rocky terrain. Have some sense of direction. Overall I think that you just need determination and dedication. As with anything it is quite frustrating when you start because you can run a lot faster than you can navigate.
My perfect races are always when my running speed matches my navigation speed
Tell us about your most enjoyable race.
Orienteering is a sport that is all about making mistakes. Nobody is perfect, everyone makes an error. Some are just measured in seconds rather than minutes. Every race starts off with the goal of minimising those mistakes. To do this you often get into a space of mind that just feels like magic. Bear in mind that every race that you do is somewhere new, the map made by a different mapper. You have no idea if you and the mapper will think in the same way so in the first few minutes of the race your brain adjusts to this. If this happens in a race it suddenly feels like magic. Everything begins to make sense and you can run as fast as you like and not make many mistakes. This is my ultimate goal in a race and I’ve been lucky to achieve it in two world championship races five years apart. First in Lausanne in 2012 and now in Tartu. It’s an extraordinary feeling that only an Orienteer understands. It’s one of the reasons why we are such a tightly knit community.
Tell us about your experience up to and during the World Championships in Estonia.
My build up to world champs wasn’t that great. I was only told in May that I had been invited to take part. I hadn’t been planning on going this year. In Orienteering it is as much about mental as physical preparation. My physical training went really well up to that point and I had also been lucky that I have competed in some international competitions in Denmark and Italy in the lead up to world champs. One aspect where I really felt underprepared though was in preparing for the specific area that I was running in. I had an old map of the area, but usually around 6 months in advance I would have started using street view to get an idea of the area and the various challenges that I faced (you aren’t allowed to enter the competition area until you start your race). I had some people help me do some preparation, but it was definitely less than I would have liked. And I also had a lot going on with my various projects at Imperial so it was difficult to keep up with everything.
This didn’t seem to matter too much in the qualification, races that are notoriously quick and less technically difficult, but it was definitely a problem in the final!
This is my fourth world champs experience. This one was slightly different because I didn’t have anyone else from my own country which can make it slightly more challenging since there are often a lot of thoughts going on in your head!
Every one of them has been very special for me and this one is not really any different
I’m quite glad that I came because I was considering turning down the offer.
I think that a part of me has always thought that I couldn’t replicate my qualification in 2012 where I became the first south African (and first African) to ever qualify for a world orienteering championship final). There’s a part of you that feels like you probably reached your peak and it’s all downhill after that.
Which is a pretty horrible feeling to have to be honest
This year we also saw who was in our heat, so there were even more nerves and it was the first time that I was using this specific version of touch free timing.
We had been training in some of the forest areas so the tapering wasn’t going well at all! I just felt like I hadn’t rested enough.
But suddenly when you pick up your map, turn it over and you feel the magic then there is nothing that will stop you. My race wasn’t mistake free, but I scraped into the final. Placing joint 15th with a Norwegian (Norwegians are very good at orienteering). One second slower and I wouldn’t have made it.
So after that there were suddenly no other expectations… I had already achieved more than I could have ever dreamed.