The Wildfire Sports Australian Ultra Long
For three years, from 2013 to 2015, Eureka Orienteers hosted the Australian Ultra Long Orienteering Championships. The event format was the traditional classic orienteering race, but the distance raced was significantly longer than the usual Long Distance format. Long distance races typically have a winning time around 90 – 100 minutes, whereas the Ultra Long challenged elite runners with close to double this distance and time. The typical distance raced is 25 – 35km, which puts the race at a similar distance to a half-marathon, but in typical cross-country orienteering terrain with the usual difficult physical and navigational challenges. Competitors are also faced with more than the usual number of control points, with Elite Women expecting over 30 and Elite Men facing over 50, making this a significant mental and navigational endurance challenge as well.
How does the Ultra Long work? The event is staged in four age classes – Mens and Womens Junior (17-20 yo), and Mens and Womens Open (21+). Each age class races a separate course, tailored to their abilities. To compare the results consistently across the four age classes, firstly, a “base minutes-per-kilometre rate” (race time in minutes, divided by course distance in km) is calculated for each age class. This is derived from the kilometre rates of top-placing competitors in the equivalent age classes in similar Ultra Long Distance orienteering events in Europe and Scandinavia. Each runner in the Australian event has their actual minutes-per-kilometre rate calculated from their result, then this is converted to a percentage of their age class base km rate (runner’s km rate, divided by base km rate, multiplied by 100). The runners from all four age classes are then sorted into increasing percentage order, to determine the best performance, and the winner of the major prize, which was $2500 worth of travel expenses for the winner to attend a European orienteering event of their choice. A feature of this event is also the generosity of our sponsors, who offer numerous goodies for placegetters and spot prizewinners.
From 2016, the Australian Ultra-Long Championships became a permanent National Orienteering League fixture on the Orienteering Australia calendar, and the 2016 event was held in South Australia’s Wilpena Pound area.
A history of the Australian Ultra Long Championships over the first three years, while Eureka hosted the event, features in this part of the website. Special thanks must go to Eureka’s own Geoff and Jenny Lawford, who first had the idea to organise this event in 2012, and worked very hard to take it from an ambitious concept through to a major National-level event with significant status, and one of very few in Australia to carry a monetary prize.