Lifestyle Before Medication

A pharmacist's perspective on health and metabolic disease

Lessons from the World Masters Games 2017

I have just had the privilege of being a volunteer for the Orienteering World Masters Championships held in Auckland this week as part of the World Masters Games.    Anyone over the age of 35 years can enter World Masters for orienteering.

In case you are unfamiliar with orienteering, it is the art of navigating through unknown terrain with only a map and compass.   The fastest competitor who gets to all the checkpoints (“controls”) is the winner.  But this is not as easy as it sounds.    Here is a piece of map…..

woodhill map

But your terrain looks more like this……


(This is approximately what you are looking for at control number 9 in the above map).    It’s pretty vague and you are often looking for vague features such as a small depression and your control (orange and white flag) is often behind the feature so you can’t actually see it until you are in the right place.

So being a good orienteer involves being able to interpret all the ‘swiggles’ on the map, relating them to what you see on the ground and being able to swiftly move between controls.

Now can you imagine being able to be a good orienteer in your nineties….or even your seventies?

Our oldest male competitors were in their 90s and our oldest females were over 85 years.    The largest grade was mens 65 years (M65).  We had more than 1700 competitors from all around the world.  Mostly the Scandinavian countries, but also Brazil, USA, Japan, Hong Kong, UK, Australia and more.



Here are our oldest two competitors discussing their route choices at the end of their race. 

Yes – our older competitors don’t cover the ground as quickly as the “young guns” (35 year olds) but this is taken into account with course planning.  Courses are planned by age and the older classes have shorter distances, and where possible, fewer hills to climb – but are no less mentally challenging.   (Trust me, they complain if they think it is too easy!)

Our M90 competitors covered their 2.3km distance*  in about an hour.    Quite frankly, that is probably faster than I could do it in the forest as I can’t navigate as well as these guys.  I would be covering a lot more than 2.3km going around in circles trying to find the controls!

What was also really humbling to watch were the competitors going out on their courses with walking poles and crutches.    The limitations of their aging bodies were not holding them back.

We know that in order to age well we have to have both a healthy mind and a healthy body.   Orienteering certainly challenges both.

However, taking part in any World Master game involves the mind.  Simply the considering the logistics of training schedules, getting to different competition meets, developing and using game strategies can all help maintain a healthy mind.

Watching the Masters play sport can also be very educational to spectators.   A colleague was watching Masters basketball and said he learned more basketball strategy from these older amateurs than from the professionals – simply because the game was played slower.

Some people argue that they are too old to take up a new sport.  Not necessarily when you look at the example of Man Kaur.  This Indian lady took up athletics eight years ago at the age of 93 years.  In Auckland she competed in the 100m and 200m sprint, javelin and shot put.  Incidentally, she carved about 7 seconds off her time from last year’s games.

So what do plan to be doing when you are ninety?

(* This is the shortest distance between the controls, individual results always vary)

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This entry was posted on May 5, 2017 by in Uncategorized.

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