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What Courses and Competitive Classes Are Offered?

Orienteering has seven standard courses, shown below. At local recreational meets, you may do any course that's within your navigational and physical abilities. At national A-meets, you run in your competitive age class (award-eligible) or an open class (all ages). Distances shown are for national competitions. In the Bay area, due to our steep terrain, course lengths are usually shorter.

In general, beginner courses are on or near trails (or other linear features, like fences), and you look for large, distinct features, such as trail junctions or hilltops. The four advanced courses all have the same level of navigational difficulty (looking for small point features, such as boulders or lone trees) but differ in their distance and climb. Blue is the "elite" course for men, and Red for women, both requiring optimum mental and physical conditioning.

Note: If you are used to road or trail running, our distances can be misleading. The actual distance covered on a course is typically 2–3 times the stated course distance, because the stated distance is measured “as the crow flies” from control to control. Also note that there can be significant climb as well. (The climb is measured as the actual climb, without regard for descent, that will be experienced on the "optimum" route.)

Course Navigational Difficulty Terrain Distance (kilometers) Winning Time (minutes) * OUSA Competitive Classes
(age/gender-based)
White Beginner Trails 2–3 20–30 M−10, M−12, F−10, F−12
MF-White, Gr-White
Yellow Advanced
Beginner
Mostly trails 3–5 25–40 M−14, F−14, M-Yellow,
F-Yellow, Gr-Yellow
Orange Intermediate Off-trail 4.5–7 35–50 M−16, F−16, M-Orange,
F-Orange, Gr-Orange
Brown Advanced Cross-country 3–5 40–50 M65+, M70+, M-Brown,
F−18, F50+, F55+, F60+,
F65+, F70+, F-Brown
Green Advanced Cross-country 4.5–7 45–55 M−18, M50+, M55+, M60+,
F−20, F35+, F40+, F45+,
M-Green, F-Green
Red Advanced Cross-country 6–10 60–75 F−21+, M−20, M35+, M40+,
M45+, M-Red
Blue Advanced Cross-country 8–14 70–80 M−21+
* The winning times shown are for (a) 100-point runners on (b) "Classic" courses. Times for mere mortals will be longer, and times will be different for other types of courses.

Notes about Orienteering USA (OUSA) competitive classes: