It’s perhaps not the usual mix you’d expect in a group training session — there are parents with prams, dogs waiting with chatting owners, lean triathletes, boisterous kids from the scouts, and bemused-looking first timers. But when those A4 maps with checkpoints get released, no matter their fitness level, all 170 participants are stung with the same competitive bug; running left, right, high and low, and doing all sorts of crazy challenges to hit as many checkpoints as possible and score those valuable points. Welcome to Totally Tropical Orienteering Club’s Urban Adventure Series.
“There might be one team that’s covered 2km and another that’s done 11km, but they all come back with their war stories and compare notes” – Linda Davis
Now in its eighth round, the Urban Adventure Series is all about combining fitness with fun. Starting off with about eight or nine teams, there are now between 50 and 60; all vying to crack the clues and collect as many points as possible from the checkpoints placed at strategic locations within a selected Townsville area. You can walk or run; push the pram, drag the dog, or rile-up your mates — it doesn’t matter — you just need to be back within the hour.
“It’s a great way to explore Towsville and there are so many nooks and crannies that even people who’ve lived here for years discover new things,” Linda Davis tells, who is Totally Tropical Orienteering Club’s secretary and; along with other volunteers; spends about 15 hours a week plotting the course, organising the maps and clues and manning the madness on the night. “I love seeing people come over that finish line after a solid hour of exercise — there’s just such a variety. There might be one team that’s covered 2km and another that’s done 11km, but they all come back with their war stories and compare notes.”
Linda says that the Urban Adventure Series is drawing Townsvillians to orienteering on the whole, which is big in Europe and gradually gaining momentum in Australia. The success with the city-based event has filtered down to rural competitions with an increase in numbers as contenders gain the navigational confidence to give it a go. Plus it’s a fantastic workout. “It’s the perfect Fartlek training [blend of continuous training with interval training] because you’re sprinting from check point to check point and, no matter how often teams say they’re here for fun, they all have that competitive streak and if they can just get to one more checkpoint… it’s the best way to train because you’re exercising without realising.”
And yes, there are plenty of laughs to be had — especially at the challenge stations where adventurers could do anything from apple bobbing and handless donut on-a-string guzzling, to digging for treasure with their hands, or ocean swimming out to a marker; all in the name of valuable extra points.
“It’s all about fitness, fun and teamwork,” Linda says, laughing at the memory of medals flying everywhere as kids haphazardly dug their way through a recent treasure challenge. “While you do want to give boxing gloves to some teams (anyone got a husband or wife who can’t read a map or listen to directions?), people certainly do learn the art of compromising… or, at the very least, learn to read a map.”