Gueorgiou: How to master the compass

Posted by Jan Kocbach, 22 May 2013@5:00

In an interesting article at the O-Ringen website multiple World Champion Thierry Gueorgiou gives insight into compass use from his point of view. Gueorgiou is known to be one of the best direction runners, using hours upon hours to improve his technique. Still he is far from perfect according to himself. - I would still say that around 60% of my mistakes are due to inefficient use of my compass, Gueorgiou comments in the article.

This is my favorite one and the best way I found to keep my compass abilities to an acceptable level

Below some interesting points from the article are addressed:

  • In the introduction, Gueorgiou discusses the fact that in detailed, Scandinavian terrain, you can follow the direction accurately also without using the compass (by exploiting the details, e.g. contours) – while in typical French terrain, your only chance to “survive” is to carefully follow the direction given by your compass. One additional point not made in the article is worth mentioning here: When Scandinavian runners run typical compass-legs in continental type terrain (or other terrain with less details), they are often slower than the continental runners because they try to orienteer like back home in Scandinavia; trying to use the map very actively in keeping the direction – using the few details present to aid in keeping the direction instead of trusting the compass. But note that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t read the map when direction-running – just in a different way (as Gueorgiou also points out).
  • Gueorgiou highlights how compass use is not only important in flat areas – just as much in other areas in order to avoid parallel mistakes (the mistakes which can really cost a lot of time).
  • It is also highlighted how compass work is a way to save some mental energy – as you don’t have to concentrate as hard as when orienteering from detail to detail.
  • For a short leg “90% of the work is already done if you run with an accurate direction”.
  • Gueorgiou highlights the keyword “consistency” when talking about compass use in the article. I would add another word: “Trust”. You need to trust your abilities (and of course first build up your abilities to a point where they are worth trusting…). If you take a look at GPS-tracking from the big races, there are two types of direction mistakes; the ones where the direction is really wrong (ref. “consistency”), and the ones where the direction is right but the runner doesn’t trust his/her own abilities and starts to search early or change direction before approaching the control “on a hunch” (ref. “trust”). The latter type are seen nearly as often as the first type – and here exercise must be made more on a mental plane.
How to improve

The final part of Gueorgiou’s article discussed how to improve your compass work. It might surprise many that the main training exercise Gueorgiou¬†advises you to do in order to accelerate your compass routine, is corridor orienteering with a very narrow corridor on a contour map – preferably with a lot of bends. - This is my favorite one and the best way I found to keep my compass abilities to an acceptable level, Gueorgiou comments. What Gueorgiou doesn’t tell in this article, is that you should do them in the dark – at least that’s how he prefers them.

Last winter I joined Gueorgiou on one of his narrow night-o corridors on a contour map in Portugal. A real challenge – even at slow speed. Below is the successful part of my training… At this point it is tempting to finish the article with the infamous “don’t try this at home” statement, but I guess that’s exactly what you should do…

PS! In my opinion, you can also benefit from other, more targeted compass training exercises if you are on a lower technical level than Gueorgiou.


Illustration: Corridor training, Portugal, February 2012 (NOT Gueorgiou’s route). See here for how to prepare your own corridor training in OCAD

Full article

If you haven’t read the full article yet, head over to and read it now. It is worth the read for sure:

Screenshot from the article at – read the full article here.