Home / Events / 3 Minutes Start Interval for WOC Long!

3 Minutes Start Interval for WOC Long!

Both for the WOC Final and for the WOC Qualification over the Long distance the start interval is increased from 2 minutes till 3 minutes, according to reports from the IOF meetings in Helsinki last week. This is very good news for the work for fairness in orienteering, as increased start interval has been found to be the best (and only really effective?) measure for separating runners in orienteering.


An extensive report on separating methods in Orienteering was published at the end of 2009. In the report, the conclusion was that “in National and International Championships with live TV coverage, the start interval can hardly be increased” due to TV (I co-authored the report, but I personally disagreed with this part of the conclusion). The issue has been debated a lot, and in a poll at World of O more than 80% of the readers wanted increased start interval for the WOC long distance.

A good decision by the IOF – the WOC long distance can still be very attractive for TV as a partly recorded/partly live transmission.

Rule 26.2
Update February 8th: According to an article published at the IOF website today, the old rule 26.2 is now modified into a new rule 1.2. The IOF article says

In individual interval start events the competitors are expected to navigate independently (old rule 26.2, now modified in new rule 1.2). In mass start and chasing start events where competitors often run in close proximity to each other, navigational skills shall still be a major factor in determining the finishing order (new rule 1.3).

Thus, it seems like the IOF actually did rephrase the rule back towards its old wording from the 2007-edition of the rules, and moved it from rule 26.2 to rule 1.2 (as I suggested above). Rule 1.2 defines what orienteering is, including that you should take controls in the correct order, etc. Thus, this is not a rule which is going to be enforced, but rather a rule which says something about the fundamentals of the sport.

The protest of the Nordic Federations was explained by “If you take away the rule about following, you take away one of the basic pillars of the sport of orienteering” in the SOFT article. As the rule is now in the definition of the sport of orienteering, I am not sure I agree that this is a problem.

Sorry for the confusion. My main source for this part of the article was the SOFT article which did not specify that the old 26.2 would be reinstated. My other source told me that 26.2 would be removed, and that some variation of the old rule would be put into some guidelines. I guess 1.2 might be looked upon as guidelines rather than rules, even if they are part of the rules. Overall, I’m now happy with the rule changes – the main positive factor being that there is now a 3 minute start interval.

The original story about rule 26.2 is still contained below.

On the downside, the IOF removed the rule 26.2,

  • 26.2 In an individual interval start race, competitors shall navigate and run through the terrain independently.

The Nordic Orienteering Federations are very upset with the removal of this rule, and are now sending a protest letter to the IOF according to the article. See also article/discussion at Alternativet.nu (Swedish language).

The reasoning for removing the rule, is according to what I have heard that this rule is problematic due to protests not leading to disqualification even when runners did clearly run together for large parts of the course (protests in WOC 2005 and WOC 2009). An alternative instead of removing the rule altogether, might have been to rephrase the rule back towards its old wording: “In an individual interval start race, competitors are expected to navigate and run through the terrain independently”.

The Swedish Orienteering Federation is considering taking the opposite route – they might introduce a rule for Swedish competitions disqualifying runners who are within 12 seconds for more than 3 controls in a row (Swedish text).

Do you think it was a good decision by IOF to remove this rule? Is the Swedish alternative better? Do you see any better alternatives?

Map WOC Long distance 1993 – with 3 minutes start interval, but without qualification races

Article updated February 4th, 16:15 CET

About Jan Kocbach

Jan Kocbach is the founder of WorldofO.com - taking care of everything from site development to writing articles, photography and analysis.

Check Also

Route to Christmas: Day 10 2010

Todays leg in Route to Christmas is a leg from the United States with several ...


  1. Why separate runners I it is no problem they run together? Go on guys! Just spoil the WOC!

  2. @Martin: Still, 3 minute start interval is at least one step in the right direction…

  3. @Jan: Surely! There still is 26.3: Except in the case of an accident, obtaining assistance from other runners or providing assistance to other competitors during a competition is forbidden… So it might well be, they are still not allowed to talk with eachother. But to remove 26.2 In an individual interval start race, competitors shall navigate and run through the
    terrain independently.
    just means, that they DO NOT have to navigate and run throught the terrain independently anymore, what just means: it is okay to hang and a new tactical measure you can frankly practice. For me it is absolutely not okay and blue-eyed to think the damage made by skipping this moral bondary could be compensated by a three minutes start-intervall (note: at alternativet.nu they talk about other technical measures to avoid hanging, although we know the do not work really satisfying). An other part of the story is, how this decision was made… It seems that the IOF Council did neither talk with the foot-o commission nor with the athletes commission. ?? (according to alternativet.nu)

  4. The 3-minute start interval is the best decision made by IOF since long time.

    But removing 26.2 – I agree with Martin, hanging should not be OK in individual races. Even if is only a “moral” rule, it should still be there.

    And it scares me how the decison was made. I cannot even find any information about it at IOF’s website.
    What is next? Is it a step towards a mass start at WOC-long distance?

    I want orienteering to be orienteering even in the future, not a kind of cross-country running.

  5. The Swedish “disqualifying runners who are within 12 seconds for more than 3 controls in a row” rule is utterly unacceptable, in my opinion. Runners may take different route-choices and even not see each other and still punch the controls within those 12 (or even less seconds). Or they may navigate independently taking the same route-choice. Why someone has to take a different route-choice (which often could be worse) or stop and wait when he/she has been caught by a follow-up runner or caught someone himself/herself? Or should the runner that has been caught stop and count to 10 while the other one leaves? It’s absurd. Catching someone and sometimes following, whether it’s done deliberately or not, is a part of our sport, which has always been there. Those runners who have been accused for cooperating and following at the WOC finals (who also got the medals) have very well proven how capable they are and have more more than once proven it by winning individual medals with clearly no cooperation at all. Although, bigger start interval is definitely a good decision.

  6. @Anatolijs: Although you seem to share a widespread opinion among worldclass-runners, I disagree with you and I wonder if Birklin and Thoresen WOC1999, Valstad WOC2003, Holger Hott and Haldin WOC2005, Kärner WOC2006, Haldin WOC2007 or Haldin and Brozkova WOC2009 see it the same way as you do.

    Runners winning medals in packs indeed have proven that they would be capable to win a medal by themselves but they also have proven that they were not performing at their best at the precise race and that they profited a lot by grouping. Khramow +8% and Lauenstein +17% (both WOC 2005), Mamleev +8% (WOC 2009), Bjorseth +8% and Berger +9% (both WOC 1999) a.s.o. Note: +8% means up to -8 minutes on a WOC Long.

    From the runners perspective I would expect to get the result I earned for my individual performance, especially at a WOC, and not be beaten by a +8%-mate.

    From the spectators perspective I would expect fair races and fair results at least on the podium.

  7. I just wanted to say that this particular rule (12 seconds…) or any similar to it is absurd. And I do understand how it makes the above mentioned runners feel. I’d feel the same if I knew other runners were cooperating or following one another thus leaving me out of the podium places. And I have been in the same situation as a ‘victim’, even if it wasn’t a WOC – in some way I even know how it feels. But this kind of rule will only lead to bigger problems and disappointments. If there was a rule like that, a vast amount of WOC runners would get disqualified in the recent WOCs – you can tell just by having a brief look on the pack figures from the latest WOCs. It is a part of our game, even though it’s destroys the fairness in some way. It happens, therefore there is a qualification, start intervals, butterflies and other spreading methods to minimize the chance of cooperation and following. Once it happened, something of the latter has failed and you have to accept it, no matter was it fair or not. One day those runners who didn’t get their medals could get in the same situation, the someone else would get disappointed, and I bet they wouldn’t give up their medals. We all want a fair competition, but the rules as radical as this one, is no way out!

  8. @Anatoljis: I agree with you, that the strict swedish attempt is no good. I just stick up for the preservation of a moral pressure as achieved by Rule 26.2. Part of this pressure is also not to accept ‘grouping luck’ as part of the game or privilege of good qualificants.

  9. I think IOF did here the right thing.

    We all agree comptitors should navigate independently and following has played all too big role in past WOC races. And I also belive those runners Martin mentioned above most likely think it’s absurd if someone would have to take different and worse route-choice or stop and wait, count to 10 or something like that. It is a race and competitors are there to do best they can fastest wins.

    The problem is in the past competitors used to be responsible for not running together. From now on competitors are allowed to follow if they can, but lots of following is still not desired. This makes course setter / event organizer responsible to minimize the following/pack factor to make the event succesful. This means longer start intervals, use of spreading methods, less competirors in finals and so on. In this perspective I see this all as step forward.

  10. :-) Okay. It was a tempest in a teacup … Rule 26.2 was only MOVED to 1.2.

    see: IOF Amendments

  11. Thanks, Martin. I updated the article.

    Note that the rule was not only moved to 1.2 – rather the OLD rule 26.2 was reintroduced, and this was moved to 1.2. This is a big difference, as the old 26.2 only says that you are expected to orienteer independently.

    With this wording, it fits a lot better in 1.2, which defines what orienteering is.