Recalibrating My Pace Count

Why calibrate?

Oskar and I were out in the woods the other day, and it dawned on me that I hadn’t recalibrated my pace count lately. I knew it was (or used to be) about 62 steps for every 100 meters, but maybe I should check and verify.

I found a football field nearby, which happens to be helpful. A standard American football field is 100 yards long (which is not 100 meters), but each end zone is 10 yards, and since

1 yard = 0.9144 meters

then 1 football field + 1 end zone is 110 yards x 0.9144 = 100.584 meters, you can use a football field pretty accurately.

How do you measure pace count?

I started by pacing, walking speed, and counting every time my left foot struck the ground. You may use another method, but that’s what works for me in the woods, and what I’ve been using since my days in the military.

Over 100 meters, my walking pace count was 67 paces. That means that 33 paces makes 50 meters.

What about running then? I jogged / ran like I do in the woods (high cadence) and came up with 48 paces (still on left foot) for running. That makes 24 paces for 50 meters.

I did both walking and running twice to confirm. Remember though, that this method is under ideal conditions, and don’t account for having to hop over a downed tree, side step on an incline, etc. You will have to do your best to accommodate those conditions in the field. I usually add a few paces depending on the terrain.

Why should you know your pace count in orienteering?

The quick answer is, it will help with navigation – not overshooting your control or attack point, or to help you attack in to a control quicker.

For example, in the above map, if you’re going from 2 – 3, you’d want to make sure you don’t overshoot control 3, and missing the area altogether.

In this case, you’d probably pick to run the left hand side of the reentrant due north to be on track, and perhaps use the vegetation border as attack point (if it’s in the leafy season, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be able to). But by measuring, and in this case knowing that it’s about 400 meters, give or take, you’d be able to know more precisely when you’ve traveled those 400 meters. In my case, I count 4 times 67 paces. I find that it’s easier than calculating 4 x 67 when I’m in the woods…

Obviously, in the above example, there are many other techniques one could use to navigate – contouring along the reentrant, using the northerly reentrant as a catching feature, or attacking from the vegetation border. But knowing your pace count is vital. Especially during a night orienteering event, where you wouldn’t be able to identify half the things you can during a day event… So don’t delay – find a football field today, and get your pace count down!


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