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Planning a Virtual Orienteering Course

Last edited: Sat 6 Jun 2020

On this page, we'll show you how to create a course ready for a GPS-punching event. This could then be used for a MapRun event.

For quite a few years, we've been using MapRun for our weekday evening events. These tended to be urban score courses, but the system can cope with far more.

Here are some (hopefully) helpful videos on planning courses for MapRun. Note that the map used by competitors would be produced in PurplePen in the usual way.

When the control sites are easily seen on Google Earth, is it very easy to plot the course. This is likely to be doable for Hare and Squirrel at JOG, for instance.

Once you have output the course as a kml file, email it to and you will get a CheckSites code back which will allow you to run the course to see if all the controls are registered correctly.

A few tips for good virtual control sites that are easy to use:

  • path crossings
  • distinctive trees
  • lamposts / telegraph poles / pylons
  • signposts

For tall things, make sure you put the pin at the base. Often a shadow will be on the image which will help.

A slightly more technically advanced method using a smartphone in the field, but this allows you to get a fix on any control site that has a good enough GPS line of sight (and if it doesn't, it won't work for a virtual course anyway).

And finally, the most advanced and time-consuming technique, but one that is well worth it when it works. Once set up, you can place pins on control sites directly on the orienteering map.

If you are lucky, you will be able to get a georeferenced map file from OCAD. But if not, you need an image of the map, eg. png or jpg.

Unfortunately, it sometimes isn't possible to get the overlay to work perfectly due to deviations in mapping.

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