The hundred-year-old man who went into the forest and found his way back

Rune Haraldsson from the Swedish club NAIS in Norrköping is planning to compete in O-Ringen on the High Coast of Sweden in four months. But before then, he will celebrate his 100th birthday!

We caught up with Rune and asked the world’s oldest orienteer ten questions.

Are you tired of all the publicity you are getting because of your age?

No, I find it charming that everyone is so interested in an ancient 100-year-old. There is not much to this story, but of course I am unique in that I am still in decent physical condition at my age. I have never really been sick. I’ve had some twisted ankles and a few muscle strains, but that’s about it.

Then should we expect to see you at O-Ringen 2018?

You know, I haven’t really decided yet, but I don’t have any real injuries or medical problems. I am tentatively planning to compete, but I will probably not run all five stages. We will see how the body reacts – that’s what everyone likes to say these days – in the spring. But it would be wonderful to get to run a few stages in Örnsköldsvik.

You will turn 100 one month before the competition begins. What motivates you to keep coming to the start line?

It is always inspiring to see that the body is still working. You don’t want to just give up. As long as the body can at least somewhat function, it’s fun to test it out at O-Ringen. It helps that the terrain this year should be fantastic. It’s just too bad that I am not young and strong so that I could experience and enjoy the lovely steep terrain.

Is there any secret behind your continued good health?

I have been exercising my whole life. This has surely helped stimulate my health. I have been competing in orienteering since I was 15 and have completed the Vasaloppet ski race 25 times. Now we no longer have snow here in Southern Sweden. Instead, we have green grass. In any case, I am done with skiing now, and have put the skis away for good.

How do people react when they find out that you are competing in O-Ringen as a 100-year-old?

I am actually becoming somewhat of a celebrity in my old age, since as a 100-year-old I can still move around under my own power. Everyone is of course rather impressed, and I am soaking up all the fame that comes with this.

Is there some aspect of orienteering at which you can still improve?

No; my big problem is that I don’t see so well anymore. Therefore, I can’t distinguish all the fine details on the map because of my bad sight. One difference from before is that I don’t move so quickly now, so there is plenty of time to read the map. Before, when I ran, I was always in such a hurry.

Was orienteering the most fun in 1938, 1978 or 2018?

Orienteering was enjoyable in different ways in those days, and it wasn’t so focused on the elite. Now it is enjoyable in different ways and has become a more precise and exact sport.
In the early days we had maps with 1:100000 scales, so there was a lot of randomness and luck involved in orienteering back then. Every time period has had its upsides.

Which O-Ringen has been the best so far?

You know, I have to say that the most fun was the first O-Ringen that took place in Sälen. It was a tremendous experience. It was just a different event from the others, so I rank it first.

Otherwise, every O-Ringen is enjoyable in its own different way.

When O-Ringen took place in Örnsköldsvik in 1994 you ran H75. What can you recall from competition?

I did not have a good O-Ringen that year. I don’t remember my exact placing, but it was definitely not very good. On the other hand, I have always enjoyed the fine terrain up in Örnsköldsvik. It is always fantastic. It would be very disappointing if I was not able to make it up there and complete one or two stages this summer.

What are your expectations for O-Ringen 2018?

That I can complete the stages I want in good condition. And of course, you meet hundreds of friends at O-Ringen, so I am looking forward to the social aspect of it.

Some people also say that it would be good PR for the sport to see a 100-year-old cross the finish line. In that case, I would be happy to provide the PR and the visibility. If I can do something positive for orienteering, then I will gladly do it, since orienteering has meant so much for me.

O-Ringen will feature an H100 class this year for the first time in its history.

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