This piece was written by ex-student Matthew Fellbaum who started Orienteering whilst at school and has gone on to achieve international success in the sport. His efforts are testament to hard work and the ability to keep going when it gets tough.


I started at Fallibroome and went to all the schools leagues in my first few years; I believe I won 3 years in a row! However, I was not very good at running, and my map reading was a bit rubbish as well at this point. I had a long way to go!

I enjoyed the sport so I kept at it, progressing into the England and then GB teams. I was still not very good running but getting there at navigating. My results at the international races were okay but nothing special, nothing to say “this guy’s good”. For years, everyone had been talking about JWOC – the Junior World Champs, as the pinnacle of junior orienteering, and I knew I wanted to get there, a huge achievement in itself.

It took me a couple of years trying to get selected but last year I went out to Finland with the team. It was incredible, the 300 best juniors from around the world, all together for a week of serious quality racing. My results were again nothing special but one of my best mates got GB’s best ever results, and a coveted podium place (which in orienteering is top 6). This was amazing, and so inspiring! I wanted that, but unfortunately, I am no way near as talented – problem!

I decided to spend the next year committing fully to performing at JWOC. That doesn’t mean I became a hermit for the year and never went outside other than to train, but I made sure in every decision I made I considered how it would affect my results. This was very tough at times, and I would not recommend it unless you are certain of what you want, but it is definitely the best way to succeed in sport (and probably life). 

I arrived at JWOC last week knowing that no matter what happens I did my best over the year to do as well as I can. Monday was the long race and although I ran well, the result was again nothing special (27th) and I felt demoralized, maybe I cannot get the result I want? Maybe it isn’t worth the effort? Maybe I am just not good enough. 

The next day was the sprint. Let me put this into context. I have been told my whole life that I’m not fast enough to do well at sprint. By my manager, my coach, myself. I know that I’m 2 minutes slower over 5km. I have no chance of success, so may as well enjoy it right?

Yeah I got a silver medal…….. Life is weird. How did I do it? Well even though I knew I had no chance, I still did everything I could to prepare for the race. I spent tens of hours on my computer looking at the area to familiarize myself with every building. I spent tens of hours with my coach talking about technique and planning my physical training. I spent hundreds of hours out in the cold and the rain on my own training. I left the start wanting to enjoy myself, and I did.

And I just got GB’s best ever result at the Junior World Champs. 

I will let you decide if it was worth it.