Getting lost in the middle of a training run or self navigation ultra marathon is no fun. It’s really important that you know and understand how to quickly get yourself safely back on track. Whilst mobile devices are useful and there are a plethora of navigation apps to download, we have found occasions when the technology has failed. Therefore, it is critical that you know how to read a map and follow a compass bearing for successful trail running self navigation.

Trail Running Self Navigation

Rather than trying to explain navigation using map reading and compass bearings ourselves, let’s leave it to the experts. This series of 8 short videos from Steve Backshall came in handy when we were learning to read OS maps for a self navigation race.



There is also a wealth of information here at the Ordnance Survey website with guidance on map symbols and scales, grid references, understanding contours, using a compass to take a bearing and much, much more.

Some Useful Pointers

We always make sure that we have told someone where we are going, our intended route, approximate finish time and we carry a mobile phone (not that it always works).

Check the weather forecast and pack the right kit. It’s always useful to have a lightweight jacket, foil blanket and of course, food and water.

Even if it’s a sunny day, make sure you take a plastic wallet for your map. A pencil can also be used to make notes on the map.  

If you think you are lost and have to stop to read the map, you should consider taking this opportunity to eat some food, take a drink and maybe put on a coat, gloves etc. to keep warm. It’s one thing to be lost but it’s much easier to handle if you’re not cold, wet and hungry. 

Remember – safety first!

Disclaimer: This article includes affiliate links which may provide a small commission to me at no cost to you. The products we recommend are either those that we’ve used or that our fellow runners have used.