Us orienteers like to make things a little complicated when it comes to courses, especially for larger events. Here's the dummies guide on how to understand events, courses and classes/categories.
Orienteering Canada actually has guidelines on how we run orienteering events! Events are categorized depending on how big the event is, with different guidelines at each level for course structure.
Canada Cup Events Canada Cup events are the highest level orienteering events in Canada. They include, but are not limited to, national, regional, and provincial championships. Canada Cup events are often multi‐day events composed of races from all three disciplines of orienteering (Sprint, Middle, and Long) that attract participants from outside the local club.
B Events B events are generally single day, weekend events held on forest maps within an hour or two of the local club’s city. These events are primarily attended by local club members and, therefore, are considerably less formal than Canada Cup events. GVOCs Why Just Run events would be considered B Events.
C Events C events are the least formal of the three levels of Canadian orienteering events and require the least amount of organization. They are generally held over a couple of hours on a weekday evening or weekend morning. GVOCs WET series is considered a C event.
For Canada Cup events, there are a prescribed number of courses (10 for long and middle, 7 for sprint). There are guidelines on the Recommended Winning Times (RWT), course length, course difficulty, etc. This means you should know roughly what to expect from a course when you run an event in Canada. You can read more about the various courses and requirements on the Orienteering Canada guidelines website.
Since Canada Cups are championship events, participants register in age classes or categories. Each class/category is assigned to a course (confused yet?!). This is again prescribed by Orienteering Canada, and you can see the information on the guidelines website. So when you go to sign up for a larger event you'll be asked to select your age category. The guideline website will also show you what course you can expect to run for your age class.
Sometimes people don't want to run their age class, because they're newer to the sport (especially for W/M21-35... no shame in not running the really long and technical events), or because of injury they don't want to run as long. For this, we have "open" classes. Usually Open 1 means you'll run on course 1, open 2 = course 2, and so on. This way you can choose what course you think is best for you.
A little more information on courses, without getting into too much detail... Course 1 is usually all on trails, course 2 is mostly on trails with a few slightly trickier controls off trail, course 3 is more off trail, but nothing too crazy. Courses 4-10 usually have the same technical difficulty, but vary in length from short (course 4) to ridiculous (course 10). If you want to learn more about courses, check out Orienteering Canada's Official's courses. Contact your local club if you're interested in getting certified!
So, there you have it, you're introduction to courses, classes/categories, and events. If you have questions, speak to a nice person in your club. I'm sure they will chew your ear off on the various intricacies of orienteering courses... And probably start off down memory lane too!