On the subject of superheroes…

Digested read: parkrun volunteering is a lot of fun.  It is a parallel universe of parkrun good times.  If you haven’t crossed over to this other side yet, you might be missing out.  Just saying.  Donning hi-viz for junior parkrun is the highlight of my week, literally as well as metaphorically.  Obviously.

Well, I was holding forth on the subject of superheroes, whether or not you were concentrating I can’t really know, but basically I was saying that that special breed of people who set up inaugural parkruns, and manage to generate enough momentum to keep them going, deserve some sort of public recognition.  They are after all the ‘make it so’ teams who help parkrun grow and regenerate.  Personally,  I favour the option of bestowing these noble few with parkrun logoed capes.  However, inexplicably, it currently isn’t in my gift to generate and distribute these, but what I can do, is potentially make life easier for some Run Directors out there by singing the praises of volunteering.  Step up people and give it a go.  You have nothing to fear… and stunning parkrun hi-viz within your reach. Why wouldn’t you?  You too could be a hi-viz hero, yours for the taking!

volunteer outfit

You do have to supply your own hat though. I think this one might be a Tilly hat, they are very good, I think they are insured for ever but can survive even passing through the digestive tract of an elephant in tact.  This testimonial is spoilt as it involves keeping some poor magnificent elephant in captivity, but it still illustrates a point.  Anyway, most parkruns don’t risk this happening to their headgear, but I suppose in South Africa it could be an issue.  Look forget it, I wish I’d never gone down the headgear route.  Stick with a beret and the associated angst over whether stereotypical national fancy dress is ever acceptable at a Le Tour themed parkrun event, if you prefer,  and let’s move on.

Lucy le tour

There are basically two facts you need to know when it comes to volunteering at your local parkrun (though parkrun voluntourism is a thing too of course). These are as follows:

  1. Fact one.  Volunteering at regular parkrun is fun, lots of fun
  2. Fact two.  Volunteering at fun-size junior parkrun is even more fun. Awesome fun in fact.  Fun in inverse proportion to the average height of those participating.

Alas, capes for TAPSS are not yet available, let alone for volunteers, but the opportunity to be a hi-viz hero is very much there for the taking. You too could join a line up as fabulous as this.  I know, just imagine!  No idea where these folk are or who they are by the way, (borrowed from parkrun uk facebook page at some point), but it matters not, this scene is replicated worldwide at a parkrun near you weekly, I promise.

panshanger-parkrun-volunteers

My volunteering started off at parkrun ‘proper’ as I might have erroneously referred to it before I knew any better.  Now my favoured parkrun volunteering venue is a junior parkrun.   For a number of reasons. In honesty, I showed up the first time mainly because I felt I ought to ‘give something back’, and junior parkrun means I can do so without forfeiting my own Saturday parkrun.  However, I would now say the main motivation is because it is a lot of fun.  Crying with laughter sort of fun at times.   It is such a brilliant way to start a Sunday morning you have no idea until you’ve tried it.

Let’s be honest though, even though I am apparently able to sustain myself whilst living independently, and have indeed lived and worked overseas which ought to mean I can cope with a bit of stress and am reasonably adaptable, I was still nervous about volunteering at first.  I still am sometimes.  Objectively this is ridiculous perhaps to you, but speaking to other volunteers I think it’s quite common to feel some anxiety about taking on a new role.  Passions can run high at parkrun, it is for some if not actually the most important part of their week it’s definitely a highlight.  You don’t want to be the weak link that messes up the timings or sends a front runner hot foot the wrong way on a turn.  The post of time-keeper is particularly feared by me, though interestingly I’ve seen first time DoE volunteers take to it with no problems at all.

The Timekeeper is responsible for recording the times of all finishers. This can be a high pressure role, particularly at our busier events.
For every runner that crosses the finish line on their own two feet, the timer will record that time using a timing device. This data is then combined with the data from the Barcode Scanners (see below). Our events are provided with multiple timers, so there will normally be someone operating a backup timer.

Apparently, clicking a button everytime a runner crosses the line isn’t as hard as I think.   Who knew?  I just imagine I’ll suffer some terrible seizure and be frozen unable to move, or worse yet set off a staccato sequence of line-crossers when there is in fact not a runner in sight.   I must just over think it.  … The thing is, and I say this not to put you off, but rather the opposite, a bit of apprehension because you care about getting it right is surely a good thing.  Besides, it adds to the frisson of excitement and anticipation when you know you are about to join a team of people and contribute to the delivery of something bigger than yourself.  Quite a lot bigger…

As an aside if you go to the global parkrun site and scroll down you can get a live update of the global stats for participation.  It’s pretty impressive. As of today (22 June 2017) the figures are 2,321,735 runners running (bit like lords-a-leaping, just imagine!); 275,019 volunteers and events have taken place in 1,155 locations. If you are a real parkrun stats geek check out http://www.elliottline.com/parkrun/ for weekly updates on UK (mainly) stuff. It’s way more compelling than you might think I promise 🙂 .

I think it’s like the apprehension you get if you’ve ever had to perform on stage be that in a class assembly at school, or giving a presentation or lecture at work, or a speech at a celebration.   There is an inevitability that this event will happen, you will have your unique role and so there will be a moment when everything will feel like it depends on you! Ha!  Think of it not so much as responsibility, but as power, if that helps. (It is rare enough to feel any sense of personal agency or influence in our crumbling world at times…).  Besides, everyone knows that donning a hi-viz jacket at parkrun bestows you with super-human powers, which is why if you cheer and high-five runners as they pass they magically speed up. FACT.  Only possession of a clipboard can trump that.  Here’s a minion with a clipboard by way of illustration.  See how seriously they are taken wielding such an accessory!

Plus, at the end of the day it is a RUN not a RACE, most errors can be rectified.  Even if they can’t, it is what it is. Did you know that even Paul Sinton-Hewitt once wiped all the timings at Bushy park parkrun, so it can happen to the best of us.  It would almost be worth making that particular mistake just so you can be in the overlap of a Venn diagram with the great man himself.  The actual point is, the world didn’t come to an end.  Most runners are understanding if there is a system failure – I think one time I ran at Sheffield Hallam parkrun and no results could be processed and we all got a time of 59 minutes, but it wasn’t that bad.  Not like finding you’ve run out of tea bags on waking for example, or are left reeling by toast too big for a toaster, not even near!  There may be a future amusing anecdote in it – like that hilarious time (also at Hallam) when the finish tokens were nowhere to be found and all the many hundreds of runners had to form an orderly queue and have their barcodes written down manually, I kid you not. Still worked.  How the run volunteering team look back affectionately on that Saturday and laugh I can only imagine. What larks eh?  What larks!

So, here is my highly subjective running scared guide to the various roles.  Other more authoritative guides to the various volunteering parkrun roles are available, but who wants to exhaust themself by clicking on external links?

Marshaling:

The parkrun website describes this role as follows:

Marshals guide and encourage the runners around the course warning them of any obstacles or hazards, as well as ensuring that other park users are aware of the run.
They are also the eyes and ears of the run director out on the course.
Marshals perform a crucial function; if there aren’t enough marshals then the event can’t go ahead. So if you’re running and see them out on the course, please say thanks (particularly if it’s wet, windy or cold) and always follow their advice. They’ll most likely be wearing high vis – so they should be easy to spot.

Most of my volunteering has been marshaling. This essentially involves directional pointing and clapping.  You are also the eyes and ears of the event and I suppose ambassadors too.  It is one of my favourite roles to be fair.   For loads of reasons.  The main one being that you get to see every single runner pass. The first time I marshaled was also the first time I got a real sense of the continuum of runners who take part.  As a er hem, more sedate runner, I’d never seen the fast ones other than in a flash of lycra as they lapped me, and only ever from behind. Seeing their faces contort with the strain of it all was actually pleasing and inspiring in equal measure.  Running isn’t any easier for those speed merchants it seems, they are still working hard, it’s just they keep on getting faster.  Fact one of running, it never gets easier, your goals just shift.

never gets easier

Then you also start to see the whole spectrum of people who participate, parents with buggies; runners with dogs; family outings.  It was a revelation.  I’d only noticed the limited group of people who run at my pace, it is genuinely uplifting to see so many different people taking on the same challenge.  You start to notice the octogenarian at your local event; the person who might be in the middle of radio or chemotherapy; the first timers; individuals taking it on post illness or as part of a weight loss challenge.  Speaking personally, I’ve become much more aware of local groups, not just running clubs, but community connections.  I’m not entirely delusional, I don’t know all these people personally, in that sense they aren’t all my friends, but we do have a common interest.  More in common as the saying goes, and at the risk of unleashing just the first of a forthcoming torrent of feel-good clichés yet to tumble out in this blog post, yep, it’s made me feel way more connected to where I live.  Can’t go running anywhere in my neck of Sheffield without seeing or been seen by a fellow parkrunner.  It’s like a constant mutual surveillance.  In a good way though, not stalkery.  Think of it as motivational and jolly.

In my experience, marshaling can also involve hugging quite a lot of people either to reassure en route, or to congratulate on completion.  How you feel about embracing random sweaty runners might be a factor in whether or not you are comfortable with this aspect of the role. It’s not obligatory though, if you stand rigidly you will give off enough protective non verbal ‘don’t touch me!’ signals that you will be absolutely fine.  Nobody likes an awkward hug.  Not even slightly over-emotional parkrunners.  I don’t really consider myself a huggy person at all, but mid or post run endorphins can make you love everyone, and some of the best hugs I’ve had have been from marshals on long trail runs. Thank you hi-viz heroes, you know who you are. Well, you do know who you are, but I can never forget the RSR hug that came when most needed, 20km in to a 24 km trail running event.   You may indeed love running, but I love marshals who facilitate that, and  I thank you!

i-love-marshals

That’s the generic marshal role, but for junior parkrun you need to factor in extra motivational duties.   Specifically, you need to perfect the art of the high-five.  Don’t scoff, it’s not as easy as you think. Firstly, turns out, just because some tot is barely four years old, it doesn’t mean they can’t deliver ferocious power behind a tiny high fiving hand.  I kid you not, I’ve been almost completely taken out by the human bullet which is an infant speeding towards you with an outstretched hand. Secondly, you need to really work on your glutes and quads to retain stability when you are having to maintain a squat for the entire duration of a junior parkrun.  Even when you’ve got the high-five perfected, there is still scope for skill development as you take on the high-ten.  It can be done, but it’s not for the faint-hearted.  Very rewarding indeed though, when it all fall’s into place!  You have never experienced being on the receiving end of a smile until it is one offered up to you freely by a junior parkrunner at the instant at which their high-five is returned to you.  Everyone should experience that surge of validation of their actions at some point in their life.  Feel good doesn’t come anywhere near to describing that sensation.

I should also point out that directional pointing and clapping is harder than you might think.  Plus, clapping and cheering continuously for up to an hour is quite strenuous.  Don’t worry though, as with all such physical challenges your stamina does improve over time.   There does however always remain the risk that however proficient you are at pointing, you may be ignored.  This clip isn’t from parkrun but is nevertheless hilarious. How hard is it to know which way to run when someone in hi-viz is pointing the way for you?  Very hard indeed apparently.  Joy to behold! Check out this Tebay fell race start video if you don’t believe me.  And if you think directing adults is like herding cats, you’ve clearly never experienced junior parkrun, which adds whole new layers of unpredictability, and therefore hilarity to the whole affair.

At Graves junior parkrun, the start line is on grass, but the participants need to be funneled onto a tarmac path early on in proceedings. This is achieved by having a chain of marshals arms outstretched, to act a human funnel to ensure everyone ends up where they are supposed to. What could possibly go wrong?

and theyre off

Well, loads apparently. The thing is, if you are small, and the start is crowded, why would you follow the route indicated by a human chain when you can just as easily duck under the outstretched arms of attendant marshals and speed round the back of them where there is more room?  Obvious really.  I love this slightly anarchic element of junior parkrun, it is truly hysterical, but could be unsettling for those who find disorder and random running alarming.

Marshaling is also a bit like the ‘any other duties’ bullet point in most job descriptions. It’s a real role, but you have to roll with it sometimes.  I myself have on occasion been dog-poo bin monitor. Yep, you guessed it. This involves standing in front of the dog-poo bin in Endcliffe Park to prevent runners running into it. Yes, all parkrunners apparently have that potential for navigational error within them.  All part of the joy of it all though.  Without a dog-poo bin monitor, Sheffield Hallam parkrun couldn’t happen.  Think about it.  Make it so!

Barcode Scanning and barcode scanning support:

The parkrun UK site describes these volunteer roles thus

The Barcode Scanners are responsible for actually recording runners against their finish position tokens, handed out by Finish Tokens at the end of the funnel.
They scan in the runners personal barcode, followed by the barcode on the position token.

Most of my volunteering had been marshaling – directional pointing and clapping, with the odd spot of barcode scanning.  This latter role is great because you get to speak to people, but those scanners are more temperamental than you might expect, so it’s not quite as cool as wielding say a sonic screw-driver might be, but it’s definitely a role where time flies.  Person then barcode is the rule. Honestly, I did find it a bit stressful – that was at Hallam though, and that is a very busy parkrun. Then again, it’s also quite an adrenalin high, job done you feel your heart racing and the glow of satisfaction at a challenge completed. Also, if you are nosey, you get to potentially put names to faces. Well you would if you had the capacity to remember names, I lost that skill decades ago.  Best to just greet everyone with ‘yoh fellow parkrunner‘ and avoid all that awkward embarrassment of getting names wrong.

You do need to impose the ‘no barcode, no time, no exceptions‘ rule without fear or favour.   I agree with this rule actually, it’s not much to ask of those participating in a free event, and the poor run directors wouldn’t get any weekend left over if they had to manually input an ever-growing list of opportunistic runners who repeatedly forget their paper barcodes, and have no incentive to remember as long as they can convince some poor unsuspecting volunteer that it is ‘just this once’ and they offer up an exceptional heart-rending tale to reinforce their case….

parkrun code

Consequently, I was quite up for the associated role akin to barcode scanning, which is the barcode scanning support role. The purpose of this role is basically to manually record the name and numbers of parkrunners whose barcodes were brought along and failed to scan.  Sometimes it is hard to know why they have malfunctioned in this way.  On other occasions as a sweaty, or rain-soaked disintegrating slip of papier-mache is offered up I feel almost instinctively I know what has happened.  (Praise be for the wrist bands and barcode plastic cards, they are fab, I just wish you could get them on behalf of other people as gifts without having to steal their identity first, though I sort of understand why too…).  Hence, when I took on this role at junior parkrun I was sure I’d be able to channel my inner hard-nosed cow and be firm and resolute in the face of the  most heart-rending of scenarios…  At junior parkrun, or the one I go to anyway, you also write down all the finish token numbers for those who didn’t bring their barcode and record them as ‘unknown’.  I guess this helps with results processing as you know certain finish positions don’t have a runner linked to them, and as the numbers involved are pretty low, it’s quite doable.

For the record, again, at junior parkrun you have to expect the unexpected, and yep, that’s what happens.  It is entertaining, and it keeps you on your toes.  For the most part, junior parkrunners are a complete delight.  If you want to feel briefly positive about  prospects for the future of the human race and restore your faith in humanity, just rock up and watch a junior parkrun.  Even so, the unpredictability of the young diminutive runners can leave you utterly non-plussed.  Or it did me anyway. So can you explain for example how a young runner who had a barcode that failed to scan presented herself to me to have her finish position noted and in traveling the less than a metre between me and the barcode scanner had lost her finish token?  Check out the locations  of these barcode scanners and the clipboard holding barcode scanner support official and see for yourself the surely finite potential for finish token loss during that handover from one volunteer to another:

barcode scanning

It was a mystery that even Jessica Fletcher would have failed to solve.   The junior parkrunner stood blinking, but adamant, nope, there had never been a finish token.  She was sure.  Erm… it’s really hard to get to the truth with a child witness it turns out.  In the end, she was miraculously restored to the results by dint of estimating whereabouts she was in the line up, and finding an unclaimed finish position in that general position. Which is what happened. Tense though.  The photo above is for illustrative purposes only, it does not feature the young runner in question.

More challenging still was the junior participant who had had his barcode with him, and indeed was wearing one of the wrist bands. He clearly plucked up courage to approach me, lower lip all a tremble.  It had fallen off on the way round; he was working towards one of his junior half-marathon milestones.  This is the real test of resolve.  Angry adults are one thing, I can stand resolute in the face of that, you are a grown up, take responsibility and get over it. Traumatised children on the other hand, that’s quite another. Oh gawd!  In the end I noted his finish position and said that maybe someone would hand it in, or maybe an accompanying parent might have a spare, and feeling like the child-catcher I sent him away.  The next line of approach was the child’s parents – could I not make an exception?  Seeing how distressed her child was at first she thought he must have been badly hurt!  Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaargh.  No!  No barcode, no time, no exceptions (but yes, I did feel like a jobsworth cow).  She was by no means unpleasant or rude, but pleading.  I directed her to the run director as the last line of defence.  Dear reader I report a happy ending! Turns out the wrist band had been found and handed in, the finish position was therefore restored to the rightful finisher, but ooh, that was a wobble.   For the record, apparently complaints from juniors about no time are pretty rare.  Most of them just come for a joyful romp round, only a minority are fixated on times.  Bit different for the adults though, those milestone tees are pretty desirable and much coveted after all.

Finish token and finish token support:

parkrun uk describe these roles too

The Finish Tokens person is responsible for handing out finish position tokens to all finishers in the correct sequence. This role calls for nimble fingers and grace under pressure. They can be assisted by Finish Tokens Support.

At many events there are so many runners, the task of handing out finish position tokens would be too much for one person, so it is a double act, with Finish Tokens support working closely with Finish Tokens.
For example, they will prepare the next set of tokens for Finish Tokens, who won’t have time to do this themselves. It’s also reassuring for Finish Tokens to know that they’re supported.

So these are good roles, though queen Elizabeth parkrun have done a guide to the finish token volunteer role explaining some of the challenges associated with it.  I like this role, you get to be a double act so that’s a new person to chat to which is always a bonus.  You do have to watch yourself a bit, because when you are holding a little batch of finish tokens ready to hand out it takes almost super-human willpower not to inadvertently shuffle them like you would if handed a nice new pack of cards.  I don’t think you have to wear a beanie or bobble hat for these roles, but clearly they look fabulous so you should.  I like that you meet every runner and get to know how many people have taken part allowing for spontaneous sweepstake ‘guess how many runners there are today‘ options.  It takes hi-viz teamwork, but then once you get into a rhythm with your token buddy, it feels fab!

Run Director:

This, along with that of Event director and set up team, is a role that I think should be rewarded with capes. But hey ho.  I’ve never done it, and I’m not entirely sure how you get involved to that degree, though I feel confident most event teams would welcome newcomers.   The official blurb states that:

The Run Director is in charge of a particular run on a specific day.
They have ultimate responsibility for deciding whether or not the conditions are suitable for the event and with advice from the other volunteers may decide to modify the course (because of new hazards, for example), delay the start, or even in exceptional circumstances cancel the event that day (very poor weather being the most common reason for this).
They are also responsible for organising the team of volunteers, along with the volunteer co-ordinator.

They do all this (and more) it’s true, but as an impartial outside observer, I feel I must record for posterity some of the particular ingenuity, dedication and initiative I’ve seen Run Directors display in support of runners.  Quite aside from organising new routes when regular paths are closed, or even removing obstructing fallen trees at short notice, I’ve seen a couple of ‘above and beyond’ moments I wish to note here.

One was at junior parkrun.  A young runner, in full sprint was way up the field but somehow ran on past the finish funnel, skidding dramatically and practically skinning every inch of exposed flesh on the ground as they did not so much a face plant but a full body slide.  Immediately the RD sprang into action.  He sprinted across – naively I thought this was to administer first aid.  How wrong was I?  On reaching the sprawling child, he hauled him to his feet, rotated him, and sort of shoved him off on a new adjusted trajectory down the finish funnel proclaiming as he did so ‘it’s OK, you’re still fine, no-one will overtake you!’.  As a non-parent myself, but on finish token duty at the time I was a bit taken aback by this approach,  but you know what?  Within a few strides a smiling child was clutching a finish token apparently healed and mended.  Quick thinking and another happy ending!

Only last week at Hallam, I was on funnel duty.  I was all set for herding runners, ensuring any would-be funnel duckers were thwarted in the attempt, and keeping everyone in line.  However, what I hadn’t anticipated was the chaos that ensued when one of the early finishers made it across the finish, and then started throwing up spectacularly in the finish funnel (not a problem I’ve ever had to contend with, maybe I really don’t try hard enough). I was momentarily paralysed with indecision, as were other runners piling in behind – keen to stay in line, but not wanting a bottle neck to back up across the finish. As we stood, temporarily frozen in time, the run director again took the initiative and sprang into action.  He appeared in a puff of smoke as if from nowhere, and acted as a proxy to collect the finish token for the sprawling, heaving and retching runner so the ‘show’ could go on – or in this case, the finish funnel keep on moving whilst she attended to the ‘necessary’.  It was an inspirational reflex that saved the running day.  Hooray!

See, that’s the thing about volunteering at parkrun, never a dull moment, and most problems can be rectified.  You also get better at volunteering and more comfortable at it the more you do.  With the benefit of hindsight, I still think I could have handled the loose lamb incident better at Graves junior parkrun, but hey, you live and learn.  Those moments of self-flagellating regret are more than compensated for by the moments of unexpected joy, which are far more numerous.  Like the first time I volunteered as a marshal at junior parkrun and a tiny runner, noting my clapping and apparent interest in her day took the time to stop and explain to me that she was taking part in a run, and it had two laps and she’d be round again shortly and see me again.  I’m quite a cold-hearted, non-broody type, but that did absolutely melt my heart.  Adorable.  Honestly, these junior parkrunners are just like real people, only tiny! Also they are seemingly  more prone to uttering uncynical expressive words of wisdom and demonstrating uninhibited displays of joy.  It’s quite remarkable, it really is!

The only slight problem is that now I’ve done so many junior parkruns, I wonder if I may come across as a bit patronising to the adult runners at the 5km event?  I shall erase that thought from my mind, who doesn’t like being congratulated on their smile or being encouraged with a whoop and a shout of ‘superb effort’ even though they may look ever so slightly to be on the brink of tears.  There is more in common between these runners than you may think,  I promise.  It isn’t only the juniors who start walking as soon as they think they are out of the sight of the main field and in the shadow of a strategically positioned bush.  That’s not to say I haven’t made mistakes I admit.  I stumbled a bit at junior parkrun as the first junior female shot by ‘great job, first woman home‘ I shouted enthusiastically.  ‘I think it’s OK to say “first girl” when they are eight years old‘ my companion marshal gently remarked.  Probably true, it’s just that personally I have such an aversion to being referred to as a ‘girl’ I avoid using it.  It really makes me mad if people call me a girl.  It’s literally infantalising, however well meant.  However, probably is OK as a term of reference in junior parkrun context.  In another of my rookie errors, a parent (I presume) was holding the hand of an increasingly reluctant child. ‘Oh no, you are having to drag him round‘ I shouted out at the child, to which the parent replied laughing ‘oh yes!’  But I hadn’t intended my words for him, they were aimed at the junior runner as a hilarious (I thought) quip.  Misfire.  We live and learn.  Another couple of weeks and I’ll have a full repetoire of non-judgemental and encouraging phrases  on the tip of my tongue, to validate everyone participating whether walking, running or skipping.  I’ve started adding in ‘that’s my favourite T-shirt today’ or ‘best balloon of the morning’ in to my supportive calls, these seem to be better received by juniors on the whole, but that’s only because the 5km parkrunners aren’t habituated to this new order as yet.  Give it time.

There are loads of roles in fact, and new ones evolving all the time too – hard to imagine now there was a time when ‘photographer’ was not an acknowledged role, and great to see the new role of VI guides and sign language support.  Such is the accelerating speed of change in the world eh. Jobs in the near future will crop up, that we haven’t yet dreamed of, and quite right too.  It’s an evolving concept.  There are warm up leaders at junior parkrun, think at the moment it’s an added extra, but it might yet become ‘a thing’ like the first timers briefing. Who knows?

junior warm up

And finally – tail runner.

The Tail Runner stays right at the back of the field and should be the last person to cross the finish line ensuring that everyone is accounted for.
They are encouraged to carry a mobile phone in case of emergencies.
They let any marshal out on the course know that they can collect nearby signs and leave their post.
This role is compulsory in the UK but please note that not all events in our parkrun world have a tail runner.
Volunteers undertaking this role receive both a run credit and a volunteer credit.

I’ve not done this role either, though as a frequent final finisher at other organised events, I have met plenty.  It certainly seems to be one of the ultimate feel good positions, plus you get a double whammy of credits as both runner and volunteer (same with pacers I assume).  It doesn’t matter if you are the final finisher, you’ve still done the same 5km as everyone else.  Some of the runners I admire most embrace being the final finisher, so what if you are being tailed by a queue of traffic and an ambulance idling, you can still smile and own the road until cut off point.   That’s why I love this photo of  the final finisher at an organised event somewhere, she runs confident in the knowledge most people in that queue of traffic will be blaming the caravan for the tail back!  All good.

final finish flourish

Seriously though, the tail runner is a really important role in giving confidence to people who might not yet see themselves as in their natural habitat at a 5km run.  That’s not the only reason I love them though.  For me it’s personal.   I don’t normally make reference to stuff outside of running in my blog, but on this solitary occasion I will.

My mum lives hundreds of miles away from me, but, she likes to go and watch parkrun whizz on by at Bushy park each week. She’d been doing this a while, and is quite distinctive sitting as she does in the same spot every saturday, so the regular tail runner started to chat to her each week.  Long story short, she’s now been embraced by the parkrun community at Bushy park (and yes, that would be the actual parkrun mecca in case you were wondering) and even has her own personal hi-viz to don as honorary marshal down there each week.  It makes me really happy that whilst I’m storming (ish) round my local parkrun, she’s out there being part of the parkrun community too.  Go us!

 

So you see, parkrun isn’t only about the running, not even only about the volunteering and the running, it’s about way more than that.  If you only run, that’s fine, not everyone wants to, or is able to volunteer.   There have been times in what I laughingly refer to as my ‘parkrun career’ when just turning out at all felt like an impossible challenge.  That’s the point of volunteering, it isn’t compulsory.  However,  if you do step up and give it a whirl, you’ll get to enter a whole new delightful parallel parkrun universe of collective fun.  A whole fun factory of anecdote generation is there for the taking.  So if you can ever don the hi-viz of a weekend, don’t risk missing out, step forward and you will get to be part of that story too!

Oh, and if you want to volunteer, here’s how – subscribe to the volunteering email for your local event is the official way, but not all parkruns seem to use this, so just go and say hello to a run director or pop a note on your parkrun’s Facebook page, you will soon be welcomed warmly into the cult fold, I’m sure.  The gateway drug is hi-viz, but you might work your way up to a clipboard or even get your own whistle one day.   The only limit is your imagination.  All the roles are pretty straightforward, and you’ll be shown what to do and never be asked to do anything you aren’t comfortable with.

Also, I think the purple tees are the most flattering.  And they bestow super human powers.  The evidence is there for all to see.

By the way, I still don’t really know if it should be hi-viz or hi-vis.  Hope I haven’t pushed any grammar police over the edge.  Luckily parkrun is an inclusive community, both variants are acceptable I’m sure!

volunteering garb

For all my parkrun related log posts click here, but remember you’ll need to scrowl down for older posts.  Happy parkrun/walk/jog/volunteering until next time.

Categories: 5km, motivation, parkrun, running, teamwork | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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6 thoughts on “On the subject of superheroes…

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