From 8am on a Saturday morning, it’s a blur of set-up, runners and tear-down, but by around 10.30am it’s all over, and you wouldn’t even know we’d been there. After the Tail Walker has crossed the finish line, the parkrun flag has been lowered, and we sit, coffee in hand, surrounded by fellow parkrunners, you might think that your volunteer team can relax until next Saturday at 8am…but here’s an inside look at the work that goes in throughout the week to set things up for the next event!
The post-parkrun coffee is one of my favourite times of the week! Sitting around a table could be any number of regular parkrunners who have become friends, curious first-timers experiencing their first event, and visiting tourists (many proudly wearing their ‘home’ parkrun apricot t-shirt). This normally makes for wonderful conversations, and is a time for volunteers and parkrunners alike to relax together.
After the post-parkrun coffee on Saturday, the most pressing thing to do is process the results. We know how exciting it is to have that email hit your inbox with your official time, so we try to do this quickly, but sometimes it can take a while. This is normally done by that week’s Run Director, or someone can take on the dedicated role of Results Processor. They also confirm that week’s volunteer team, which triggers a thank you email and volunteer credit. Top tip: volunteer 25 times and earn a coveted (and free) aubergine-coloured volunteer shirt!
If we have a Photographer and/or Run Report Writer for any given week, they will also be in action over the weekend, editing and uploading photos or writing up the highlights of the run. Both of these roles play an important part to engage our community, and also spread the word about parkrun more widely. You never know what will capture a potential parkrunner’s attention!
Then as Event Director, I will check the event inbox intermittently over the weekend. Sometimes runners might contact us if they think there has been a mix-up with the timing, or they want to let me know that their barcode didn’t scan. If I can help to solve the problem, I will!
These are normally quiet days for us. I’ll check the inbox a few times, and sometimes there will be emails from people volunteering to fill empty roles on the event roster page. These are the best emails – I make sure I reply immediately to thank the volunteer and accept their offer of help!
Some weeks, if I have some spare time I’ll try to drive the growth of my event in some way – asking the local press to feature us; posting an update on Facebook; making plans for an upcoming special event or themed parkrun, like Halloween; or emailing my team of Run Directors.
On Wednesday and Thursday, I’ll start to focus on the coming weekend. Is our volunteer roster empty? If so, I’ll make an appeal on Facebook or by email. Who on earth took the parkrun equipment in their car last week?! Can they still drop it off this weekend? If not, we’ll have to make sure that there is a plan to get the gear to the event.
Depending on the parkrun, this could be the responsibility of the Event Director, Volunteer Manager or the coming weekend’s Run Director.
In a perfect week, our volunteer roster is full by Friday. If not, today is the day I’ll make a last-minute appeal! If no-one comes forward, we’ll look at how we can reorganize a reduced-size team to still be able to put on an event.
Tomorrow’s Run Director sends out a volunteer reminder email to the event-day team, letting them know where and when to meet.
That evening, the person responsible for Equipment Storage and Delivery will pack up their car ready to roll in the morning. They’ll likely be checking that the tokens are in the right order and none are missing, that the scanners have been charged, and the high-vis vests that were on the drying rack are packed up too (it rains a lot on the West Coast!).
And here we are again! As a Run Director, it’s important to be the first to arrive and the last to leave – although there will sometimes be a few tourists already milling around at 8.15am, anxious that they don’t get lost and miss their first Canadian parkrun! From then onwards, it’s a flurry of activity: the equipment is delivered, the Marshals set off to mark out the route, we brief the Timekeeper, Barcode Scanner and Finish Tokens volunteers, and (at our event, at least) the Tail Walker puts on their tiger tail!
Then it’s time for the Welcome Briefing, and 3-2-1 THEY’RE OFF!
Before we know it, we’re sitting, coffee in hand, surrounded by fellow parkrunners – and ready to start the ball rolling all over again!
Becky Maybury, Richmond Olympic Event Director
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