This is a post about my experience volunteering at my local Oranmore parkrun over the past few months. It’s been a very important part of my life and the local community for more than a year now – and these are my thoughts on why I enjoy the experience every Saturday morning.
I was aware of the two Galway parkruns in Knocknacarra and Oranmore and after running the Connemara Ultra Marathon had this powerful sense of wanting to serve in the running community. I signed up to volunteer the week after Connemara and really enjoyed the experience. Since then, I’ve volunteered 20 times, and been the run director on three occasions in Oranmore (I’ve also ran the course itself). I’ve enjoyed every moment and I believe it’s because parkrun embodies so much of what I value in life. Running is about so much more than arbitrary times.
I hadn’t really done any volunteering previously but it was something I had wanted to do for a while. I found the details of my local parkrun through their Facebook page and I got in touch with them via email, receiving an almost immediate response saying how welcome I would be. I volunteered with a friend which made it easier the first time.
I was nervous about arriving on time (getting the right bus) however on the whole I was excited. At that time I had no real experience with parkrun at all – I had only registered that week – I’m the type who likes to try new things!
That first day I was a marshal and basically spent the whole time talking to people and also getting to meet / know other locals. It was an absolute blast. I pointed everyone in the right direction as they passed and smiled. Afterwards we went into a local cafe with the volunteers and had coffee and a bit of breakfast. It was an incredibly satisfying and welcoming experience.
Volunteering has helped me to build my skills as well. I have been Run Director three times and public speaking / event planning are important here. I also drafted a document for how to process results for first time Run Directors. I would go as far as to say volunteering for parkrun enhances your life everywhere else – including work, stress management, and of course running.
I’ve met several of my closest friends through parkrun, and also met members of the local running community I would not have otherwise been able to. It’s just a fantastic place to smile and enjoy others company.
parkrun events cannot run without the volunteers. That means every time you choose to help out you’re providing a service to the runners and locals/tourists who wish to take park in the event. For anyone thinking about giving volunteering a try, I would say that it’s completely fine to be nervous for anything first time. Personally I found that the experience of volunteering and providing service to the community is incredible, and even better than running at the event! All the people I’ve ever volunteered alongside are friendly, cordial, and a great laugh. There is no pressure and training is provided to ensure you are comfortable with your role.
I absolutely love marshalling – I get to crack jokes and manically smile like a kid all morning. Timekeeping is great fun too – seeing people’s faces as they cross the line is really satisfying.
I attended the first Oranmore junior parkrun just before running the Longford Marathon. I decided to strap on a go pro and leads all the kids around the park. This was a surreal experience. I had forgotten what it meant for a kid to just run for the fun of it and enjoy it. So many happy faces – apparently I was referred to as ‘the fast one’ but truth be told I struggled to stay in front at the off!! It was amazing to lead the kids and something I will never forget. We flew around turns and I felt like I was 10 again. This was a moment I will never forget.
Simply put – seeing 100 odd people lace up and walk and run around Rinville park every Saturday makes me happy. It fills me with pride to know I am helping out and that we can all laugh and enjoy each others company.
parkrun has been something that helps keep the fun in my running. It’s both motivating to me and enjoyable to see so many happy faces out there lacing up their trainers and starting their weekend in a positive manner.
So what are you waiting for? Volunteer at your local parkrun or junior parkrun and enjoy your Saturday and Sunday mornings forever!
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