I am a volunteer and runner at Botanical Garden parkrun, Pretoria and I recently went on a 10 day backpack trip to visit my daughter, Chantene, in France.
After I landed at Nice airport, we both got on a bus to Milan, Italy to attend the parkrun there. I even emailed the parkrun to find out if it was still happening in the extreme cold weather!
O man but it was cold… -5 and when I left SA it was 38°c.
The people were so friendly and being used to seeing 1,600+ runners at Botanical Gardens we met about 46 people attending. The run was beautiful and is a 2 lapper.
Between broken English and French we managed to enjoy the morning and after the run we were invited to the coffee shop where everybody enjoys a coffee or hot chocolate with a pastry!
During our pre-run briefing recently it was announced that it was my 200th volunteering occasion that day. Later somebody asked me “Tannie Ita how many parkruns have you done?” My answer to her was “None OFFICIALLY my dear”. Let me explain a bit more.
Every Saturday my “Liefie” and I arrive at parkrun around 06:30 to help with the pre-event setup. I find it quite difficult to live by the principle of “keep it simple” because a table without a cloth just doesn’t do it for me, neither toilet facilities without fresh flowers, toilet paper and air freshener. So, I go on my merry rounds, unpacking the crates of things we brought from home, cleaning, greeting all the volunteers as they arrive as well as early first timers and regulars.
After the group volunteer photo is taken, I make my way to the starting point where I cheer for the milestone achievers of the day and make a call for volunteers. By this time my knees are starting to have a serious conversation with me as I move myself to a point where I can do some more cheerleading as the runners go past me for their first loop of our course. Here I remain until the tail walkers are past and then I move to another point to continue stalking the participants with my cheerleading.
As the tail walkers pass me a second time I make my way to the finish point to be ready for real conversation with just about everybody including those I know haven’t volunteered before. In between talking, laughing and signing up volunteers in my “little black book,” I fill up the water containers, rinse the plastic glasses, attend to incidents and everything else that needs attention from complaints (which fortunately are very few) to finding out whether newcomers enjoyed themselves. Then it is time for post-event close down and my last task is to ensure we leave the toilet facilities in a better condition than I found them in the morning.
As the morning progresses, my walk become more and more of a shuffle and every bump and molehill feels like a mountain to overcome. When I eventually get into the car, I sigh a sigh of relief and often say to my Liefie “It certainly feels like I did a parkrun today”.
A while ago I learned on Facebook about a step counter application that you can download on your cell phone. With long-distance assistance from Peter Wilgenbus of Voortrekker Monument and Adele Enslin from Ruimsig parkruns in Gauteng I managed to install the app on my phone – I am really not a “techie”.
Last Saturday I arrived at parkrun with the step counter strapped to my arm in a Sport bag (bought at a shop that we used to call a R5 shop ages ago) with the slogan “we are running”. When I got into the car finally at 09.30 I could not wait to look at the app for the verdict – I did 4.978 km. Not exactly a full parkrun as yet. Obviously, I will have to approach a few more potential volunteers to make up the full distance. After that every one more person I recruit will result in a PB in terms of kilometres completed. What a wonderful incentive – every new PB is just a potential new volunteer away – and the tail walkers and other volunteers do not need to wait for me to finish my three hour “parkrun”.
Ita Janse van Rensburg
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