Accompanied by guide dog Poppy, Neil Skene took on the Run Director role at Ury Riverside parkrun in the UK.
Inspired by the paralympics, Neil wanted to showcase people with disabilities, and the inclusive nature of parkrun provided the perfect opportunity for him to do just that.
After participating in all previous twenty-two events, my 23rd was to be one to remember and one of my best yet, not because I smashed a PB, but for the first time I was Run Director.
Spurred on by the successes of blind friends over 5000 miles away in Tokyo, Neil and Laura Fachie, and Steve Bate.
I thought if they can so ably showcase people with disabilities capabilities, then surely I can play my small part locally. parkrun events pride themselves on being inclusive to all and the Run Director role is one that lends itself to this perfectly!
I do, like most people with a disability, and, in fact most people in general, need some support. In my case it is mainly through guiding whether it is with my guide dog or by means of a human arm and I would not have managed to do the Run Director role without a great band of very supportive volunteers which are present at Ury Riverside parkrun every Saturday and in particular the Event Co-Director who oversees it all Paul Douglas.
The Run Director acts as a coordinator on the day checking all volunteers know their roles and ensuring the course is safe, this latter part I did with the aid of my guide dog Poppy much to the relief of my normal guide runners who were delighted to delegate this task to her as we left the house at 7am to walk to Ury Riverside before walking the 5k route and thankfully it was clear, not even a juicy bone or anything of interest to Poppy could be found!
By 8.45am Paul turned up with all the parkrun equipment and by 9am all the volunteers were on site, and everything was coming together nicely.
As someone who normally runs, it was very interesting to see how efficiently all the jobs get done by the volunteers all with a cheery swagger and I imagine smiles upon their faces. As soon as the event is over and everything is neatly packed away and even all the volunteer tabards correctly folded and checked to ensure that all the Velcro fastenings are lined up, it’s off to the Garden Centre for the most important part of the morning; coffee followed by the processing of the results which as a participant I know is eagerly anticipated by the 125 parkrunners.
On Saturday thankfully they did not have to wait too long, the texts and emails were all out by 11am and a lovely warm feeling of satisfaction mixed with a dash of relief sweeps over the team tasked with getting these out!
Our great sports people in Tokyo may get rewarded with medals, but the sense of achievement is the same whatever goal you reach and by being able to act as Run Director was a personal goal of mine so for me it was like striking gold!
If you have not experienced parkrun, I’d heartily encourage you to come along on a Saturday morning. You will be made very welcome and can rest assured you have a great team of volunteers to assist you and to ensure you have an enjoyable experience and if nothing else it’s a fine excuse to drink coffee! If the activity part is just not for you, then try volunteering, honestly I got as much of a buzz from this as I have when walking, jogging or running. The fact that you are helping others reach their own goals and the comradeship is well worth getting out of bed for!
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