News - 10th June 2019

June Volunteer Update


Welcome to this month’s volunteer update. Here is some of the key information for the coming period:


  1. Tail Walkers
  2. Updating Risk Assessments
  3. Messaging Guidelines
  4. First Time parkrunners
  5. The Virtual Volunteer App


1. Tail Walkers


The Tail Walker is one of the mandatory volunteer roles that every parkrun needs to fill every week. There are several reasons why the Tail Walker is such an important role:

  • They are the eyes & ears of the RD on the course – the Tail Walker would likely be the first volunteer on site if there is an incident during the event.
  • The Tail Walker ensures that no parkrunners are left out on the course before the timing systems are shut down.
  • Tail Walker informs marshals and other volunteers on the course when the last parkrunner has passed. It is NOT appropriate for volunteers to leave their posts or for events to start tearing down before the Tail Walker has passed each point.
  • It also means that no-one finishes last, unless they are supposed to do so. For people who are new to running or who are planning to walk, the presence of a Tail Walker may give them the confidence they need to try parkrun for the first time.

Given the role that the Tail Walker plays in ensuring the safety of everyone taking part in parkrun, it is not appropriate for junior parkrunners to act as Tail Walker by themselves. Tail Walking as a family, with an adult, is a great way for kids to get involved in volunteering, though!


Finally, please ensure that your Tail Walker has the information that they need to contact you. They should have phone numbers for the ED(s) & RD(s) and emergency services. The Tail Walker must always carry a cell phone. In addition, some events also have their Tail Walker carry a walkie-talkie and/or a whistle for calling attention.



2. Updating Risk Assessments


Each year event teams are required to review and assess if their risk assessment for the last year is up to date and current for the next. This is really important!


As an event continues throughout the year, the ED and event team often become aware of risks that weren’t apparent at the launch of the event, or at the start of the year. Construction that changes the park or surprise spring flooding are good examples.


So at the end of the year, please take some time out to consider anything you may have learned during the past year.


One hazard that has become more frequent is forest fires. These have been causing widespread disruptions. We recommend that all parkruns (both US and Canada) should address forest fires in their risk assessment if they are in an area where fires and smoke may cause an issue. There are fire forecasts for Canada and for the US. Of course, advice from local authorities should be followed, including stay home advisories or evacuation orders, when deciding whether or not to cancel a parkrun.



3. Messaging Guidelines


Local teams have a lot of flexibility in how to communicate about their event, but there are a few basic messaging guidelines that we ask all teams to follow.

  • The pesky ‘p’. It’s “parkrun,” not “Parkrun,” “Park Run,” or any other variant. You might find the quirky brand name charming, or infuriating, but as leaders of parkrun events we just go along with it. If starting a sentence with a lower-case ‘p’ brings back bad memories from first grade, then we suggest to simply find a way to start the sentence with another word. We feel your pain!
  • Inclusivity: no “race,” “winner,” “podium,” etc. You’ll sometimes hear people say that parkrun is “a run, not a race.” And you’ll notice that at parkrun we avoid the term “winner,” referring to “first finisher” instead. When writing about your event, please don’t give special focus to the first few finishers every week, and avoid terms like “podium.” It’s not that we dislike speedy folks. The point is that being fastest is not a priority at parkrun. Of course, “run not race” may be at odds with your efforts to include walkers. So feel free to use “run/walk” or simply “event” instead.
  • It’s not about you. When you communicate as your event, use “we,” “us,” etc. to convey that you are the voice of the event or the team … even if the team is primarily you. If your event writes as “I,” “me,” etc. it can give the impression that the event is all about the ED, or that the event belongs to the ED.

Please look out for these things in your event communications and please correct them in your own or your event’s social media posts, run reports, etc.



4. First Time parkrunners


Did you know that most people who have a parkrun barcode in the US & Canada have never completed a parkrun or done only one?


In the US & Canada, 60-65% of people who have signed up for a parkrun barcode have attended a parkrun, as a runner, walker, or volunteer.


At most North American parkrun events, only 40-50% of non-tourist first-timers have returned for a second visit.


For parkrun event teams, this means that it is valuable to think about how you communicate to first timers. Many events include a first-timers’ briefing and make special efforts to talk with first-timers individually. Some events tailor some of their electronic communications to people who may have signed up but remain apprehensive about taking part. Other events send out a welcome email through webFMS after someone attends their first parkrun.



5. The Virtual Volunteer App


Do any of these problems sound familiar: you forgot to clear the scanner, so you have double results, or your scanner won’t hold a charge anymore? Your stopwatch’s connection is wonky, so the cable won’t send data to the computer? You’re tired of hauling a huge computer and a box of cords and cables to and from parkrun every week? If you’re nodding along, then we have a solution for you: the Virtual Volunteer app!


The app was developed as a way to decrease the need for expensive equipment and streamline the launch of new parkruns, by using smartphone technology. We recommend that all parkrun core team members download the app and give it a try at your next parkrun.


There are major advantages to using the app. It is a great alternative to unreliable timers and scanners, makes it easy for extra volunteers to help out with scanning, is easier to use for people who have a hard time hearing the scanning beep, and saves significant time and money over replacing the old-school timers and scanners.


Our favorite advantage is that results processing is CORD FREE and can be done on any computer with an internet connection!! For more information and links to download the app and to the user guide, here’s an article from parkrun HQ.


Here are a few tips for helping you use the app:


1. Keep your phone warm when it’s cold. Hand warmers are great for this!


2. Bring a portable power pack.


3. Stay out of the rain. The apps tend to be particularly sensitive to raindrops, so stay out of the rain as much as possible.




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