What is the one thing all Run Directors wish every parkrunner knew? Could it be “No printed barcode, no time?” Maybe, as that’s pretty important. Perhaps it’s that parkrun isn’t a race? Another good guess. Or what about the fact that yes, the event takes place EVERY week? That’s probably in the top 5, but it’s not #1.
Enough with the suspense. The answer? That mistakes can be fixed.
As every parkrun event is coordinated and implemented by volunteers, RD’s are always looking for new volunteers to grow the pool of helpers. That way, the same volunteers you see weekend after weekend in high-viz vests have a chance to run or walk and take days off, too. For most events, if each parkrunner volunteered one time for every 10 times they participated, the volunteer roster would fill quickly each week!
We’ve shared many stories that showcase how volunteering is fun and rewarding, and we encourage you to ask any of the volunteers at your event about their experience. We’re confident they’ll corroborate our claims.
Also, most roles are pretty simple, with informal training about a half hour before the event starts. Some events even have written instruction cards as a part of their parkrun kits for volunteers to reference on the job, providing a little added boost of confidence.
However, if you’ve considered volunteering but are anxious about the responsibility, you’re not alone. We know that some parkrunners are afraid of making a mistake that could “mess up” the results.
We’re talking about an extra click on the stopwatch (or app,) scanning someone’s finish token before their personal barcode or dropping 100 finish tokens on the ground as the first finisher comes into view. Yes, those are all things that could happen during parkrun.
Apart from being a Run Director, which takes a bit more training and has leadership responsibility for the event on that occasion, most people are wary of the timekeeping role. Whether your event uses stopwatches or the parkrun Virtual Volunteer app, some view timekeeping as a daunting role.
What if I click the wrong button? What if I click too many times? What if I miss a click?
Not to worry!
As long as the volunteer crew keeps the RD informed of any quirks in real time, they can be jotted down on the clipboard and addressed during results processing.
The results system allows a Run Director to modify results to remedy most situations you can think of. Someone crossed the finish line twice and there’s an extra result? Delete that line. The click on the stopwatch for finisher #44 was 10 seconds late? Edit the time. Someone finished, the timer clicked them at the finish line but they didn’t get a finisher token? Insert one athlete and all finishers after them get correctly re-assigned to their proper times.
Some events have even corrected results by referencing time-stamped photos taken at the finish line or doing a quick check on a regular participant’s public, app-based fitness tracking log.
Worst-case scenario? Everyone gets a time of 59:59 for that week. Sure, some people may be sad not to see their actual time that week, but hey, they can come again next Saturday or any Saturday to record another time. It’s a FREE event put on by VOLUNTEERS and most people are very understanding. parkrunners are generally pretty great people. Event Directors and Run Directors won’t lose sleep over it, and neither should other volunteers.
Every event has experienced one or more of the scenarios mentioned. No volunteers were “fired”. The world did not end. In fact, parkruns and volunteer teams are stronger because of the mistakes they’ve managed as a team. Heck, sometimes it can even be a fun challenge to solve a parkrun results mystery.
Hm, it seems the old life philosophy of taking risks and learning from mistakes comes into play here quite nicely. Of course with parkrun, the risks are low and the rewards are high, so we hope you’ll step up if you haven’t yet or try a role you’ve been apprehensive about until now.
Your RD has your back, and there aren’t any logistical mistakes that can’t be remedied. We promise.
Amy Van Wyk was born with a congenital heart condition, requiring surgery in her childhood and twenties. In September 2018 she was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer, aged 36. Here she tells us how she’s adapted to living with a heart condition and cancer, and how keeping active with weekly parkruns has been a great coping…
Cleveland, Ohio is home to the Ohio & Erie Canal Reservation (OECR) parkrun and the prestigious Case Western Reserve University. A group of PhD students from the university have made parkrun their Saturday morning routine! The students all hail from MD, China, NJ and MA and are studying in the departments of Genetics…