Every parkrun event you ever go to, whether in the UK or around the world, is completely run by volunteers. That’s a huge commitment by a dedicated group of people to ensure others in their community have a weekly event to keep them fit and get them out in the fresh air and meeting people.
Each event is run by a core team of volunteers. This may be a group of people who already know each other, or they may have been brought together by parkrun’s event support team and volunteer ambassadors. People can either choose to set up an event themselves or parkrun will target areas in need of an event and find people locally to make it happen. You can read more about the process on the parkrun blog.
The core team is supported by other volunteers every week. There are a huge number of volunteer roles – from time keepers and barcode scanners to marshals on the course and a tail walker. There are people needed to set the course up, people to sort the finish tokens out, people to manage the finish tunnel and people to brief the first timers.
Parkrunners are roughly split into four types of people:
- Those who volunteer every week and never run
- Those who run every week and never volunteer
- Those who run every week apart from volunteering a couple of times a year
- Those who run a lot, but also volunteer five, 10 or 15 times a year
I’ll be honest, I fall into the ‘volunteer a couple of times a year’ category. There’s a part of me that feels guilty for not volunteering a bit more. But at our parkrun they say that if everyone volunteered twice a year, they would always fill the roster. So I’m doing my bit! (None of the many members of my family who also do parkrun have EVER volunteered.)
A lot of parkrunners volunteer the day before a big race. So at our parkrun, on the day before Cheltenham half marathon and Stroud half marathon they will have volunteers coming out of their ears. There will be two marshals at every marshal point, rather than one.
This year, I’m already ahead of the game, as I’ve volunteered three times – once as marshal and twice as tail walker. Both marshals and the tail walker are eyes and ears out on the course, looking out for any safety incidents. They have a radio, so can call for help if needed and also have a map with postcodes for easy access for an ambulance. Apart from that, marshals cheer and encourage the runners, until the last runner has passed them.
Many people are put off the idea of going to parkrun for fear of finishing last. But, as any parkrunner will tell you, nobody ever finishes last! Because every parkrun has a volunteer tail walker, whose job it is to walk at the back. They can either chat to the person at the back, if they want the company, or walk just behind them.
The good thing about being tail walker is that you get a credit for both running and volunteering. Every time you either run or volunteer, it goes on your parkrun profile. I have run over 170 times, earning myself a 50 Tshirt and a 100 Tshirt along the way. I have volunteered nine times in total and am working towards my 25 volunteer Tshirt, although I suspect I will get my 250 runs Tshirt first.
My favourite job is barcode scanner. Everyone is given a finish token as they cross the line and nearly everyone will have their own personal barcode with them on the run. (You can run without your barcode, but you don’t get a recorded time and the run isn’t recorded on your profile.) Barcode scanners simply scan the runner’s barcode and finish token, to record their time.
If you don’t think running parkrun is for you, why not get in touch with your local parkrun to see if you can volunteer? It’s a great way of meeting people and getting out in the fresh air on a Saturday morning and volunteers are always appreciated at parkrun. You can find details on the parkrun website.