I’ve been a Parkrun Run Director twice and enjoyed it immensely both times.
To anyone who knows Parkrun, you’d think that only experienced volunteers or people heavily involved week to week in the organisation would or could do this role. This is not true. I volunteered at the Wimbledon Common Parkrun, and subscribe to the volunteer emails and it’s a common occurrence that the Run Director slots are not filled. There’s the possible threat that without a director, the event will not take place. I’ve been to other Parkruns where the Run Director is very often the same person every week.
What does the role involve?
The real role spec of Run Director is –
“The Run Director has overall responsibility for event safety and oversees proceedings during the event and at the finish line. They must be near the start and/or finish area at all times. The Run Director has the ultimate authority to decide whether the event should be cancelled or postponed or if an adjustment to the course is required”.
“The Run Director also welcomes all parkrunners to the event via the pre-event brief and communicates all important messages before the event start, recognises the contributions of the volunteers, acknowledge visitors, first-timers and ensures everyone understands the event and stays safe for the duration”.
Addressing the first point – You will have a very good idea of whether the run is going to go ahead. It takes a particularly extreme event for it not to go ahead.
At Wimbledon Common, there’s a very dedicated group (Kylie, Sophie and Jo) who are the real people in charge and organise everyone into their roles. Many volunteers are regulars and just grab a bib and get on with it.
Whats does the role really involve?
The truth is that the main role of a Run Director is to stand on a bench or a box and give the briefing.
I spoke to several people about why they don’t do the Run Director role and they all said they are too nervous about standing up and doing the briefing.
There is a commonly quoted quote that people fear public speaking more than they fear death. Wheter this is right or wrong is hard to tell. If true as Jerry Seinfeld said – “This means to the average person, if you go to a funeral, you’re better off in the casket than doing the eulogy.”
If you want to addess this fear, doing a parkrun briefing is a welcoming place to start.
The briefing covers
- Housekeeping – stay on the paths etc.
- Special announcements
- Welcome first timers and tourists
- Course notes
- Scanning – where the scanners are, don’t take the tokens home!
- Reminders (Rules) – under 11s, Dogs on leads, mindful of others on the Common
The organising team emailed me the special announcements and milestones a few days before, so again this was taken care of for me.
My advice to anyone who is thinking of doing the role – Talk loud and slowly and keep it brief. Whilst shout-outs are great, everyone really just wants to go for a run.
The final part of the role is to answer questions and help people out.
Some of the things I helped out with –
- a lady wanted a plaster to cover a fresh tattoo (that was available from the First Aid Kit)
- helped with the funnel management
- noted a man’s position and personal barcode number as his position barcode would not scan
- asked where the Parkrun Wimbledon sign is (for photos – there’s not one and you should take a shot in front of the windmill)
- take the photo of the lady in front of the windmill
All fairly simple stuff!
Should you volunteer?
Whilst I did take a pass on either my normal training or actually doing the run to volunteer (there are plenty of roles where you still run) there’s a huge pleasure in volunteering at parkrun, particularly as Run Director. Being able to see all those faces at the finish is enlightening – excitement, pain, happiness, frustration, exhaustion, exhilaration. There are lots of hellos and many many thank yous that make you feel good that you’ve been partly responsible for people coming out and being able to do parkrun.
If volunteering has even fleetingly crossed your mind, I’d thoroughly recommend doing it. You still get registered that you have taken part, so those worried about streaks or missing out on running should not worry. As I mentioned, there are plenty of volunteer roles where you still run. So sign up to your local parkrun’s volunteer email through your parkrun profile and go and start your weekend by doing something excellent.