One morning at Greenwich parkrun, somebody mentioned that there was a test run for a new parkrun in Danson Park in Bexley. Greenwich is already a well-established event so I thought it would be interesting to see how a new parkrun gets off the ground.
At the test event I helped out with laying out the course signage and did some marshalling, directing and cheering on the runners. A couple of days later Mel, the Event Director, sent out the volunteers rota for the next 6 weeks. I was a little bit pleased but mostly stunned to see my name as Run Director for two dates. I had hoped there would be opportunities to get more involved but after a short parkrun career of running six times and volunteering twice, I did not feel especially well-qualified. I wrote back to Mel and said I was up for the challenge but wondered if the invitation was intended for a more deserving Paul. And so it was – Paul Dallison was the real choice for Run Director.
But the seed was planted and when a couple of months later the line ‘If anyone is interested in training as Run Director, let us know’ was added to the weekly volunteers email I replied right away. Three weeks later and I was scheduled in to observe one week and then do it the next. Fittingly my mentor was none other than Paul Dallison.
The observation day went off fine. Although this was only event 11 for Bexley there were already some experienced volunteers so the course setup was done very smoothly. The main things for me to learn were setting up the timer and bar code readers, doing the pre-run briefing and then uploading the results using the parkrun laptop.
My big day was 21 April, the day before the London marathon. Around 8.20am as we were just beginning setup a tall thin guy in black running kit came up to me and introduced himself as Danny. He’d come and talk to me after his warm-up he said. As I continued with setting out the funnel it occurred to me that this had to be none other than Danny Norman, host of the parkrun show podcast. I knew that he attended a different parkrun every week, and just my luck he had chosen my first time as Run Director to come to Bexley. He was very laid back and his only request was for a mention for the SPARKLE survey on the influence of parkrun on lifestyle and exercise. So at the start of the run I gave him the now traditional big introduction as parkrun royalty, spin doctor and social media guru, and completely forgot to mention the survey. Hopefully I covered up my omission by explaining it was a strategic decision to tell people about it at registration and as they were chatting after the run!
My next mistake as Run Director came as we were packing things away. Six bar codes had not scanned so the registration volunteer had written the names down carefully on the pad provided. This was then locked away with all the other gear. As Paul Dallison and I were walking to the Stables restaurant to grab a coffee and upload the results I remembered this. We shrugged and agreed that this was a parkrun and people would be patient. Paul gave me a guided tour of the laptop, we uploaded the results and that was job done.
Later that afternoon I was out meeting an old friend from university who was running in the marathon and I picked up a mail from Mel saying that there were a number of queries about the results. Later I saw that one of the runners had written to parkrun CEO Paul Sinton-Hewitt to explain his disappointment at not seeing his result. After my stint volunteering with Oxfam at the marathon I took a trip over to the lockup at Danson Park to collect that important bit of paper, and quickly amended the results.
So now I am part of the Bexley team of Run Directors and will take a turn every month. If you get chance to do it for your parkrun, I’d recommend it – especially if you have already tried a few of the other volunteer roles.