Saturday, 24 November 2012

My first time as a parkrun Run Director...part 1

Today was my first time as a parkrun Run Director, so I thought I should let you know what was involved and how it went. Just in case this can tempt one or two of you into having a go sometime. It's really not that hard, I promise.

I have been running at parkrun for 2 and a half years, since starting in April 2010. When I originally started running at parkrun I had no idea how it worked. I really didn't know anything about the people that organised the events or that marshaled each week. In those days, I am ashamed to say, I was of the opinion that it was their job to marshal and mine to run. To be fair though, I wasn't even aware of the parkrun volunteer ethos at that stage and I'm certainly not like that now.

However, even after finding out about volunteering, I do recall once saying to my brother that I would always run and I would never volunteer to marshal. Shameful I know. But I am more happy to say that I didn't maintain that stance for too long. According to the email I received today, I have officially volunteered on 12 occasions in 15 roles. Not a massive amount, but my fair share I'd say.

Back in those early days, had you told me that I would one day be the Run Director of a parkrun event I would have laughed at you. Not a chance! No way! Why would I want to? And why would anyone else want me to? I was not even a runner at that stage. I wasn't part of a running club and I had no real experience of running in events, let alone organising them.

Two and a half years later and I was surprisingly happy to take on the Run Director role for the day. I have actually been looking forward to doing this since being asked a couple of weeks ago. 

Before the day....

Well thanks to the recent heavy downpours, the role actually started a day early. Yesterday lunchtime, thanks to working from home, I was able to head up to the park. I was actually heading there for lunch in the cafe, but on the way we came across the first obstacle of concern. Where there is normally a 4 metre wide path, there was instead a 6 metre wide and 30 metres long puddle. More of a lake than a puddle if the truth be told. Thankfully, the rest of the course was fine.

A quick Facebook exchange with my brother (co-Run Director for the day) and the Event Director and we had a backup route planned, fully expecting it to be required.

So to the parkrun today....

The Run Director role started at 7:45am this morning as my brother and I headed to the park for the course inspection. Thankfully and miraculously the puddle/lake had gone and all that remained was a slippery, muddy, leafy residue. Not enough to re-route the course and a safety announcement before the run would suffice. The rest of the course was slippery but clear of obstacles.

Next was a bit of set-up. Nothing too taxing or strenuous. We set-up a couple of tables, put out a the start sign and finish funnel and marked the start and finish lines with spray paint.

Volunteers started turning up and were ticked off on the volunteer roster and reminded of their roles. The marshals were told where they would be stationed and asked to put out signs where appropriate. Particular attention was paid to 2 marshals to be located near to the now very slippery area where the puddle/lake had been. I suppose this is the one real serious part of the Run Director role. It is very important that the safety of the runners is taken seriously. Making sure that marshals happy to be vocal were located near to this potential danger spot was important. A few of the volunteers for the finish area tasks were asked to stand in front of park signs and benches to make sure no one ran into them at the start.

Runners were arriving in droves by this point. There were a few questions to be answered for first timers. Nothing that any parkrun regular would have any trouble to answer though.

Next up was preparing the timer. The simple instructions were followed to the letter and 30 seconds later the timer was ready to go.

And so we reached 9am. It was time for the start, but before that it was up to me to give the pre-run briefing for the first time. I had spent a few minutes yesterday working out what I would say, so that wasn't a problem. Getting the 350 runners to be quiet was going to be the tricky part. I welcomed everyone, made it very clear that I needed everyone's attention for a safety announcement and told everyone about the slippery part of the course (twice). There was then the usual course route, finish funnel, finish token announcements. The recent arrival of a batch of club T-shirts got a quick mention and then I wished everyone a good run, checked that my brother was ready to start the timer, before sending the runners on their way with a quick "ready and GO!".

A quick check that the timer was running, watch the runners head off into the distance, tell a couple of late-comer first-timers what they had to do and then relax....And that was it for the next 15 minutes. So far so good. Now don't mess up the timekeeping!

I'll follow this up with part 2 a bit later.


  1. I still have my barcodes in my bag...untouched as yet! I have promised myself I will try one run before Christmas! Well done for today. I'd have been a wreck! x

  2. Thanks Katrina. It was fun.

    You must. You'll love it and you win't regret it.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. No tannoy used, but after asking those at the back they said they heard me. They may have been telling me what I wanted to hear though.

      We have a specific role for first-timers briefing at Coventry parkrun, so someone else did that.


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