Saturday, 22 December 2012

parkrun Volunteering made simple....Numbers

The Numbers role at parkrun is fairly simple, but does require someone with a steady hand and who is calm under pressure.

The Numbers volunteer can spend the first 15 minutes or so at parkrun simply clapping and encouraging parkunners. The Numbers role really comes into effect when the first runners finish their parkrun and continues until the last person finishes.

The Numbers volunteer will be given all the finish position tokens and it is their role to stand at the end of the finish funnel and hand out the finish position tokens, one each to each and every finisher. This sounds a pretty simple task and it is really, so long as you don't panic and can handle the tokens quickly and effectively.
It will not normally be possible to ensure that the finish position tokens are in the correct order whilst they are being handed out, as there simply isn't time. The Numbers role has to rely on the fact that the tokens have already been placed in the correct order.

The Numbers role is not normally responsible for ensuring that runners remain in the correct finishing order. The Funnel Manager would normally do this. Perhaps only at the smallest of parkrun events, where volunteer numbers do not allow a Funnel Manager, the Numbers role may also be asked to keep an eye on runners changing order.

The basics of handing out the finish position tokens is that every finisher that has done the run under their own steam should get a finish position token. They don't have to have run, they may have walked or hopped and skipped. Children and babies in buggies do not get a finish position but wheelchair users obviously do. The most important aspect of this is that the Timekeeper and Numbers roles must both use the same criteria to decide who gets a time and a token. This will ensure that the finish times and positions stay in sync. The Number Checker will be making constant checks to ensure that if and when the two get out of sync it is spotted as early as possible. Neither the Timekeeper or the Numbers role should ever attempt to correct out of sync problems during the run. This will be resolved during results processing by the Results Administrator.

There are often runners who decide that they do not want to take a finish position token. This can be for any number of reasons, perhaps not having their athlete barcode or not wanting the time after a bad run and many more reasons besides. In such cases, rather than dwelling on the fact, the Numbers role should simply pocket the finish position token and carry on to the next person and token. By pocketing the finish position token, it has been kept safe and will not have put the results out of sync as the finisher will still effectively have been given a finish position. If the Numbers role sees or is told of a runner ducking out of the funnel (Funnel Duckers), then the same process of pocketing the relevant finish position token will help to keep positions in sync.

The trickier aspects of this job are:
- readying batches of finish position tokens whilst also handing out earlier tokens (larger events often have a Numbers Assisstant to prepare batches of tokens for the Numbers role).
- coping with the fiddly tokens on cold days. Unfortunately gloves are not normally the answer, as the tokens become tricky to manipulate when wearing gloves. In the winter you just have to grit your teeth and get on with it. Fingerless gloves could be worth a shot.
- coping with the volume of finishers at the peak finish times. I have heard that at the largest parkrun of all (Bushy Park), there is a 10 minute period where they have close to 1 finisher per second. I'm sure you can imagine that handing out 600 tokens in 10 minutes is no mean feat!). Most parkruns do not see anything like this quantity of finishers, nevertheless there are times where the Numbers role has to work flat-out for a short period of time.

The best thing about this role is that you get to be the first to congratulate every single runner immediately after their run.

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