Wednesday, 5 December 2012

parkrun Volunteering made simple...the Timekeeper

Being the Timekeeper at parkrun sounds ominous doesn't it. It's that role at parkrun that everyone seems to fear. But why?

I suppose there is a bit of pressure in this role. If everything were to go completely wrong then all the parkrunners could end up without a time. But, even then, looking on the bright side, they will still have had their parkrun, they will know their finish position and they will have had another parkrun finish to add towards their 10, 50, 100 or 250 club t-shirts.

But that really is the wrong way to look at the Timekeeper role. It is very rare for a Timekeeper to get things so wrong that no times are recorded. Minor mistakes such as too many or too few times being recorded are relatively simple to resolve at the time of processing the results.

So what does the Timekeeper role actually involve?

The Timekeeper carries out this role using the Timing device. I believe that there are more than one type of timing device in use at parkrun so the specifics may be a little different for each type. There is a little bit of set-up for the timing device, which the Run Director will always be able to help with. There are also good instructions available and these would be made availablle to the Timekeeper ahead of the run. There is normally plenty of time to digest and understand these instructions before the run.

With the timing device set up and ready to go, the Timekeeper will stand near the Run Director at the start line. The Run Director will ensure that the Timekeeper is ready before the "Ready...Go", or whatever method is used for starting the parkrun. At this point the Timekeeper will press the button on the Timing device to signify the start of the run.

The Timekeeper can then take around 15 minutes or so off, whilst waiting for the approach of the first finisher. Seriously though, the Timekeeper only needs to act a minute or so prior to the first finisher. At that time, the Timekeeper will plug the remote button (where available) into the timing device. This can be done earlier, but leaving it until a minute or two before the first finisher ensures less chance of an accidental button press or two. It is possible to use a button on the timing device, but the remote button is just a little easier to use.

The Timekeeper should then position themselves in line with the finish line ready for the runners to finish.
As each parkrunner crosses the line, the Timekeeper must then press the button to signify a finisher and enable the timing device to record a finish time. Each time is automatically associated with the corresponding finish position such that by the end of the run the timing device will have stored the finish time for each finish position.

When the earliest and latest runners are finishing, and at the smaller parkrun events, the Timekeeper has plenty of time to carry out this role accurately. However, at the busiest of parkrun events and at the most popular finish times, this task can be quite taxing. Some Timekeepers will look down and count pairs of feet, whilst others will look up and count heads. Do whatever works for you. The aim is to get one press per human finisher finishing under their own steam. Babies in buggies are not normally given their own time or finish position, but this could be different at each parkrun event. As long as the Timekeeper and the Numbers roles (giving out finish position tokens) stick to the same rules about who gets a time and finish position then it should all work out.

It is important to remember that the Number Checker and Funnel Management roles are in place specifically to notice when and where mistakes occur and this will usually allow these to be easily resolved when the results are processed. The Timekeeper just needs to concentrate on their own role and not worry about mistakes or trying to rectify them as this may cause trickier problems to resolve.

All in all the Timekeeper job is good fun, there is a little bit of pressure, but it is very rare for mistakes to be made that cannot be rectified pretty simply. So there is nothing to worry about. Put your name forward and give Timekeeping a go. If I can do it, then so can you!


  1. Nice one. An important job but not impossible. I was chuffed when a timekeeper at Conkers recorded 2 clicks in the same second for my daughter and I recording our 'all time, anywhere' pb. She took the bragging rights but I recorded the same time - honour in defeat. My turn came at Graves a few weeks ago. So many people run together finish together in a non-competative way (not me!)and want the same time, so I tried to reflect that with the fastest trigger finger since Billy the Kid. . . and I did it - 50% of the time.

  2. Tempted fate and fate legged me up = Graves - Event 34, . . . . I don't want to talk about it. Doing the report was bad enough. Then there was the comment on 'facebook'.


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