Sunday 5 July 2015

Dartford parkrun 48 - runnin' the show (run director)

At 8.30pm on the Friday evening before Dartford parkrun forty-eight, I didn't have a volunteer role to keep me occupied the following morning. The scheduled run director was Richey, but as I'm injured and can't run, I thought I should offer to take the slot off of him and give him the opportunity to run.

This was to be my first ever time in the role of run director and I wasn't particularly nervous or apprehensive. I think this is because I was surrounded by an amazingly supportive team of friends and volunteers. I met Adam at 7am in the playground for our weekly bodyweight workout before getting the course set up.

briefing notes, take two [photo:7t]

If anything had me feeling a little nervous it was the thought of giving a pre-run briefing to almost 200 people, so the night before I had made a few notes. By the time I had looked at the notes on Saturday morning I discovered that Matilda had made a few notes of her own over the top and it was unreadable.

So I sat down for five minutes and made some more notes that I could refer to during the speech. Once I was satisfied that I had covered all of the relevant areas, I joined the rest of the volunteers at the registration desk where I was prompted by Tessa to give the volunteers a little briefing.

volunteers preparing for action [photo: dani]

She then reminded me that I should do a 'first timers' briefing. So I headed off into the crowd calling for all first timers to gather around. However, I had completely forgotten about this briefing and hadn't made any notes. I did my best to relay the few bits of information a first timer might need and gave the assembled crowd some opportunities to ask questions if I hadn't covered anything they needed an answer to. It seemed to go pretty well.

Then came the moment that I imagine puts most people off of being a run director - the briefing. I decided that I could do with a bit of vertical assistance so I grabbed the teenie tiny step ladder from our storage box and placed it on the start line. A few minutes earlier, Tessa, had handed me a whistle - so I blew it a few times and called for the runners to gather around. I started talking and amazingly, after a few shhh's from within the crowd, the runners fell silent for the entire duration of the briefing.

me and the parkrunners [photo: becca durey]

I despatched the runners a minute or so later and I felt some relief that my public speaking duties for the day were over. Now... from this point most events run pretty smoothly and the run director is essentially an extra body. But with this being my debut, there had to be some interesting things to deal with...

To cut two quite long stories short, there was a family that wanted to walk the course (which is fine), but they started six minutes after everyone else and were still in view of the start-finish area about fifteen minutes after the start. I managed to advise the tail runner that the runner he was tailing was no longer the last person out there. In the end they made the decision to pull out and I got a message to the tail runner via one of the marshals. Sorted.

briefing [photo: dani]

Then we had a couple of runners cross the finish line near the front of the pack that had in no way, shape or form completed anywhere near the full course (in fact, they had probably cut it about 2 kilometres short). They hadn't registered beforehand and were in the process of walking away with our finish tokens, but some quick thinking volunteers managed to retrieve them just in time.

It then became apparent that the stopwatches were out of sync with the finish tokens. Nothing we could do about it at that stage other than to make a note of it, so the timers and finishing tokens continued their jobs as usual. Then a member of the public decided to run into the finish funnel with his daughter for fun, which the timers and tokens spotted just in time and fortunately did not register them.

post-run volunteer notes [photo: dani]

Things started to calm down a little after these moments of excitement. Once all of the runners were in, I stayed outside to ensure all of the kit had been retrieved while Tessa and the finish funnel crew headed inside to get started on the results and sort the tokens (we lost token 117). By the time I made it inside, the results were pretty much sorted. All that was left to do was finalise the volunteer roster and upload the whole lot to parkrun HQ.

So my first experience of being a run director was quite exciting and presented a couple of issues to deal with, which I think as a team we did really well. The only way I could possibly finish this post is by thanking all of the volunteers - after all, it was them that made the event possible. An extra special thanks to the finish funnel team for staying calm under pressure and of course to the amazing Tessa whose presence and guidance were invaluable.

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