Sunday 26 August 2018

parkrun volunteering tips

I've taken on most of the volunteering roles at parkrun multiple times, so here are some tips based on what I've picked up over the years.

Please note, these are only my tips. There are official parkrun web pages that explain the exact roles in detail. Plus each event will have local variations that will need to be taken into account.


Run Director:
  • Be prepared.
  • Prepare some notes to refer to during the briefing.
  • Delegate as much as possible to ensure you are free to deal with bits and pieces that pop up on the morning.
  • If you have the electronic bits and pieces, make sure the data is cleared from the previous week and they have sufficient charge in the batteries.

Volunteer coordinator: 
  • A core team member role which is likely to be ongoing or repeated due to the nature of the role.
  • I've never been totally responsible for this role, but of course you'll need to be good at planning ahead and ensure the roles are sufficiently covered in time for the event.
  • You may need to become a master of persuasion

Equipment storage and delivery:
  • Don't be late with the kit on the morning of the event.
  • If you have the electronic bits and pieces, make sure the data is cleared from the previous week and they have sufficient charge in the batteries.

Pre-event setup:
  • This tends to be a role that specific people seem to repeat, so team up with someone that knows exactly where everything goes while you learn the ropes.
  • There might be signs that go in places participants don't see, so don't just assume you know where they all go.

First timer's briefing:
  • Prepare beforehand
  • Be familiar with the process at the finish funnel and explain it clearly
  • Have a copy of a barcode, a directional arrow and a finish token to give visual representations of what you're explaining.

Warmup leader (junior events):
  • Follow the pre-set formula, OR mix it up a little 
  • Don't be afraid to make a fool of yourself (the kids will love it)
  • Have fun and smile
Related blogs: Lesnes Abbey junior parkrun 14

Lead bike:
  • I have never done this, but you'll need to know the course in advance and you'll need to be fit enough to ensure you can stay in front of the lead runner. Bear in mind that the lead runner could, in theory, be running at a sub-14 minute 5k pace. That's under 3 minutes per kilometre.

  • Pick a pacing time that is well within your abilities.
  • Know the mile/kilometre markers of the course, and know when you are due to reach each one.
  • Use your Garmin as a guide but also use the kilometre/mile markers to check your progress.
  • Know the course - some courses could be slightly long or short, or be hilly, which could make a difference to the way you pace your pacees. Pacing can quite often be an art. 
  • Stick to the plan even if it feels like nobody else is with you - somebody could be way behind, but keeping you in sight as an indicator of how their doing.

VI guide:
  • I've never been a VI guide, but I expect if you are doing this you would have had some training beforehand and will know more than I do anyway.

  • Remember you are there to perform a function, not to just look pretty and cheer.
  • Direct all participants even if they appear to know the course.
  • Look out for other park users and give them a heads up that a large number of people may be heading their way - be mindful of the wording used. 

  • Launched in October 2022. The role comes with its own light blue volunteer bib.
  • The role is essentially to walk parkrun.
  • This may involve accompanying and/or chatting to other walkers.
  • Even if there are no other walkers or if you find yourself not alongside any, the presence of parkwalkers on the course may still help to break down barriers to others that want to take part.

Tail Walker:
  • Stay right at the back - so many times I have seen an event start and the tail walker isn't behind the last person. Keep an eye out for late starters during the first few minutes.
  • Carry a mobile phone
  • Don't feel obliged to stay right with the last person and make conversation - they may not want to.
  • Remember that this role will take as long as required, so only take it on if you know you don't have to rush off at a certain time.
  • Know the course well, and know the positions of the marshals in case of emergency.
  • Be cautious of taking on the tailwalker role at an unfamiliar venue just to get a volunteer credit.

  • Find a good spot / wander around to get some variation - whatever works for you
  • Don't upload unflattering photos
  • Don't stress too much if most of your photos come out blurry (I've been there!)

  • I find that when two people are timing, it is easy to hear the other timer's beeps as they click participants in, which can be mistaken for your own. This has largely been fixed with the addition of the parkrun app - I make sure my phone vibrates for every finisher I click in and all is good.
  • I hold my stopwatch close to my ear to ensure I clearly hear my own beeps - I've never made an error using this method. Again, the app seems to have fixed this issue providing it vibrates every time you register a finisher.
  • Keep an eye on the incoming participants so you don't get caught out by a large pack all arriving together.
  • Avoid being drawn into conversations which could distract you from the role
  • Remember that the tailwalkers are also participants who are included on the results. You need to click them in too!

Funnel Manager:
  • Stay on your toes during the peak finishing period.
  • A lot of people are not thinking straight when they cross the line and may need some gentle coaxing to stay in order and take a finish token.
  • Remind people to stay in order and to keep moving along the funnel
  • Keep an eye out for people trying to talk to the timers

Finish tokens:
  • Be prepared.
  • Keep an eye on how many people are approaching the finish and ensure you have a good flow of tokens.
  • Keep an eye out for tokens that have stuck together in the stack (usually with sweat from the previous week)
  • Be familiar with the procedures should you drop tokens etc..
  • Try to avoid being drawn into conversations

Finish tokens assistant:
  • Be prepared.
  • Keep the finish tokens flowing to the Finish Tokens volunteer
  • Try to avoid being drawn into conversations

Token Sorter:
  • A post-event role, which should be nice and relaxing. Simply sort the finish tokens back into the correct order ready for the next event.

Number checker:
  • Record discrepancies occurring between the timers and tokens.
  • Some events take down random rinisher's finish positions and times to assist with correcting discrepancies 

Barcode Scanner:
  • Keep a good distance between barcode scanners as the beeps from the other(s) can be confused with your own.
  • On sunny days, turn your body in order to keep the barcodes in the shade.
  • The old barcode scanners are now a thing of the past and all scanning is done via the mobile app.
Related blogs: Riddlesdown parkrun 60 /

Post-run clear down:
  • Make sure you only clear away signs once the tail walker has passed them for the last time.

Results processor:
  • Liaise with timers, finish tokens and scanners and make sure any issues have been noted. This will make the job easier.

Communications person:
  • Post social media updates regularly and keep posts relevant
  • Remember you are posting under the official event name, so keep it professional at all times
  • If posting to inform that results or news articles are ready, make sure to add a link.
  • When linking to the results, use the exact link to that week's results page (ie don't just link to the latest results page). Do the same for the news page. 

Event report writer:
  • A bit of everything (stats/facts/stories) seems to work well.
  • People love being mentioned, so namedrop as often as you can. 
  • Cover significant stories throughout the field (first-timers, milestones, pbs, age category records, tourists etc..)
  • Don't forget to mention the volunteers

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