Who are the high-vis heroes? The most important people at parkrun! Every parkrun event is organised solely by volunteers – without them parkrun does not happen. It’s as simple as that. There are many different roles you can do – some on the day and some behind the scenes and there is no need to commit to coming every week. Anyone and everyone is welcome and it’s a brilliant way to have fun, make new friends and get some fresh air! If you volunteer enough times, you can also be rewarded with a parkrun volunteer milestone t-shirt!
Most events keep a volunteer roster so you can add your name in advance, but you can also turn up on the day and join in that way too. The roles are easy to do so there is no need for lots of training or previous experience and there will always be someone there to help if you would like.
Here is a brief run down of the different roles to give you an idea of what is involved. Firstly, the essential roles that must be filled for an event to go ahead safely:
Each event is managed by an event director who make sure that the event is delivered properly, who liaise with parkrun HQ and the landowners where the
event takes place.
The run director is responsible for safety at the event on the day and oversees proceedings during the event and at the finish line. They decide if the course or weather conditions are safe and if the event can go ahead – for example if there has been heavy snow or high winds. They are also responsible for delivering the pre-run briefing when everyone is welcomed to the event and any important messages about the course or event are given.
This volunteer creates a welcoming and friendly atmosphere for first-timers and visitors to the event. They will tell you about how parkrun works and give information about the course as well as answering any questions. This is my favourite role as it’s great to welcome people to the parkrun family and relieve any worries they might have.
Event Day Course Check:
This volunteer checks that the course is safe and clear of anything that might make it unsafe to participants and volunteers i.e. fallen branches. They report back to the run director who will then decide if it is safe for the event to go ahead.
The timekeeper uses the Virtual Volunteer app on their phone (You can borrow a parkrun phone at the event if you do not have one) to record the finish times of all participants at the event. There are usually two people doing this role so that there is a backup if technical problems mean any data is lost.
This volunteer hands out the position barcode tokens to all participants just after they have finished. At bigger events where there may be lots of people finishing closer together, they might be assisted by a Finish Token Support Volunteer.
The barcode scanner uses the Virtual Volunteer App to scan the participants personal barcode, followed by the position barcode on the finish token. This means that everyone who completes the course receives their result.
The Tail Walker stays at the back of the field and is last to go through the finish funnel, making sure that everyone is accounted for. In this role you will receive a volunteer and a run credit. This can be a really great supportive role with the opportunity for some interesting chats as you are going round the course!
The remaining volunteer roles are not always filled at every event or every week, but they contribute to the parkrun experience, its smooth running and accessibility:
Car Park Marshal:
The car park marshal ensures cars are parked in the designated areas and helps ensure the safety of pedestrians.
Equipment Storage and Delivery:
This volunteer stores the event equipment and makes sure it’s available for set up the following week.
Finish Token Support:
At busier events this role supports the finish token volunteer usually by preparing small batches of tokens and handing them to the Finish Token volunteer so that they can hand them out to finishers without having to juggle large amounts of tokens!
This volunteer cycles the course ahead of the first participant to let people know they are coming.
Marshals direct participants along the right course and make sure they are aware of any hazards as well as letting members of the public know about the event. They cheer and encourage everybody and are also the eyes and ears on the course, reporting any incidents back to the run director where necessary.
The number checker checks to see if the timer and finish token volunteers have the same number of finishers. If there are any discrepancies they record them to help with correcting any issues later.
Pacers will accompany a group of participants and try as best they can to help them complete the course in an agreed time.
This volunteer takes photos or videos for the events social media channels or parkrun communications. They are not for commercial purposes only to promote the event. If you wish to volunteer as a photographer you must let the run director know and wear a high-vis vest so that participants are aware they are being photographed. Participants, of course, have the right not to have images of them held or published.
Post Event Close Down:
This role is to help clear up and return any signs or markers to the storage place. It’s important to leave the park as we found it.
Pre Event Set Up:
The set up volunteers are the first people to arrive and they help the run director prepare for the event. This usually means putting markers or signs out to direct people around the course and setting up the start and finish areas.
The results processor uses the parkrun software to compile the results and volunteer information and submits it to parkrun HQ for processing.
Run Report Writer:
This is a role that can be done after the event and is a report of the event that is usually shared on the event website and sometimes social media channels. There is a huge variation in the length and tone of the report. Some events don’t publish one and some have a lot of fun with it!
Sign Language Support:
This volunteer signs the first timer brief and the pre event brief and provides support for deaf and hard of hearing participants.
Token sorters sort the finishing position tokens back into order for the next week. It’s a role that is done after the event – usually over a cuppa in the post parkrun café whilst the results are being processed.
VI guides will accompany a visually impaired participant at parkrun. Guides who complete the course will receive a run and volunteer credit. Parkrun do not directly provide trained or checked guides but UK athletics licensed guide runners can be found here: Guide Running for Visually Impaired Runners and you may be able to get advice and support from the Facebook forum:
The volunteer coordinator makes sure there are enough volunteers on the roster each week. This is a role that can be done without attending the event but often the coordinator will be there on the day to help organise the volunteers and make sure they know what to do. It’s also a good time to ask if anyone would like to volunteer in the upcoming weeks.
If you’re reading this and you would like to get involved in volunteering with the Coalition’s parkrun project then please contact Katy at Get More Active:
Phone or SMS text: 07434 865062
If you are keen to get started straight away you can contact your local parkrun event team via the information on their website. http://www.parkrun.org.uk/events