Following the success of my first parkrun, I knew was hooked. Saturday morning parkruns were to become a regular fixture in both my life and my training plan.
My body however had other plans. Later that week I was struck down with plantar fasciitis, caused by incredibly tight calves, caused by all those hills I had been chugging up in search of cardio gains and a peachy bum. Dammit.
And that is how I came to volunteer at parkrun. For anyone who doesn’t know (I’ve become aware that they aren’t so common stateside), parkrun is an initiative that organizes free timed 5k runs every morning in local parks across the UK and, now, across the world.
I got in touch with my local park run organizers and they hooked me up with a marshal role. I’d asked for something without too much responsibility, since I knew the prospect of taking times at the finish line would give me sleepless nights.
As I walked to the park on Saturday morning I was overcome with a case of first day at school nerves. Will they like me? Will I be embraced into the warm bosom of the parkrun family? And most importantly (cringe), would I look enough like a proper runner to them?
Obviously everyone was lovely and I was stationed on one of the more sociable points of the course, where there were likely to be other volunteers stopping by for a chat. I started off nervously clapping and saying a few nice things whenever a runner passed me. But by the third lap I was whooping and cheering at complete strangers, who understandably gave me red faced looks of fear mixed with gratitude.
I became more and more vocal as the run went on; I even hurt my hands and biceps from repetitive and enthusiastic clapping. After the finish a few people came over to comment on my volume and enthusiasm, which I conveniently decided to take as a compliment. A particularly well-loved parkrunner was celebrating this 100th anniversary and consequently there was a variety of homemade cakes at the finish. Then we headed to the Hilly Fields cafe for some well-deserved breakfast.
I ordered my coffee and stood nervously trying to figure out where to sit. Everyone had seen me as they passed, but I suddenly felt a bit lost like a kid in the school canteen. Luckily I spotted some runners who had been very enthusiastic, thanking me for my time and cheering me as they passed my little marshaling spot. I sat with them and joined in the heated discussion about costume theme for a half marathon they were running. The rest as they say, is history.
What I wish I’d known
- Just do it! Parkrun is an amazing movement that cannot function without the time and effort of volunteers.
- It’s the perfect solution for an injured runner. I got my running fix without making my injury worse. I could talk training plans and future races to my hearts content.
- It’s a great way to meet like-minded people, although you definitely don’t have to be a runner.
- A lot of work goes into a parkrun, including manually uploading each runner’s time from their chip. And this happens every week.
- There is some way to get parkrun tshirts and accessories once you’ve run or volunteered a certain amount of times. I’m still figuring this one out though.
Any parkrunners out there? What’s your number 1 tip for someone interested in volunteering?
Lots of love,