When I interviewed fellow parkrunners as to what they loved about volunteering at parkrun, the number one response was cheering others on. The joy in the faces of volunteers and finishers alike is obvious at the end of each 5km effort. Pumping people up in their final metres to the finish lifts everyone's spirits, especially when it involves getting the kids and our final parkrunners across the line.
The ability to shout out the time at the parkrunners as they cross the road was also a highlight because it is at the stage where runners can assess if they will have a final dash to beat their PB. I know many a time when I have crossed that road and smiled to myself once I heard the time and knew that I had my PB in the bag. Aahh, the relief.
The other sort of yelling comes from the funnel manager who must embrace the role of getting wayward, delirious and exhausted runners to take a token (please take a token) and move in an orderly and quick fashion into the line for scanning. Sounds easy right? Not always, but despite the mild stress experienced by some it is certainly where the action is and where everyone wants to be.
The other part of volunteering that everyone relishes is the ability to actually meet people. It is somewhat difficult to strike up an intelligible conversation as you are pelting around the track with sweat dripping down your face but when you have a good hour together working with your fellow volunteers you have time to make some strong bonds. I know a lot of people from behind, wait that sounds bad. What I mean is you are often chasing the same people around the lake, spending cumulative hours looking at their back and even if you overtake them you rarely see their face. But when you volunteer you have a chance to put a name to the back. You know what I mean!
This sense of camaraderie that comes from volunteering together is very powerful and helps cement lasting friendships and enables easy conversations at future parkruns. It allows us to see the other side of parkrun, and be the glue that holds this fine, free event together. The opportunity to participate behind the scenes and be witness to world record type performances from Olympians, Commonwealth Games athletes and local amateur heroes alike is a rare treat in normal life, though sometimes a herculean one for the lead bike rider when 15min 5km runners are in our midst. Timekeepers often enjoy the power of knowing the times before the official times are sent!
Without each of us grasping this volunteering opportunity in both hands 3 times a year our treasured little event could not happen. Thankfully, most parkrunners do embrace this philosophy and for that they receive the greatest reward possible, a very sincere and heartfelt thank you AND after 25 events a purple volunteer t-shirt.
So if you are thinking about volunteering and had been hesitant, don't be afraid, it is the most fun you will have on a Saturday morning at 8am, without breaking a sweat. If you are worried about missing your exercise that day, you could volunteer to be the lead bike or the tail runner. Volunteering is great to do when you are injured, when you have an event the next day or shock horror, when you don't feel like running. (Don't worry, I won't tell anyone) It is your chance to give back... and to yell, COME ON, YOU CAN DO IT!
A big thank you to Albert Melbourne parkrun for all of the fantastic photos in this article.
Keen to join us on a Saturday, either to volunteer or run? Please check out one of the 100+ events around Australia
If you are overseas there's likely to be a parkrun near you too.
Happy parkrunning and happy volunteering.
Please feel free to share, comment and click the love heart below. If you volunteer at parkrun let the Race director know that The Baroness of Melbourne sent you.