As I write, siling rain and soughing winds are making a mockery of early summer, but it seems that if you want a bit of good weather, you need only to head down to Pwll for 9am on a Saturday. Yet again at the weekend the sun shone fair on runners assembling from near and far for the 29th Llanelli Coast parkrun.
It was my debut as run-director and, backed by the support of a superb team of experienced volunteers, I overcame what I had mistakenly thought would be be the most nerve wracking task of delivering the new-runners’ and pre-run briefings. I tried to take our Event Director’s comment that it was like listening to War & Peace as a compliment to my deathless prose rather than a jibe that I’d perhaps gone on a bit (I didn’t even get round to reminding everyone not to cross the finish line twice, to keep in order in the finish funnel, and to make sure to take a finish token - but not take it away: I may have come to regret missing out those injunctions later!)
‘Now I can relax and enjoy it’, I thought, as the second largest field of runners since our inaugural event, sped, jogged, walked, skipped and trundled off in the direction of Burry Port. My zen-like calm was to be short lived, however. It was many weeks after my first parkrun last year, that I began to get a real grasp on how the timing system works, and now, on the day of my first attempt at results processing, I was to find out all in one go pretty much every way in which it can go wrong. The volunteer timers and token marshals were as usual exemplary, but making sure that everything goes smoothly depends on everyone - including parkrunners - cooperating to keep each click of the stopwatch synchronised with the numbered tokens given to the runners in the order they cross the line. If runners overtake after crossing the line, or run past the tokens so that the token marshal has to turn round and go after them, then it’s so easy for the system to begin going adrift. But we were coping admirably, I thought, as I clapped the early finishers in and made the odd spot check that the two timers had the same number of runners, and that number tallied with the numbers on the tokens handed out. But then came word of an incident out on the course. A runner had collapsed, we heard. We hadn’t previously had a single reportable incident since Llanelli parkrun started until Saturday, when two came at once! In a second incident, a youngster had a seizure. Volunteers with transport and medical expertise quickly moved to assist with one incident, while volunteers already out on the course helped with the other, along with our great community of parkrunners many of whom stopped their run to offer help.
Somewhere along the line, amid the anxiety of what at that stage were worrying incidents, we had a sequence of a few tokens that were accidentally taken by runners in reverse order, compounded by other runners forgetting to take a token, or crossing the finishing line twice. Fortunately, none of this matters in the grand scheme of things. I was just relieved to hear very quickly that both runners who were taken ill made quick recoveries and were able to continue their day, albeit without finishing their runs, and our shiny new defibrillator could remain untouched in its box on the cafe wall. Long may that continue, but it was reassuring to know it was there had we needed it.
However, to cut a very long story short(ish), it has made my first experience of results processing one that has gone into days, rather than the minutes it should take, if all goes to plan. We have had a few thoughts about how we might make some minor changes such as lengthening and narrowing the finish funnel to minimise people overtaking each other after the finish line or running past the tokens, and having a volunteer to ‘spot-check’ every few runners and take their time, position, name and barcode number manually as a cross-check in case errors still do creep in. Thank you to those who sent in details of their own recorded times to help us sort out the discrepancies as best we can. I’m sure the results are still not perfect, but am confident that for most runners they will now be closer to the times you actually achieved on Saturday.
Above all, we hope you enjoyed your run, our beautiful course, and the company of the lovely Llanelli parkrun community, especially the 22 of you participating in your first parkrun, and the 18 existing parkrunners visiting us for the first time. Among our tourists, a special thanks to Blaine, Arthur and Alice Craddock, visiting us on their way home to Norfolk, who were kind enough to say what a lovely and well-organised parkrun we have. But that was before a six hour drive home to find they had been given positions and times far slower than they had actually run! I hope we have made amends and that you can still look on your visit to Llanelli Coast with fondness.
Finally, congratulations to Cari Williams, Rhys Beynon and Elliott Garnett who as juniors all joined the ‘10’ club on Saturday and qualified for their first milestone t-shirt. Wear them with pride!