As I finish it on Monday morning on a slow train to Waterloo, I do so with mixed emotions. I started park running in early 2013 as a need to lose weight and get fit following a health scare. At that time the only parkrun in Dorset was Poole. In those days it regularly attracted around 570 runners each week, but continued to grow, and fast. Additional runs have since started in Weymouth, Bournemouth, Blandford, Upton House and of course Moors Valley.
I had run all my parkruns at Poole, so when approached to be involved with setting an event up in Moors Valley and living in Verwood, I jumped at the chance.
Although MVpr celebrated its 3rd birthday last Saturday, I, like some of the remaining core team and a couple that have previously departed were involved in all manner of work for a considerable time prior to launch. Did you know that each new parkrun has to source £3,000 to cover costs before an event can be launched? In addition, permissions must be sought and granted from landowners and of course a route has to be devised and measured. There were a number of route incarnations before we settled on what we have now. You may think at times from your Garmin etc that the distance is short or long. These devices measure on straight lines so won’t consider the twists and turns around the lake over the final half kilometre etc, however the course has been officially measured by UK athletics at 5k.
If memory serves the first event was a rather damp affair, but it confirmed we had a great course (1 lap being unusual) great venue and support from all at Moors Valley Country Park and as time would show, great volunteers, who as we all know, none of this would be possible without.
So, we fast forward to early 2017 when for a number of reasons, the majority reading this won’t be aware, MVpr was nearly wound up. For the event to continue we needed a new Event Director and to expand the core team. In typical comedy film tradition, I was the last to step back and was duly voted to take the helm by the remainder of the team. There were a few issues to resolve, some minor, some major, but the troubled waters that had nearly seen the end of MVpr were quickly subdued.
In addition to recruiting another 4 team members, our biggest headache was storage. To operate effectively requires a significant amount of equipment, from signs, hi-vis, scanners, stopwatches, radios, finish tokens etc. It’s not practical to take all this home every week so with the assistance of Moors Valley we sourced some suitable on-site storage for the majority, and this is before we start the weekly pleas for volunteers.
To operate safely and successfully MVpr requires an average of 35 volunteers each week. It’s surprising that some people think putting on this event is our full-time job, but like everyone else involved, we’re all volunteers with jobs, family lives and other interests. It does become rather tiresome therefore to constantly plea for volunteers each week, only to have an influx (if we’re lucky) on a Friday evening. You won’t be aware of the stress this causes to the Volunteer Co-ordinator for that week and the number of times we have discussed event cancellation. There are now 4367 individuals who have registered MVpr as their home parkrun, but each week there are a regular handful of people who forgo their run, so everyone else can have theirs. I implore you all to volunteer 4 times per year. There are a wide variety of roles that can be undertaken. Nothing is difficult (I’m proof of that) and full training will be given.
So, back to Saturdays birthday / pacing event. We had pacers from 20-39 minutes inclusive, yours truly being 26. It was a fine morning and ideal running conditions. Pacing is always popular and attracts large numbers. This week we had 527 individuals take part, just 10 shy of the current attendance record. If you heard Jason’s RD speech, he gave some impressive stats, not least of which was that all parkruns undertaken at Moors Valley equate to running 6 ½ times around the earth!
There were a few special runs this week Jason Oakley, Paul Clark and Jane Landymore completed their 100th runs and Linda Secretan, Andrew Hunt, Gillian Walmsley, Chris Sinkinson and Tony Howell completed their 50th. I was overwhelmed with Jason’s kind words and the team’s presentation for my time as Event Director and even more so when presented with a rather large bottle of Tennessee’s finest bourbon post event.
But back to the event in hand. For those of us pacing it can be very difficult to maintain a steady even pace, especially when running a time slower than you normally do. And whilst there were 1 or 2 hiccups 117 of you achieved new PB’s, which is fantastic.
Post run for the core team doesn’t very often involve cake. It’s usually a case of ensuring all equipment has been returned, signs put away and processing results. The latter is one of those jobs that either goes smoothly, or not in my experience. Equipment failing to upload, and lots of manual entries as poorly printed barcodes have failed to scan are the typical problems. Please, please, please ensure you have a clear readable barcode each week, and remember, no barcode, no result. We have some wonderful people who sort all the finish tokens, some of which tend to go missing. These are not souvenirs to take home and belong to MVpr. The core team spend enough time during the week organising and arranging the vast amount of kit and all you must remember is your barcode, so understandably if you forget yours or use someone else’s, you’re using up more of their time and goodwill unnecessarily. Remember you can always come back next week and try again for free.
With this report coming to an end, my final official team volunteer role is nearly complete. In total I’ve officially volunteered 147 times over 5 years since I’ve been park running and completed 178 runs. Fingers crossed I’ll hit that magic 250 early 2020. I’m very proud of what we as a team have achieved. MVpr is recognised as one of the premier parkruns in the south, something that everyone who volunteers has contributed to. I’ll now have time to undertake some parkrun tourism and explore some of the other wonderful events near and far in the knowledge that there is an excellent team remaining that will continue in my absence.
So next time you receive those email / Facebook pleas for volunteers, please don’t ignore them and think someone else will do it, step up yourself. Think of everything the Volunteer Coordinator has to cope with and is giving up their time for you, and don’t forget your barcode, or you won’t go in the results.
We now have six 5k parkruns in Dorset and 2605 people ran / walked these this weekend and required 237 volunteers.
I’m now arriving at Waterloo on the train, so this seems and appropriate time to conclude. If you managed to stick with it and read to end, well done and happy park running.
This week at MVpr 527 people ran, jogged and walked the course, of whom 61 were first timers and 117 recorded new Personal Bests. Representatives of 37 different clubs took part and the event was made possible by 54 volunteers.
Moors Valley parkrun started on 7th November 2015. Since then 9,721 participants have completed 52,739 parkruns covering a total distance of 263,695 km, including 10,705 new Personal Bests.