A couple of weeks we ago we retweeted and posted an article by Hove prom parkrun about how parkrun works and why things are done a certain way and why we can`t do this and that. Rather than retweeting that each week this is a Birkenhead version of it as some things in the Hove article didn`t apply to us (I`m sure their café is lovely but its a bit far away for us to get to really).There`s also information about what goes on before and after parkrun as well.
We`ve had a big increase in numbers recently (you may have noticed).From 375 on December 14th and 473 the week after to new records 648 and 654 either side of the new year then into the 700s the last few weeks including our new record 793! We are very aware of new parkrunners not knowing fully how everything happens and why it happens so hopefully this will help. Its not word for word from Hove`s article,as I said I could just retweet it but it`s all relevant to our park including one or two fascinating* facts you won`t have heard of.
*Don`t get too excited.
Thought I`d do a little bit first about behind the scenes stuff. We don`t just start turning up at 8:20,stick a few poles in the ground and walk up to the start at 5 to 9. Well we do,obviously but there`s a bit more to it than that.There is an amount of planning that goes in to the morning.I`ll start from after the tail walker has crossed the line.
- First the watches or the timing app on the phones are stopped and saved. We can immediately email from our phones to the office email (or when the results processor takes all the gear home they plug in the watches to the laptop) All the poles,tape and various bags are collected up loaded into wonderful Rolf`s car.We all go our merry ways either home,running,shopping,to the café in that lower park) Subject to what the results person has to do that Saturday and the vagaries of the parkrun system,we try to get the results up on the website as soon as possible (we will always inform you if there is likely to be a big delay) and they will be posted on our social media.(If there is an issue with your result please email email@example.com with your details.If you post to social media about this its possible it won`t be noticed straightaway. Same goes for responding to emails which I`ll mention more in a bit)
- The run report is usually out the same day and will include all the first timers names ,all the pb`s,milestones,the top 3 positions,some poetry of questionable quality and various other bits and bobs. Our volunteers get a special thank you post on the Sunday and there`s also a Birkenhead parkrun twitter moments on Sunday afternoon so please always tweet or post about your runs and tag us in. We are very fortunate to have lovely people like Ruth and Chloe who post great photos on our flickr page and loads of you that tweet or post your pics and we are very grateful to them and apprieciative of all the interaction with you across the social media. If no one contacted us we`d be very sad and there could be even more poetry.
- Emails will be checked over the weekend and replied to.The thing to remember here is that we are all volunteers. We try to be a slick,effective,professional outfit(I know) but we have lives outside of parkrun which sometimes mean we can`t respond immediately. Your request to go on the roster may be updated to a place on the roster a day or two after for example. It will be responded to though so please be patient. We do love volunteering though,we have 7 members of the core team over 150 times in the hi vis now and our first 200th is coming up soon. That wouldn`t happen if we didn`t enjoy it down the park each Saturday. Parkrun volunteering is terrific for increasing confidence, trying new things and meeting great people. (Email us at birkenheadhelpers.com if you`re interested) Everyone is welcome, you can can volunteer as often as you want.
- During the week volunteer appeals go out on the social media and email. Also if there`s any news such as the recent course alteration we`ll put that out. We also discuss on our whatsapp group any issues that come up such as the finish funnel, finish tokens,puddles in the park and other really interesting matters. On Friday we post about the upcoming parkrun with who`ll be run director, who is doing the first timers briefing (the idea behind that is you know who to ask or where to go for the briefing etc.It isn't only an excuse to post a vaguely amusing photo of them ). We also do a highly accurate weather forecast and a briefer version of parkrun do`s and don't`s. Then on Saturday its the parkrun itself. Rolf`s always first to arrive,putting the signs on the gates,shutting the gates, then searching for owners of any cars in the park to shift their vehicles before we start. Jon checks with the squirrels that security issues are good and we start to put together the finish funnel ,more and more of the volunteers arrive,the marshals get a briefing then are taken around the course to their positions by the volunteer co ordinator around 8:35. Just before 8:50 (or 8:53 if your name is James......sorry James!) the first timer briefer will go up to the start and do their thing. The rest of us will go up to the start to watch the briefing or stay at the finish to guard the gear.The briefing will happen then you`re off!
Right,that`s part 1 done. Have a break and a cup of tea or other beverage.
A few points about the parkrun rules.
The run brief - Do I need to listen to it even if I`ve been here many times before? Yes you do. The other week with the course alteration was a prime example. We can only reach so many people by the emails and the social media. A lot of people won`t know the information we`ve put out so its why as well as shout outs for the milestones,a welcome to first timers & tourists,finish funnel procedures etc,there`ll be information about the course and anything pertinent to that day`s parkrun that you need to know. We have to recap the information we give out every week but it doesn`t last long and given that parkrun is free we don`t think its too much to ask that you listen. Jon likes to put the police siren on to quieten people but he`s not allowed to that anymore in case the police actually turn up. Dogs you need to listen as well.
Please don`t forget your barcode (#dfyb) - This is the main rule,the holy grail of parkrun rules.Without your barcode you won`t get an official time. You can still take part but when you enter the finish funnel,you will need to take a finish token from the finish token team then hand it back to the barcode scanners or a funnel manager. Funnel duckers are the thing we really get upset/annoyed about as put simply it screws up the results and makes them much longer to process.Funnel duckers are people who take part in the run.enter the finish funnel (thereby getting a time) then leave the funnel without taking a finish token. When you cross the line the timekeepers click their watches or tap their phones. This click or tap records not just the time of the runner but also their position. You then need to stay in order to make sure you get your time and not the one belonging to the person in front or behind.Then you reach the tokens team and you get your finish token.Voila! Time,runner position,finish token. You go on and get your personal barcode and finish token scanned. The system goes tick,tick,tick - result sorted.You miss out the last one,chaos ensues.(Once you get past the tokens team, you can pick any scanning queue,you don`t need to stay on order then)
Say runner 123 finishes in 25:55 and runner 124 finishes in 26:13. If runner 123 ducks out then runner 124 get a different time to the one they ran. Add a few more people doing this then the results get more and more mixed up. This is why sometimes you`ll have a different time to the one on your watch.Someone ahead has ducked out and affected things.The same applies to strange people who refuse a finish token. They take part in an event but don`t want to take part in an event. If this happens we have to take a token out but with the speed of people coming through this sometimes can`t happen and that also throws the results out of alignment. We aren`t being funny when we say you need to take a token,it really is very important.
A good way to remember is this - Parkrun is free = lots of people taking part and volunteering. Funnel duckers and people refusing to take tokens = more time spent sorting things out,frustration,possible decline in volunteers and less parkruns. Possibly a bit dramatic but the point needs to be made. If no one ducked out and all followed the simple procedures that would be great . I know when its busy there are queues etc but you know,it is free.
Sometimes a runner will say their time is different to the one they have on the watch. The timing for the run starts when the run director says go. Some of you may start your watch as you cross the line but your official time starts on the "Go!" We don`t have chip timing. Parkrun has a great egg sponsor but not a chip one.Get it?
Please don`t take the tokens,they cost money to replace and you will not believe how annoying it is if you`re sorting 700 or so tokens after the even and number 557 is missing. Believe me,its like an episode of Father Ted when Father Jack wants a drink. Don`t do it,please.
If after getting your finish token you spot a mate who has already finished and have a chat with them for a few minutes ,that will make no difference to your time. What I said before about staying in order applies here. After you get your finish token you can be in any order to be scanned,number 78 after 127 ,it doesn`t matter.Sometimes a runner will have to get their barcode from a family member. The important thing is to get the finish token and get your barcode and the finish token scanned.
We can`t scan phones.For one the parkrun technology isn`t up to it and a photo of a barcode will be locked away behind a pin number or other lock on your phone. In case of an emergency we wouldn`t be able to access your details. We only accept paper,tag or wrist barcodes. Tattoo ones,not yet.The rules are clear on your parkrun profile that we cannot do this,that photos of barcodes are not permitted,if we were to do this it would mean lots more writing down of barcodes for people who haven`t followed the rules. The same applies if you have forgotten your barcode. We will not add you to the results.You might think this is mean but if you read again what the volunteers do on the day and during the week, all you have to do is turn up and take part.We don`t think it is too much to ask.
If you have a smudged (wet weather affected) barcode or a printed barcode printed by a printer which has a mind of their own and does it differently to all the other printers and won`t scan we will write it down as you have followed the rules and brought a barcode (which is another reason why we won`t do it in the other circumstances) What we do ask is that you try printing it out on another printer so it doesn`t happen each week.As I mentioned earlier we do love parkrun and volunteering but we like to do other things on a Saturday after the run has finished.
Nearly finished,if you`re still awake,congratulations! Please,if there`s anything you need to know,just ask. Either via email,on twitter or facebook,at parkrun itself. Come down the finish area and any of the hi vis clad people will be happy to answer your questions. Nothing too hard though like what`s the capital of Honduras? (You`ll google it now, bet you can`t pronounce it!)
Here`s a bitesized version of the above.
Print a barcode or buy one via the link on the parkrun website (and keep it safe,you don`t need it till you finish - Listen to the briefing - Be respectful and aware of other runners - Follow the rules and listen to the volunteers(especially in the finish funnel)- Smile - Bask in the glory of getting up early on Saturday and taking part in something amazing - Go home - wait for the results.
Right,that`s it,hope you've found this helpful and useful. There`s lots of great information on our website about the course and how to get to us as well.
Thanks for reading!
The core team.