So… parkrun? How does it work?

(Thanks to Hove Promenade parkrun for the original text which they’ve kindly allowed us to adapt for our own use)

Since Cannon Hill parkrun first started in August 2010, we've grown from strength to strength, and are now seeing regular turnouts of between 800 and 1000 runners, joggers and walkers.

With so many new people now joining us on a Saturday morning, we thought we'd put together some information about our event - why we ask you to do what we do, explain a little bit of the terminology and help you understand a bit of how everything works.

Firstly, everyone is a volunteer; we try to be as professional as we can be, but please do bear this in mind if the results are late, or there are no photos on the Facebook page yet. Having said that, we volunteer because we love it - it's fun, engaging and you can learn new skills in a warm and welcoming environment. It's not a closed club and anyone is welcome to join in, whenever they want to.

So, let's look at a few parkrun day rules and explain why they are there!

So that run brief? I heard it last week so don't need to hear it again…right?

Nope, and that couldn't be further from the truth! Yes, there will be some recap on the rules we have to have in place, but there may be amends to the course, things to be aware of, as well as some announcements of running milestones. Also, and oh, so importantly, just because it isn't your first time, it doesn't mean that there aren't new people there so they won't have heard it before. All we ask is for 2-3 minutes of silence before you parkrun. Please keep quiet during the run brief. Please also stay in the briefing area and don’t head straight for the start line to get in pole position – again, you may miss an important announcement.

Don't forget your barcode (or #DFYB)

This is the parkrun golden rule. Without a barcode you can't get an official time. You can still take part of course, but please take a finish token and simply give it us back. See also "Ok, so you won't take it off my photo, but you can write it down, yeah?"

What is a funnel ducker?

No, this is not a euphemism, but is a widely-recognised term in parkrunworld for someone who enters the finish funnel then jumps out again without taking a token. This causes issues for the team when processing results as the below explains.

Why should I take a finish token?

When you cross the line into the finish funnel, our timekeepers will click the stopwatch. Every time someone crosses the line, they click. These "clicks" are recorded, and we upload them to a results processing system called webFMS. The data is very simple - it tells us that the 99th runner over the line crossed in 25:00, the 100th runner crossed in 25:10 and so on.
At the end of the funnel you are passed a finish token. These are in numerical order and what we aim to do is ensure that runner 99 gets token number 99. When we scan you and your position token, and upload that to webFMS, the system looks at all of the information and basically says, runner 99 is John Smith and the 99th runner clicked was 25:00 so therefore John Smith's time is 25:00. Simples, eh?
BUT - things can go astray! If runner 99 were to be a funnel ducker, then there is a chance that runner 100 actually gets token 99 - meaning the computer gives Joan Smith 25:00 when she actually got 25:10. Now this doesn't sound much but if a few people do this, then as more and more people enter the funnel (and if a few duck out) then the results get more and more mixed up - still with us?
The same would happen if you refused a token - the person behind would get your time and so on. So, we're not being funny when we say that you must take a token - it's simply how the results are processed. Please simply take the token, then hand it back immediately to one of the volunteers in the finish area.

What if I don't have a barcode and I'm not fussed about a time?

Ideally you would still enter the funnel, collect a token and then pop it in one of our buckets by the barcode scanners. We don't think this is much to ask. But, if you are using the parkrun as part of a long run and want to keep going, or if this above sounds too much like hard work, then please simply don't enter the finish funnel. At Cannon Hill this means not going up the last slope towards the car park, and instead just carry on with your run along the main path. We would prefer it if you did go through the finish, so we can get an accurate number of participants, but if you aren't prepared to wait a few moments in the funnel for a token, please don't go anywhere near the finish line. Our timekeepers often act on anticipation, so please don’t run all the way up to the line and then tell them you don’t want a time, as that will be too late – you’ll have already been clicked by then!

I'm in the funnel but why do I need to stay in order? I've crossed the line so it's ok, yes?

Well, no, actually! On the same basis as what we said about the stopwatch clicks, you will get a more accurate time if you stay in the finish position you entered. Taking a token in order means you'll get your actual time rather than your funnel neighbour's time.

When does the stopwatch start?

Timing starts when the Run Director says "GO". Some of you start your watch as you cross the start line and although this could be a few seconds after the Run Director has started the run, your official time is from the first click on the stopwatch.

Why can't my time be from when I cross the start line?

Resources, simply. We are a free timed run and don't have chip timing as most races do.

These tokens are nice and would look good on a keyring; can I keep them?

Sadly not. The finish tokens are always required back at the end of the run so that we can use them again the following week. If you have your barcode with you, the scanner will retain your position token so it can be sorted back into order. If you've forgotten your barcode, please simply pass the position token to a barcode scanner – please, please, please don't take them home. If you were to do this, and you find it in your pocket, please let us know! We're always relieved to get them back - just email us with the number!

Oh no - I ran a great run today and didn't get scanned until 15 mins after I finished - does that mean my time will be 15 mins more?

No, this isn't the case. Whilst it is always a good idea to get scanned straight after the run, a delay in scanning doesn't add minutes to your finishing time. Remember the tokens we discussed above? The system knows that if you crossed the line in position 200 and collected the appropriate finish token, that your time would match the 200th click on the watch.

I've taken a photo of my barcode on my phone - you can scan that, right?

Actually we can't, sorry. Our scanners cannot read off screens and a photo of a barcode will be locked away with a PIN number so if something were to happen to you, we couldn't access your "In Case of Emergency" (ICE) number. We only accept paper, tag or wrist bracelet barcodes.

Ok, so you won't take it off my photo, but you can write it down, yeah?

Again sadly no. The rules for this are firm and clear and when you access your barcode from your parkrun profile screen, you’ll see that photographs are not permitted. If the volunteers were to do this, there is huge potential for them to be manually adding lots of results from people who didn't apply the rules. The same applies if you have forgotten your barcode. We will not add you to the results for the same reasons.

Sounds a bit mean!

It's not really. Let's put this into context - our volunteers between them have to remember to bring a laptop, stopwatches, scanners, hi-viz, lanyards, folders, tokens, first aid kit, defibrillator, signs and many other pieces of kit to ensure the parkrun happens safely each week. Then it is packed away, results are processed, tokens are sorted, run reports done and social media updated - all we ask is that you bring your barcode - sound OK?

Ok, you've got me. But what happens if my barcode gets smudged or the scanners can't read it?

Now, that's a different story. As you have brought a barcode and for some reason it can't be scanned, then we will write it down for you and add you manually. This is the only occasion where we do this and another reason why we don't write down for people who've forgotten or have it on their phones. We utterly LOVE parkrun and volunteering, but we do like to do other things on a Saturday after the run has finished!

That covers quite a lot and hopefully some things are a bit clearer now. Perhaps you already knew this, but it's quite likely that there is something in there that was news to you. As far as practical, we try to do the results in the Garden Tea Rooms after the run, and you are always welcome to watch and learn. And of course, if there is anything that you are unsure about, please ASK! We're a friendly bunch and want you to come back again and again. Plus, your barcode is your passport to 2,500 parkruns across the globe. No need to re-register!

Whether you're travelling to Brighton or Brisbane, your own parkrun barcode is accepted there!

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