How on Earth did That Happen?

Conkers parkrun Event 472  -  February 1, 2020

We woke up this morning to a brave new world. Having had the liberating experience of leaving the EU at 11:00 pm on Friday evening, life will never be the same again – or will it? After all it is Saturday and Saturday is parkrun day.

Has that changed? Thankfully no. At 9.00 am prompt(ish) Fiona, our RD for the day, shouted out the magic words 3 – 2 – 1 – GO!  and 768 of us set off to enjoy our weekly running, jogging or walking fix.

But Hey, it is not quite as straight forward as 768 people getting to that start line and running – how did the start line get there. Is it a magical line that suddenly appears? Then there is the finish funnel, does that just pop up and do the marshals happen to wander along and think “Ooh there maybe some runners coming, I’ll stand here and cheer!?

No. Today’s parkrun really started while we were all sitting in the café, chatting and drinking coffee, last week. While we were doing that tokens were being sorted and put in order ready for handing out this week, any missing ones being noted so that they could be replaced. Marshals bags were being checked to make sure that they still contained all the safety requisites in case of an emergency, if the hi viz are wet or muddy, the equipment fairy takes them home and hangs them out to dry or washes them and the rest of the kit is carefully stowed ready for when, at about 7.45 to 8.00 the following Saturday the RD and helpers arrive to start and set up for this week.

On Monday our Volunteer Co-ordinator, Jen Cross, starts her weekly plea to fill all the roles that are essential to enable the event to run smoothly and safely on the following Saturday, this entails filling all the different functions and often requires further pleas going out during the week to fill the roster properly.

 How it all begins. Kit is brought up from the store, to the peace and solitude of early morning at Conkers Waterside.

 For today, our RD was Fiona Betts, well known amongst the Conkers fraternity for her running exploits and her poetic briefings. Fiona arrives around 8.00 am and starts to bring the loads of kit round from our storage shed. The table is set up and marshals’ bags laid out on it ready to be distributed, Conkers welcome signs are put up, direction signs for scanning and briefing, placed.

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 All ready for the Hi Viz Heroes to arrive.


Cones and tape for the funnel are taken to the start area ready for the funnel to be constructed once the start is clear. The points for each time sign are measured out and sprayed on the path so that the sign holders know where to stand and the all-important PB bell is put in situ.

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 Start Line marked, Time Lines paced out and marked and the naked funnel ready to be constructed as soon as the start is clear of participants

 8:30 and marshals start to arrive, the car park attendants begin their duties and the marshalling points are handed out so that the hi viz heroes can set off on their trek to Cheeky Bottom or Canal Turn or wherever. New Marshals are briefed by the RD on their individual duties and given all the requisite info to enable them to enjoy themselves whilst helping the participants circulate safely.

Runners are starting to arrive now and the crowds start to build, some just wandering along from the car park, others doing a quick jog round Sarah’s Wood to warm up, whilst the real hardy core runners start to arrive having done a good few miles beforehand.

At about 8:50 Fiona announces the briefing for New Runners and visitors, ably given to 80+ new attendees and visitors this week by Adrienne Collard.

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 Pacers prepare, Marshals are briefed, on their way, Tokens are checked, and Fiona Mounts the Rostrum for a poetic briefing


All marshals are now well on their way to their posts and Fiona mounts the rostrum, welcomes those new to Conkers and to parkrun and begins the run brief, highlighting all the safety and other essential information delivered in her own inimitable style.

Briefing over, milestone attainers congratulated volunteers applauded; it is off to the start.

RD Fiona gives the countdown and we are on our way. Once the start line area is cleared, which takes about two minutes, the Funnel Crew have about 13 – 14 minutes to prepare the funnel, ready for the first runners to return.

Timekeepers are in place, Funnel Manager walking his pitch, number checker ready with clipboard and pen should any discrepancies occur and token hander outerers poised with the stacks of tokens in eager anticipation of the first runner returning within around 15 to 16 of the start.

As the runners return, they are moved along the funnel by the Funnel Manager to avoid any hold ups and to ensure they stay in order and get the correct token for their position / time, before they move to the side and cheer on later arrivals or move on to scanning in the car park.

The scanners work hard to ensure that your token and barcode scan and that is not always simple with the state of some barcodes that are presented!

Once scanned and token returned it is off to the Café for coffee and chat. If you are unfortunate enough for your token not to scan, then there are people ready to note down your token number and barcode to ensure you are added back into the results and get your credits.

Token sorters now return the tokens to numeric order and put them back on the clips ready for next week, reporting any that have gone astray to the RD.

Timekeepers return the watches to the RD ready for them to be downloaded into the PC to formulate the results. Funnel crew strip the tapes down and load the cones and reels of tape onto the sack truck to return them to the shed. Sorting completed, tables are folded down and put away and tokens returned to the RD for storage. Scanners ae returned to the RD and Results processor to download the information onto the PC. Then while, we enjoy coffee, the results team sort through the data and rectify any anomalies caused by tokens that wouldn’t scan before they can press the button and whizz the results out to everyone.

Marshals return their kit to the start table and it is checked, stored away and the whole process of preparing for next week begins again.

The RD now has to complete the official run report covering all the statistics and any incidents or problems that have occurred.

So there you go, what is a simple run for you or me to arrive on the start line at a minute to nine on Saturday morning, every week’s run has a dedicated seven days of effort behind it. So let’s make sure that we all appreciate the efforts that the Core team and their helpers put into parkrun to make it possible for us and, if possible, help out by volunteering..

So now on to today. We had 768 runners and enjoyed the added benefit of 18 pacers ably provided by South Derbyshire Road Runners, who did their utmost to guide people round in times ranging from 19 to 35 minutes. Highest achievers were Mark Harriott pacing 19 mins achieved 18:59; Ross Ballinger pacing 25:30 achieved 25:31 and Becky Lanaghan pacing 30:00 achieved 30.01 – brilliant efforts all!

First to break the timekeepers beam was Chris Batman Lockhart in 16:33, with Tim Carter following on in 17:59. First Lady was Louise Insley in 20:43 followed by Christina Hawtin in 21:34.

80 first timers completed this weeks event. We hope you all enjoyed the experience and that we will see you again next week.

93 runners achieved personal bests – Great effort all and 52 Clubs were represented at the event.

Jim Burton celebrated his 50th run and is now officially in the red! Well done!

The event was made possible by 55 Hi viz heroes who are listed below, a big THANK YOU to them. To prove their worth and necessity some marshals were called upon to assist a runner who collapsed on Canal side. I am pleased to report that he recovered fully and even completed the run – now there is dedication.

A few stats are listed below.
Laura HARPER • Mark HARRIOTT • Madeleine PICKERING • Gary PRICE • Shirley TOPLISS • Anthony WICKWAR • Angela BEBBINGTON • Richard BEBBINGTON • Janet HARDY • Andrew ORME • Steven WALTERS • Jennifer CROSS • Kevin CLARKE • Chris UPTON • Gayle WRIGHT • Ross BALLINGER • Emma SHARP • Romain CHAMBARD • Sam MCDERMOTT • Pauline COOPER • Lucy ALLSOP • Chris HANMAN • Colin SHARP • Mary SHARP • Ollie THURBON • Gregg MAYLES • Dyanne SARGEANT • Fiona BETTS • Kevin BORLEY • Tony STONE • Robin THORNE • Becky LENAGHAN • Katie LYNN • Alexander MICHELSON • Ellie DICKSON • Adrienne COLLARD • David HUGHES • Susan MAYLES • Mark NUGENT • Dennis DICKINSON • John PEGG • Graeme MATTEN • Barbara CULVER • Ian MATTHEWS • Katie DENNIS • Elaine RASMUSSEN • Joanne CRICHTON • Christopher ALLEN • Sam BASSETT • Abigail DENNIS • Sarahjane JONES • Naomi EARL • Teresa SWIFT • Fraser CRICHTON • Sarah LEWIS

Today's full results and a complete event history can be found on the Conkers parkrun Results Page.

The male record is held by Tom DOE who recorded a time of 15:03 on 27th October 2012 (event number 80).
The female record is held by Lauren HALL who recorded a time of 17:16 on 25th December 2018 (event number 411).
The Age Grade course record is held by Val NAYLOR who recorded 93.92% (24:56) on 12th November 2016 (event number 298).

Conkers parkrun started on 16th April 2011. Since then 16,639 participants have completed 161,755 parkruns covering a total distance of 808,775 km, including 24,998 new Personal Bests. A total of 1,347 individuals have volunteered 11,346 times.