It's the start of a new year and with this in mind, and with so many new people 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, give you a bit of terminology and let you see how everything works.
Firstly, everyone is a volunteer; we try to be as professional as we can be, but do bear this in mind if the results are late, or there are no photos on the Facebook page (we may not have a volunteer photographer this week). 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 shop 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, 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 amendments to the course, things to be aware of, as well as some announcements of running milestones. Also, 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 run. Please keep quiet during the run brief.
Don't forget your barcode (or #DFYB)! This is the 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? This is someone who enters the finish funnel then jumps out without taking a token. This causes issues for the team when processing results as the following explains.
Why should I take a finish token? When you cross the line into the finish funnel, our timekeepers click the stopwatch or taps the app. Every time someone crosses the line, they click or tap. These "clicks" or "taps" 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 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, as more and more people enter the funnel (and a few duck out) 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.
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 too much to ask. But, if you are using parkrun as part of a long run and want to keep going, or if this sounds too much like hard work, then please don't enter the finish funnel. We would prefer it if you did 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 enter it.
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 were in when you crossed the finish line. Taking a token in the correct 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 yells "Go!". Some of you start your watch as you cross the start, and depending on where you start, this could be a few seconds after the Run Director has started the run, but 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. If you have your barcode with you, the scanner will retain your position token so we can use it again next week. If you've forgotten your barcode, please simply pass the position token to a barcode scanner. Please don't take them home. If you accidentally do this, and you find it in your pocket later, 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, your time will 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 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 profile screen, it clearly states 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 abide by the rules. The same applies if you have forgotten your barcode. We will not add you to the results.
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, signs and many other pieces of kit to ensure parkrun happens safely each week. Then it is packed away, results are processed, tokens are sorted, run reports done, social media updated and hi-viz vests washed. All we ask you to bring is your barcode. Does that 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!
Can I start anywhere I like? Theoretically, yes, of course. However, we have a fairly narrow and tight first 500 metres or so, and some pretty fast regulars. If you can run 5k in 20 minutes or less, please feel free to start at or near the front of the pack. If not, we'd really rather you didn't, simply because we don't want you to be trampled under foot by accident!
Can I run with my dogs? Yes, as long as you only run with one dog, and you keep that dog on a short leash at all times on and around the course.
Can I run with my chidren? You may indeed provided your child is old enough to be a registered parkrunner (4 years is the minimum). Juniors (up to 14 years of age) must be able to complete the course themselves to have their barcode scanned. Being carried or pushed around in a buggy or pushchair doesn’t count. All under 11 year olds must be within arm's reach of you or another designated adult (18 years old at least) of your choice at our event. This is an insurance requirement and local event teams have the authority to remove the results of juniors who persistently flout this non-negotiable rule.
Running whilst carrying a child of any age (whether in a front or back baby carrier/harness, in your arms, on your shoulders or piggyback) is not permitted, as it poses a safety risk. Walking whilst carrying a baby or child is permitted as long as their safety and welfare is not compromised.
If you feel 5k is too much, then junior parkrun (which happens on Sunday mornings) is designed specifically for children aged between 4 and 14, and your junior parkrunners can run unaccompanied there.
Can I run with a pushchair or buggy? Yes, buggies are allowed though be aware that there are two fairly tight gates to negotiate as well as a lot of mud in the winter months. Please take care of other participants around you. If possible start from the back of the field and try to keep to one side of the main body of participants. We should also make clear that only those people who complete the course under their own steam will get a finish position so your buggy passenger will not receive a time! Those who are too young to run will have to wait until they are old enough to run it.
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. We usually do the results straight after we've packed everything away, up at the Leisure Lakes Bikes cafe 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 parkruns right across the globe. No need to re-register! Whether you're travelling to Brighton or Brisbane, your own parkrun barcode is accepted there!
See you soon!
Your parkrun Core Team