During the next few weeks we look a little more closely at our parkrun core-team volunteer roles and what is involved.
This week we have an insight from one of our valued core-team members Kaz to help give a better understanding of one of the roles - Timekeeper.
Hi! My name is Kaz, a regular parkrun volunteer and runner. Of the many volunteer positions I've covered, without a doubt, my favourite is the Timekeeper role. It isn't as challenging as you might think and it's a joy to see everyone crossing the finish after their Saturday morning parkrun fix.
So, what's involved? Basically I press 'start' at the beginning, click every parkrunner as they cross the finish and press 'stop' after the tail-walker at the end. That's it! Simple as!
During the process I liaise with the Funnel Manager, who ensures my stopwatch ties in with the number Finish Tokens being handed out. Of course, there are issues; funnel duckers, scooters, people coming through a second time (yes it does happen!) but these usually get sorted. I did once count the first finisher twice (Ooops!), but thankfully there is always a back-up time-keeper.
The main parkrun description of the Timekeepers role is as follows:
"The Timekeeper is responsible for ensuring that the finishing time for every runner is recorded as they cross the line. This is one of the higher pressure jobs in the finish area, and should be reserved for those who are not easily flustered. parkrun uses a variety of timing devices, and it is important that the Timekeeper is familiar with the particular device in use at their event."
Timekeeper is the volunteer role that many volunteers fear the most. There is absolutely no reason to as it is very simple and we work with three timing devices. If there is a problem with one stopwatch we always have a backup. These can vary depending on the event. Some events use what is known as parkrun Virtual Volunteer App (or a combination of the two) downloadable off the main website onto iOS or Android mobile phones.
The Run Director ensures the batteries are ok and that the stopwatch is cleared before being handed over to you. (In reality our own Timekeepers do this!). You will be given a full demonstration of how the device is operated. There are only two buttons that you need to use as a timekeeper. These are the ones marked A and B in the diagram. The D button is also useful as you can toggle through the different operating modes. This can be used as a way of preventing accidental button clicks before the start or whilst waiting for the first finisher to arrive at the finish.
When it is time for the event to start typically the Run Director will check with both timekeepers that they are ready and that their device is still in the correct operating mode. When the signal is given to start the timer presses button A once. The watch then starts.
When the first finisher comes into view it is time for action. Our two timers position themselves on opposite sides of the finish funnel. When each runner crosses the line (on their own two feet) the timer presses button B. This will then record the time for that finisher and it will show the number of finishers along with the time of the last finisher on the watch display.
Occasionally you will find a group of runners crossing the line together. The best way to handle this is you count the number in the group as they approach and then click the required number or times as they cross the line. We only give times to nearest second so this method works well at busy times.
If you make a mistake the most important thing is not to panic. Notify the Run Director as soon as possible who will then deal with the problem.
At the end of the run you can then stop the watch by pressing button A a second time. If you know of any possible problems in your timings let the Run Director know and they will then choose which watch to use as their primary timer.
Timekeeping is a very interesting and satisfying role. It is certainly not the terrifying experience that many think it will be.
If you would like to volunteer as a Timekeeper in the future please get in touch with our core-team volunteer coordinator at email firstname.lastname@example.org
So there we have it, fancy giving it a go? Why not sign up as the back-up Timekeeper and we'll talk you through it? Trust me - you'll enjoy it and have a personal sense of achievement to start your weekend.
Thankyou Kaz. We appreciate all your help and look forward to seeing you again at our future events.