parkrun. How the magic works and a few gentle reminders

This is a great post borrowed (with a few little changes) from Jo Hansell (Bournemouth parkrun ED) from a few years back that went a little bit viral around parkrun.  It tells you all about the magic that happens from the start line to you getting your results later in the day.  It's a must read for all parkrunners!


We often get asked how parkrun works - how do we get your results to you so swiftly and how do we know what your time was?  Why do runners get shouted at to stay in order, take a token, don't cross the line twice?  And why do we need our printer barcode every time?


Well here's how the parkrun magic works...


You'll notice at the start line and at the finish line that there will be two people with stopwatches.


The stopwatches start with the RD saying go at the beginning of the race and every time someone crosses the finish line the timekeeping volunteers click a button to record a time and a finish position.  This is why we ask people not to cross the line twice, or we end up with more finish times/positions than we should have.


Next - just beyond the timekeepers - you make your way to the finish token volunteer who hands you a token with a position number on it.  This number *should* correspond to the position on the stopwatch when you crossed the line.  This only works if you stay in your finish order until you have collected your token, and if everyone that crosses the line takes a token.  


If someone refuses to take a token (it does happens) then it can cause a problem.  Let's say someone finishes in position 30 with a time of 24:15.  They don't take their token.  The next person finishes in position 31 with a time of 24:20 but because the last person didn't take their token they get token 30.  This means that later on they will be assigned the time that goes with position 30, not with their correct time in position 31.


So please, even if you know you have forgotten your personal barcode, take a token and just hand it back to the scanners further down the line.  It's really important.


After you have collected your finish token you head off to the barcode scanner.  Here you will be asked to produce your personal barcode and your finish token.  Both of these are scanned and it is this process that ties you to your finish position.  It is really important that BOTH barcodes are scanned - don't give your finish token back until it has been scanned as the scanners get very upset if they only have half the data they need.


Once everyone has finished the stopwatches and scanner are handed over to the RD for day to start processing the results.  We plug in the scanner and the stopwatches to the trusty parkrun laptop and upload the data to the parkrun website where it matches the times to the runners.  The RD on the day may have some details from individual runners where tokens didn't scan or where there were mix-ups at the finish.


When the results have been uploaded we scan through them to check that they tie-up with what we know and make sense!  Where barcodes haven't scanned they show up as unknown runners in the list. If we know who any are - from any details the RD was given - we'll try to amend them before sending them off for processing at parkrun HQ.  Any manual results are strictly for people who did bring a printed barcode but for whatever reason the scanners were unable to read it.


When we are happy that the results are as good as they can be, we click the button to send them off and the whizzy parkrun HQ supercomputers send out your text messages which, hopefully, has the correct time on it.


Please remember that parkrun is run by volunteers who give up their time each Saturday to provide this event.  There are little things you can do to make life easier for the volunteers and help make sure the results are as accurate as possible:

  • Don't cross the line twice - peal off to the side if you have already finished and you've gone back to support someone else.
  • Stay in your finish order until you have got your token.
  • Only collect your personal token; dogs, anyone on a bike, and random passers-by are not allowed a time and therefore not allowed a token.
  • Please take the tokens even if you don't want a result - just hand them back to the scanners.
  • Make sure you get both your own barcode and your finish token scanned before you leave the scanning position.
  • Please don't ask our volunteers to take your name if you have forgotten your barcode - no barcode, no result.


In addition to this we ask you to remember the few golden rules that we have for our course to ensure that everyone, runners and members of the general public that may be there at the same time as you, enjoys their morning:

  • Please be courteous to other uses of the paths. We don't have right of way on any part of our course and have to share the paths with members of the public. Please be kind and friendly to them and don't get in their way. Hopefully they will do the same to you. Why not wish them a cheerful "Good Morning" as you pass?
  • If you have an under-11 running with you, please make sure they are not more than arms length away from you at all times. We would hate to think that anything would happen to them out on the course and by keeping them close to you, you can ensure that nothing does! This is also a requirement of our insurance policy from UK Athletics. If our Marshals see anyone under-11 running on their own, they have been asked to challenge them and if necessary stop them running until their accompanying adult catches them up.
  • If you have a dog, please keep it on a short lead at all times. There have been occasions at other events where runners have been tripped over by dogs running loose or on extended leads. In line with the parkrun code, you are only allowed to run with 1 dog and only on a short (non-extendable) lead. Please ensure you have full control of your dog the whole way round.
  • Please be nice to our volunteers. They've given up their Saturday morning to stand out in all weathers so that you can have a free 5k run, they shouldn't have to deal with any disrespect from runners. Like members of the public, please be kind and friendly to them and thank them for their hard work on the way round.

And please be understanding if we don't always get it 100% right - we do our best and if there are queries after the run, we still try to help and get them right!

See everyone next Saturday morning!  :-)