It’s 06:25 and I wake up. My alarm, set for 06:30, hasn’t gone off yet. It takes me a few seconds to work out what day it is. Ah yes, Saturday... parkrun day! Then I remember... today is my first day as Run Director for Market Harborough parkrun. The nerves kick in.
As I get ready, I mentally run through what I have to do, what I have to remember, what to say in the pre-run briefing etc. I feel sick. I feel dizzy. I don’t like this feeling!
Simon helps me carry the two boxes of kit and the speaker downstairs, and load them into my car. The kit is all ready to go. Laptop, radios and barcode scanners are charged. 38 volunteer bibs are washed, dried and folded, paperwork for volunteers is attached to clipboards and a final check ensures the tokens are in order. Turns out being RD is a week-long role!
We leave home at 07:30, and arrive around 5 minutes later. The park is empty. I send Simon to the river to shovel the mud that has built up on the path out of the way, ensuring it’s not slippery for the runners. I can’t be dealing with a runner in the river on my first day as RD! Meanwhile I lay out all of the signs, posts etc. As volunteers and other members of the Core Team arrive I delegate sections of the course for them to set up. All is going to plan.
It’s around 08:30 when most volunteers start to arrive. I tick them off on my list and hand them their relevant equipment and tell the marshals where I’d like them to marshal.
It’s 08:50 now and that means it’s time to head to the start. Simon’s gone on ahead to get the speaker from my car and set it up. Mark approaches me and tells me that it’s his wife, Alex’s 50th run. I make a note and head to the start.
Roger climbs the stepladder first and introduces me. I am only half paying attention, half concentrating on taking deep breaths and telling myself that I just need to follow the script in my hand. People clap and Roger steps down. My hands start shaking. I climb up the stepladder, realising it’s much harder to stand on than I thought. I don’t make it to the top step as I’m worried I’ll fall; luckily I’m 6ft tall!
The next three minutes are a blur. I just remember the barrage of self-conscious thoughts: “I’m talking too quickly”, “I’m taking too long”, “I’m shouting”, “can they all hear me?”, “I hate my voice”, and the worst one: “why does this run brief contain so many damn Rs!” (for those who haven’t noticed, pronouncing Rs is not my strong point!).
3-2-1-parkrun and their off! A wave of relief as the runners disappear around the corner.
The next 18 minutes are fairly relaxed. Everyone is in place for when the first finishers cross the line. I spend most of my time near the funnel, checking that the timekeepers and finish tokens are on track with each other. Then something happens. I still don’t know exactly what, but next check of timekeepers and finish tokens shows that they’re one out from one another. Oops... Don’t panic. Nothing I can do about it now. I’ll deal with it afterwards.
A couple of further issues arise; two people cross the finish line twice. But the funnel managers and finish token volunteers are on the ball and spot this and remedy it quickly and easily. Both people are given a second finish token and we explain that they must scan the first and pop the second in the tub without having it scanned.
Around 10:15 and the last people cross the finish line, followed by the tail walkers. We pack up the rest of the finish and head back to the bowls pavilion. Meanwhile, various volunteers have packed up the rest of the course. We pack everything back into the kit boxes and head to the café. Bev has already set the laptop up for me. Time to process the results.
I plug in the first barcode scanner. Then I see the message on the screen. ‘No OPN records found’. I don’t know what that means, but it certainly doesn’t sound good! Did I accidentally press the reset button on the scanner? If so, that’s 1/3 of the runners who won’t get their results! Bev tells me not to panic (I still do) and I unplug it and try again. Same message. I try another barcode scanner. That one works fine and the results from that one are uploaded. I try scanner number 3. That works fine too. This worries me even more because it tells me it’s the scanner, not the cable or laptop. I plug scanner number 1 back in and wait... Bev then says “if this doesn’t work I don’t know what to do”. Whaaaat??? I need you to tell me that this is a common issue that you have a remedy for! We both wait, nervous energy floating between us. Then... 202 records uploaded. Yes! Not sure what the issue was and frankly I don’t care. It’s working. Phew!
I plug in and upload the stopwatch data. I then manually enter those whose barcodes wouldn’t scan. I remove the second result of those who crossed the line twice. I manage to work out that the discrepancy between the timekeepers and finish tokens occurred between runners 96 and 148. But that’s a fairly wide window. Not entirely sure what to do about this, so I ask Roger to help out. We work out what to do to fix this, and the results are good to go. I then finalise the volunteer roster, adding in those who turned up in the day to support, to ensure they get their volunteer credit and thank you email.
I then hand the kit over to Nicola, who is RD this week, and do a final Facebook post for the week. Finally, I can relax! Overall it’s gone pretty well. Everyone is alive, and got their results. The support from The Core Team and the runners/volunteers was great! In a weird way, despite the stress and anxiety, I’m quite looking forward to my next stint as RD!