welcome to this week's newsletter
In this week’s newsletter Lucozade Sport offer you a money can’t buy once in a lifetime opportunity to fly to the States and train with Mo Farah, Matt Shields says hello from Belfast and I positively present three steps to volunteering harmony.
Two weeks ago I talked about the many reasons that make volunteering so amazing and judging by the feedback we received those thoughts were met by almost universal support. Last week I discussed why volunteering isn’t for everyone and how that should be respected and even encouraged by the wider parkrun community. Although I’d say the feedback on that was around 75% supportive, I did receive a reasonable number of emails disagreeing with me and generally suggesting that everyone who runs regularly should also ‘do their bit’ by volunteering. I hope that my thoughts this week will explain why I personally don’t agree.
If there’s one thing that I'm sure the majority of us believe it’s that in order for parkrun to happen we need a significant number of people to volunteer every week. In 2012 20,367 different people volunteered at a parkrun event, representing only 10.3% of the total number of people who ran. It is clear to me that from talking with our event teams there are a large number who either don’t get enough volunteers or where the same people are ‘having’ to volunteer each week and this is causing them stress. We therefore need to increase the percentage of parkrunners who volunteer.
All good so far.
My concern is that in many cases we are going about this the wrong way where people are being guilt tripped into doing it and those who are volunteering are expressing it the wrong way using negative terms such as ‘giving up my run’ or ‘doing my bit’. Generally it seems there is a reasonable amount of negative feeling developing between those who do and those who don’t, in that direction. The problem with this negative association is that even if we do generate more volunteers I don’t believe this is sustainable as people won’t be inspired to engage on a longer term basis and I also don’t believe it’s right as they are far more likely to then resent 'having' to volunteer.
The way I see it there are three key reasons why we are not engaging with as many volunteers as we would like to, in a way in which we would like to...
1 – Many parkrunners don’t know what a fantastic experience volunteering can be
2 – parkrunners often aren’t aware that their event actually needs more volunteers
3 – Many parkrunners don’t volunteer because they’re concerned about making a mistake
If I could address each of those in turn...
Sometimes without even thinking we can associate certain good things we do with negative feelings, society seems to condition us into thinking bad things about positive behavior. I’m no social psychologist and don’t know why this is but healthy food is so often portrayed as dull, exercise as boring, work as miserable and even trying hard at school as being a geek. In the same way, when asking people to volunteer we use similar negative emotions, why should volunteering be seen as simply giving something else up? For me healthy food should always be tasty, exercise should always be fun, our jobs should be stimulating and working hard at school should be the cool thing to do! If you don’t feel that way about those things then I would suggest you aren't doing them right, and it’s the same with volunteering. If you feel you’re making a sacrifice then you’re doing something wrong.
With regards awareness of the need for volunteers we can often become the victims of our own success and volunteer teams who do a fantastic job can be perceived as not needing any more help. Sometimes this is because they haven’t actually asked for it and sometimes this is because their parkrun community haven’t actually heard them. But nevertheless, there are a large number of events who need more volunteers and I believe those events have a large number of people who would volunteer if only they realised there was a need.
Finally, one of the most important concepts to understand about parkrun volunteering is that most of what we do is extremely simple and even if you make a mistake it really doesn’t matter. One of the main reasons we classify ourselves as a run not a race (there’s a whole other series of newsletters!) is that we appreciate our events are delivered by small groups of local volunteers, often with no previous experience of putting on running events and we don’t believe that anyone should be under unnecessary pressure. Remember, we’re really just a ‘run where people make friends’ and if runners want a guarantee of more than that they should enter one of the many amazing races on offer around the UK.
1 – Volunteering really is a wonderful thing that many (not all) of us would enjoy, certainly more than the 10.3% who are currently volunteering
2 – Your event probably does need your help, you just don’t know it yet
3 – It really doesn’t matter if you make a mistake, there’s always next week
This then is my call out to all UK parkrunners...
If you don't feel that volunteering is for you then please feel free to run to your heart's content, guilt free and knowing that you have the support of the parkrun community. However if you're reading this and you have even the slightest suspicion you might enjoy volunteering, or if you'd like to volunteer but aren't sure if your parkrun needs you (they probably do) or even if the reason you haven't volunteered before is because you're worried about making a mistake (I've made them all already) then I'd really love you to have a word with your local volunteer team or pop them an email via the address on their website and give it a try. If you hate it, they turn you away (they won't) or you drop the tokens and the World ends then you can always go back to running. However, the chances are you’ll be won over by the warmth and fellowship of your local volunteer community and life will never be quite the same.
Thanks for listening, I've saved the hottest topic till last though and next week I'll be strapping on the protective clothing and tackling volunteer recognition.
Wish me luck!
Tom (get in touch)
win the chance to train with Mo Farah
If the snow is holding you back or you are struggling for motivation this January, Lucozade Sport has an incredible prize to inspire you. Five lucky winners will travel to Oregon, USA to meet and train with double Olympic Gold Medallist Mo Farah.
This is truly a money can’t buy experience and the five lucky winners will get to see where Mo lives, trains and relaxes. They will spend time at the state-of-the-art training facility where Mo trains to see what goes into the making of an Olympic Champion.
Alongside flights, hotel accommodation and a track session by the legend himself, this is simply an unmissable opportunity.
To enter, simply pick up a bottle in-store and enter online here*. You have until Thursday the 31st of January to enter so don’t delay. Good luck!
Join in the conversation on Facebook and on Twitter with #TrainWithMo
*Terms and Conditions apply. See competition website for full Terms and Conditions
Please check your event’s news pages for the most up to date information.
Cancellations and course changes this Saturday:
- Reading parkrun is cancelled until further notice due to the course conditions.
feedback from the field
I would like to say a huge thank you to you! I have just read the newsletter and have to agree with so many of the reasons why I have joined the parkrun family. I was encouraged by my daughters Claire and Catherine to go along to Newport parkrun and have a go, having been able to run many, many years ago. The first week I watched, the second I walked the course, the third I printed my barcode and finally, when no one was looking, I joined in at the back, mainly walking and a little jogging. That was it, I had completed my first Newport parkrun and the date was May 2011. Last week I received my 50 Club t-shirt and can honestly say I haven't felt that proud in a long, long time. My 50th run before Christmas was very special as Claire and Catherine both travelled to South Wales to complete it with me. They ran and shouted me over the finishing line. So parkrun this is what you have helped me achieve: a common family interest, regular phone calls on a Saturday afternoon to check on our times from around the country, a sense of community when I volunteer, the confidence to join Lliswerry Running Club, being fitter and healthier, happily going to the gym most days, an outlet to de-stress from family and work commitments, being able to enjoy active family holidays, amazingly having a PB that maybe I can beat (I'm always at the back, but that doesn't matter) and above all so many new friends and acquaintances. Without the wonderful organisers, volunteers, sponsors and supporters none of this would have happened.
Thank you all so much,
I've just read my first newsletter after completing my first parkrun last weekend and I agree with all the sentiments expressed. I’ve just moved to Hove from Ireland and was bowled over to hear about the parkrun concept. I’m even more impressed that the reality was as inclusive and welcoming as the website says. I’m 45 years old and trying to get back in shape so the encouragement and the camaraderie is very welcome. I love the acceptance of everyone and agree it is about respect for those reasons. I hope in six months to have a few more runs under my belt and to have also contributed with my fair share of volunteering. Keep up the great work and give all the team my thanks. Wishing you health, happiness and success in 2013 and many happy returns!
What a really thought provoking article in the newsletter on why we participate in parkrun as runner, volunteer or both. The main thing is that you and the team have created the opportunity for people throughout the UK to become involved in whatever capacity we feel comfortable in. The choice lies with the individual, but the benefits of teamwork are also fundamental and volunteering is an essential component towards parkrun’s continued success and sustainability. As someone who originally joined just to run, it became apparent that without volunteers parkrun would not exist and more importantly volunteering was something that brought enjoyment to many and was at the heart of parkrun. The opportunity to run and then put something back at a time that suits is an amazing concept and one that has proven to work well. The amazing thing of all is it is free! In 2012 I achieved a few PBs and thought I was flying but was then hit with an injury and then lost my mother - suddenly there were a few completely unexpected hurdles to overcome. parkrun helped me through these periods by providing opportunities for me to volunteer when injured and following my family bereavement the compassion shown by my parkrun colleagues was heartfelt and warmly appreciated. My tale of woe continued as 2012 ended, diagnosed with a chest infection I can neither run or volunteer just now, so to say I am missing parkrun as a runner or volunteer is an understatement! The parkrun family is truly amazing and reaching out to all corners of the globe. What an achievement! Finally I must thank the Glasgow parkrun team as they do a great job. To all involved in parkrun in whatever capacity in 2013 make sure you enjoy it as that is why we do it!
My hubby and I love you. We've met some lovely, genuine people at our local parkrun in Bushy Park and made some great friends. Whenever we go t'up north to visit my family we always pop into Durham parkrun. Organisers Alister and Jackie Robson are so friendly, warm and welcoming. It's the fabulous people who make parkrun so special. Not to mention that since I started doing parkrun I've dropped over a stone!
Lisa (and Jonathan) Mainwaring
Having been a participant since the first Barrow parkrun in September 2011, I love both the running and volunteering aspect. I think the most enjoyable volunteering morning had to be when I took my two small nephews along and marshalled. Isaac, aged four, stood and pointed runners in the right direction until his little arm was dropping off, then clapped and asked me the names of the runners going past. He wanted to know why people were giving us a little clap or a wave on the way past and Jacob, aged eight months, sat agog in his buggy at all the people flying past. Most of all I really appreciated the amount of parkrunners who chatted to Isaac in the café afterwards and made a point of telling him what a great job he did. Great morning and great company!
In 2007 during a deep mid-career crisis and depression I learnt a mental switch that has changed my life and it is like that of the one I now have as a parkrun volunteer. In my profession as a doctor, instead of expecting thanks and respect from your patients, you can instead thank them for the opportunity you get to use your skills. Likewise as a parkrun volunteer instead of expecting thanks and as you put it “resenting” the runners when volunteering, we should thank the runners for being up and out and making our efforts as a volunteer worthwhile. Sometimes it’s hard to maintain this switch but when you do I think you get much more out of life. Thanks for all that you have done.
First, may I say a huge thanks to Adam and Will Prentis, Andrew Castlelow and all those who helped set up the Harrogate parkrun and of course the national parkrun team. I am a keen Harrogate Harriers club runner and parkrun has added to the pleasure I get from taking part in organised events. They are the perfect way to start the weekend. I thank you all! I teach at the school that overlooks the Harrogate course and when I set my Year 7 class the task of writing Haiku poems, one of them, Oliver Earl a Harrogate parkrunner, said he'd like to do one about Harrogate parkrun’s first birthday, and here it is:
I hope I do well.
I will strive for a PB,
But I feel so tired.
Thanks again for everything,
I just wanted to say that Gillian and Paul Tremere who look after Hull parkrun are great. They always have smiles upon their faces and are always there through rain, snow and wind. Hull parkrun would not be so well organised without them.
2012 was a momentous parkrun year for me with a PB at Cardiff parkrun in June, a PB at Kings Lynn parkrun in November and a PB at my home parkrun, Marple, in October. This was crowned by my being awarded October’s Sweatshop Monthly Prize. It was also a lovely present for my 59th birthday, so thank you. My times dropped during the inclement weather in December, and I wondered if age finally caught up with me? All hope was restored this past Saturday as an acceptable time was achieved in the snow and frost bound rutted fields! I would also like to say how much I appreciate the organisers and volunteers at Marple parkrun as they turn out whatever the conditions. Here is my thanks to you all wherever your home parkrun is. So whether volunteering or running, here’s to lots of enjoyable parkruns in 2013.
Ian N Taylor
I would just like to extend my thanks and appreciation to all the organisers and runners at the Milton Keynes parkrun on Saturday the 19th of January. We arranged a ‘24 parkruns in 24 hour challenge’ for charity which started on the Friday. When it came to the 24th run, which coincided with the Saturday parkrun, we received amazing support from all runners and volunteers on the course, especially David Lloyd Redway Runners, who ran alongside us for the last lap. The support from the running community through the previous 23 hours had been great with runners joining us at all hours, so plenty of Freedom parkruns should be logged! It was a great way to reach my 50th parkrun as well.
Drop us an email if you have an interesting parkrun related fact, happening or comment that you would like to share with all parkrunners.
parkrunner of the week
Name: Diane Mawer
Home parkrun: Hull
Number of runs: 98
Favourite volunteer role: Probably pacing, it's been a new challenge and a great way to get to know other parkrunners. I’m also enjoying an apprenticeship as the run report writer!
What do you do at parkruns: Primarily lots of running with friends where the social aspect of parkrun becoming every bit as important.
How has parkrun changed your running: My regular parkrun fix has convinced me that I am a ‘proper’ runner, I’d done a bit on a treadmill but had never ventured outside before. Amazingly I still seem to be getting quicker and thanks to the support of the lovely friends I’ve made on a Saturday morning I’ve started entering a few races too.
What do you like about parkrun: Everything... it’s such a brilliant concept and accessible to all ages and abilities. Everybody has their own parkrun story and I particularly look forward to catching up before and after the run. I’ve also become a bit of a parkrun tourist, grasping the opportunity to run in some beautiful locations and making new friends along the way.
Most memorable or funniest parkrun moment: Where do I start? Every Hull parkrun is special in some way, there really is no better way to start the weekend. I loved the ‘splashrun’ at Southwick, (my second parkrun home), where wellies would have been more useful than running shoes, tackling hills and ‘chicanes’ on a sunny morning in Roundhay Park and being beside the seaside at both Medina, IOW and Sewerby. Meanwhile, I’ll probably always be teased for getting lost in Nottingham and turning ‘parkrun hunting’ into an event in its own right!