What does a Run Director Actually Do?

Recently I foolishly volunteered to become one of the new Run Directors at Pomphrey Hill parkrun. What drives anyone to volunteer for a role like this?

1. With the ego the size of a planet and head sized to match any role titled “director” is impossible to resist. Especially as I get to boss people round which my wife doesn’t let me do at home.

2. “Director” looks fantastic on your CV, at least until you have to describe what the role entails “I, um, make people run round in circles” “NEXT”

3.  parkrun is a community and having taken from that community, it feels good to give something back. Its very rewarding to see people enjoying themselves when you have contributed to that.

4. I look awesome in Yellow

Being a run director is a little bit more involved than standing up on the wall looking and feeling  like a berk and cracking a few jokes. Here is a rundown of the activities of my first event on the job.

Sunday – I get official handover of RD responsibilities from last week’s run director Ira, There are a couple of volunteers added from the Saturday round up. Last week’s results have a couple of timing/position queries mainly due to the utterly useless (but devilishly handsome) funnel manager that Ira experienced. We are looking in reasonable shape for volunteers at this stage although a little light on marshals.

Monday – I get an email with two kind chaps volunteering to perform roles on the Saturday as they are running the Brum Half marathon on the following Sunday. I put out a request on Facebook for more volunteers using our now seemingly obligatory tactic of using sad looking animals. I still need a funnel manager another barcode scanner and 2 more marshals. Immediately following the volunteer appeal you start repeatedly hitting the refresh button on Facebook and on the parkrun webmail system wondering why no-one has volunteered. You nervously watch the viewer figures and likes on Facebook increasing wondering why no one has responded to your carefully worded request. The rest of the week is taken up with refreshing the webmail and groaning in disappointment when there are no more volunteers.

Tuesday – Tonight Ira brings me a present, a laptop a car boot full of signs, some badly rolled up tape for the finish funnel and a Perspex box full of badly folded tabards. No volunteers responding to last night’s appeal.  More frantic email refreshing beckons. Maybe I am going to have to call in some favours…

Wednesday – New appeal on Facebook, get a second barcode scanner volunteer. Do a little dance at the sight of the unread email

Thursday – Write some notes for run briefing – Must mention next weeks backwards run, bacon rolls and volunteer roles.

Friday – Final check, ensure everything is ready, Finish tokens in right order, stopwatches and scanners cleared down and charged. Check laptop for windows updates. A couple of last minute volunteers means the roster is full apart from the funnel manager role which I can do myself. Make sure the clipboards have new sheets and that the marshal’s lanyards are correct.

Saturday – parkrun day. Plenty to do today I get to the course for 8am and unlock the gate. Before unloading everything from the car. First order of business is to find my shiny Run Director Yellow Jacket of Authority so I can strut around the place like an enormous yellow peacock. I Start arranging the signs into their correct marshal areas. We have 6 marshal areas plus the start and finish so there are 8 sets of signs to arrange. Team Grimshaw turn up early so I put them into action on creating my finish funnel. As the volunteers turn up I explain their role and give them their hi-viz jackets, before sending them off with their signs.

As 9am approaches, we get the runners assembled in the correct area and I climb on the wall to give the briefing. I’m fairly sure only about 3 people are listening but I go through the required points and then its time. I make sure some of the eager runners get back behind the start line and 3, 2, 1 they are off and running, walking, skipping, crawling or prancing.

Event #34 18-October-2014

 The pressure is now off for just over 17 minutes and I can enjoy the parkrun experience and cheering on the runners as they thunder around our little course. We have a little whoops as the main stopwatch gets stopped and started again losing 3 seconds compared to the back-up stopwatch. This is recorded on the sheet to be amended later. One of our runners manages to fall over but she is okay and stops as originally planned at the end of the first lap. We have a quick chat to make sure she’s okay and to ascertain the cause.

The first runner comes around to start his final lap so I ensure that the finish funnel team are all ready. As funnel manager my role is to ensure that the timekeepers and tokens finisher numbers are aligned and that I record any discrepancies. The previous week there had been a few issues with a lot of runners completing in a short time period and the tokens getting disordered. There are a few runners who have decided to outrageously bully the new Run Director by making a mockery of his trademark sprint finish. Sadly not one of them managed the elegance and pure power of the Mussile. It was clear that some time penalties were deserved at this point…

As the last few runners come in, I make sure that we are sorted on the numbers and thank the marshals as they come back once relieved by the tail runner. Big thanks to Ellen as she has marshalled a lot of times and never run the course and I had been pestering her to tail run for weeks and she came up trumps.

Event #34 18-October-2014

Once the run was finished the first task is to dismantle the course. Once again by the time we start dismantling the finish funnel everyone else has gone home. BOO! Need to ensure in future the funnel team manages the clear-up process. This job takes ages due to winding the tape up nicely.

I get the laptop, stopwatches and scanners and we head into the pavilion to process the results, including the added time penalties. We wait for the laptop to finish last nights update. Doh, should have restarted last night. I plug in the first scanner to download the results – An even number of records is a good start. There is an even number of records on the second scanner too. Next is the stopwatch and I download the results from there.

We then enter the parkrun results system which has a scary red bar at the top announcing CAUTION – THIS IS LIVE Instils a nice sense of well-being from the start. Maybe they should consider a softer pastel colour and lower case text. Task 1 on here is to put in an incident report for the faller, this is a new bit of the process and esteemed Co-Event director Meryl suggests I save this into a text file. I can then confirm the volunteer roster to ensure that every helper is acknowledged. We then go ahead to process the results and upload the scanner data followed by the time data. Once this is all uploaded the results screen appears. This is split into a number of tabs relating to position. If a runner is green then all is good, if they are in a pale yellow colour means that some data is missing.

There were 4 runners with missing barcode data. The general rule is no barcode, no time, no exceptions. In this case the missing data was all recorded by the Token Support volunteer. On this occasion the barcodes either not scanned and one finish token had been dropped in the bag before being scanned.

After this there were no more unknown runners on the system which is very very unusual. The next task was to check the times and positions against my copious Funnel managers notes. This week’s chap was much better than the one that Ira had to deal with the week before. This all lined up as did the raw text data files from the scanners. The last task is to add on the time discrepancy to fix the timing error.

All good to go it’s time to submit for processing, much to the chagrin of Meryl who I am sure was hoping for some fun and games. The staged results look good and we have a text almost immediately from the other event director seemingly surprised our results were up so soon.

Team Mussell are on hand to put all the finish tokens back in the right order and check that none were missing and were ably assisted by parts of the Grimshaw tribe

All the kit piled back in the car and off we go home. As soon as I get home I fire up the parkrun email and there is a results query. Fortunately it was for the week before. I get that resolved with the helpful advice of the other RD’s on our completely focused parkrun Facebook messenger group and post the link to the results on our Facebook page.

The last job is to write the run report. I wait for the photos to be uploaded by our intrepid photographer and the standard run data report to arrive  and write a quick blog report which gets posted on the system and shared on Facebook. I (very unusually) keep it brief with just some basic information. I might get more lyrical/verbose/boring at a later date but for effort one thought let’s keep it short and sweet.

Sunday – I agree with the next RD Neil in the saddle to take the kit round to him on Tuesday, check the email system glad to see there are no results queries or issues. I make sure everything is in order. YJA’s nicely folded, the barcodes in the correct place. The lanyards tidied up and the volunteer board cleared.

Monday – Official handover to the next RD so he can hassle everyone on Facebook. He’s terribly upset that the roster isn’t already full but somehow gets 3 volunteers in the first 10 minutes.