What do volunteers do?

Event #115 30-April-2016

Are you keen to support parkrun but nervous of the responsibilities of volunteering? Here’s a little more information about each role so you have an idea what you are signing up for.

Event #115 30-April-2016

Marshals are our most important volunteers, without them, the event cannot take place. They are there to support, clap, (scream,) shout and generally encourage runners around the course as well as call out warnings if there are any hazards on the course or if the faster runners are starting to overtake other runners.

Marshals sometimes set up the course, always return the signs to the Run Director at the end of the run and are there to call for help in the event of a medical incident. Marshals should also look out for distressed or unwell runners. For this reason, each marshal needs to be over 18 and should bring with them a mobile phone. Full emergency instructions are given to each marshal on a lanyard. Junior marshals should always be accompanied by an adult; those under 11 must be with their own parent or guardian. If over 11 they can be paired with any adult as long as parents agree, and the child and volunteer are happy to work together.


This is a technical role as the volunteer has the responsibility to start the stopwatch at the start of the run and then clicks the stopwatch for every runner crossing the finish line. The timekeeper presses A when the run director yells “Go” at the end of the pre-run brief. Then at the finish line, presses B for every runner as they cross the line on their own two feet (we don’t count buggy passengers, children who are carried or any dogs). Tip instead of only watching the area immediately around the finish line, experienced timekeepers tend to keep an eye back down the course on incoming runners; when a clump of runners approach, they do a quick head count and then count them off as they click. As we can have 200 people crossing the line within the first 30 minutes of the event, this role is simple but can require concentration, especially when liaising with our funnel manager.

Two volunteers share this technical role, each one with their own stopwatch. We understand that errors and equipment failure can, and do, occur. In the event of any such glitches, these are reported to the funnel manager to note down, and this information can then be used when processing the results. When coupled with having two stopwatches in operation, this means that this role shouldn’t feel as pressured as it might seem.

Event #115 30-April-2016

Funnel Manager and Number Checker

We will often split this role between two volunteers.  The Funnel Manager takes responsibility for keeping the runners in the right finishing order in the funnel while they queue to collect their finish token.  They also keep an eye on generally how people are coming through the funnel and note down any issues.  Examples include

  • if someone comes through but then realises that they have only completed two laps
  • if someone comes through the finish funnel twice (maybe accompanying another runner to the finish)
  • if someone by-passes the timekeepers (and so has not been clicked on the stopwatch) and then ducks into the funnel to take a finish token

The Funnel Manager is also there to note down any issues raised by the other people involved in the funnel.  So if the timekeepers notice that they have missed a finisher, have done an extra click by mistake, or have a different number of finishers on the two stopwatches then this is noted down together with when it happened.  If someone refuses to take a finish token then this can also be noted down.

The other volunteer - the Number Checker - is responsible for taking sample times to aid results processing. This involves liaising with the timekeeper to take a note of the time and finishing position on the stopwatch and checking with the runner that they have been given the same number finish token and asking for and writing down the runner's name.  It is good to aim for at least one sample per ten finishers so this can be quite a busy role when the number of finishers per minute is at its peak.

Both of these roles can require quick thinking and a willingness to talk to people.    The Run Director will find the notes taken invaluable when it comes to processing the results.

Finish Tokens

This volunteer is given the box of tokens at the start of the event. Runners crossing the line on their own two feet (we don't count buggy passengers or children who are carried) are timed and then they are each given a finish token. Tokens are stored on string, so advice is given to slide off a cluster of 20 tokens for quick distribution. If tokens are dropped, and can't easily be picked up, don’t panic, just carry on from the next token.  Tell the funnel manager so that he/she can make a note of the finish token numbers that have been missed out.  That way the run director is aware when processing the results.

If a runner refuses a token, just pocket it or pass it to the funnel manager.  Please don't give their token to the next runner as this causes a problem when processing the results.

A fun job to do as runners are so pleased to finish and claim their hard earned token.

Barcode Scanner

This is a technical role as the volunteer is given a gadget to play with. The scanner is very simple to use, one large button that causes a red line to appear. Simply scan the athlete barcode and then the finish token, in that order. The scanner has a green light and a two tone beep if the scan is successful. If you see a red light and a single beep then the barcode you are scanning has already been scanned. Tip the scanners work best in the shade and if kept warm and dry; you may need to keep the scanner in a pocket until use in the winter or scan under the shade of the pavilion in inclement weather. If the runner doesn’t have a barcode or if you’re uncertain the scans were successful, send the athlete to finish token support. If the scan works fine then you keep the finish token in the attractive bumbag that you will be wearing.

Finish Token Support

This role involves writing down the details of all the athletes with unscannable barcodes or the number of the token where the athlete is unregistered or has forgotten their barcode (we do not scan from mobile devices). There is very little time pressure on this role but a willingness to enforce the “no barcode, no time, no exception” rule is required. In the event of any runner questioning this rule, simply refer them to the run director.

Tail Walker

This role is often the most coveted as it enables the volunteer to complete the 5k run at the back of the pack, whilst also volunteering. This role involves staying behind the last runner/walker of our parkrun event. On the third and final lap, the role involves telling each marshal you are on your last lap, reminding them to collect their signs and to report to the run director, if they have had any issues.  The tail walker may find the last participant decides not to complete the full 5k, in which case the tail walker needs to catch up to the next 'last participant'.



Photographers of all abilities and with whatever equipment they have at their disposal are invited to take pictures at our events. We ask you to upload all images to our flickr group which is linked to our website. This enables us to also link photos to our run reports and to grab a small sample for our facebook album. We ask for some set types`of photos at each event (week) - volunteer group, start of the run and folks celebrating any milestones - but otherwise let your imagination run free.


Car Park Marshal

This role at Pomphrey Hill is for over 18s only as it requires the volunteers to direct traffic at our busy event. This volunteer role starts at 8.30 and finishes approximately 8.55 allowing the volunteer to get to the start to run in the event.  This is the guidance we give to our Car Park Marshals:

  • There should be 2 walkie talkies allocated to the Car Park Marshals and collected from the Run Director along with High Vis vests. One walkie talkie should stay with the Marshal/s in the car park and one should go with the Marshal at the roadside/entrance to Pomphrey Hill.
  • One Marshal should safely stand so they are visible to traffic arriving to Pomphrey Hill and direct cars into the appropriate car park (Pomphrey Hill or Overflow).
  • The other Marshal/s (with a walkie talkie) should base themselves in the car park that is being filled.
  • Fill the Pomphrey Hill car park first – keep in touch to ensure the Marshal at the entrance/road side is aware of when to start to direct cars to the overflow car park.
  • Once the Pomphrey Hill car park is full the entrance/roadside Marshal should direct traffic to the overflow car park.
  • The “Car park full for parkrunners” sign should then be placed at the entrance to Pomphrey Hill.
  • A Marshal (with walkie talkie) should go to the overflow car park and encourage drivers to park responsibly using all available space (rows of cars can be arranged in the middle of the overflow car park if necessary).
  • Please discourage runners from using residential parking if spaces are available in the car park.
  • If any driver has a complaint regarding parking, please politely direct them to speak to the Run Director.

car parks

Run Directors organise all the volunteers and kit each week and are often on site from as early as 7.30am. We do ask volunteers to arrive on site prior to 8.30 to allow us to give full training and hand out the high-vis vests and any equipment.


What do you get from this? Our event requires approximately 20 volunteers each week to make it happen. Whilst each run counts towards a milestone t-shirt, every time you volunteer at an event, it does count towards your purple volunteer t-shirt. Why volunteer at all? Volunteers often feedback the following:

“A great sense of satisfaction”, “A feeling of a job well done” and "Discovering a completely different and enjoyable perspective of parkrun".


Go on – be a high-vis hero!