Making a Mark

Royal Tunbridge Wells parkrun
Event no 204
2 June 2018

Run report/pictures by Richard Woodfield

This week, 1 - 7 June, is Volunteers' Week. It's a chance to say thank you for the fantastic contribution millions of volunteers make across the UK. Our parkrun depends 100% on volunteers - this week alone we had 31 different people, from teenagers to aged 75+, volunteer with us. So we thought it would be good to talk to one of our many regular volunteers, Mark Dennison, to find out a bit more about his experience of volunteering. On Saturday I caught up with Mark in the middle of his busy schedule - after his marshalling duties but before he moved on to token sorting in the cafe.

Mark used to be a runner before health issues put an end to that - in fact I was impressed to learn that he had once run the London marathon. Of recent times he would regularly go for a brisk walk on a Saturday morning. As he also knew a few of the people involved with parkrun he thought he would like to cheer them on. He got in touch with RTW parkrun to offer his services as a volunteer, initially for a month in January this year to see whether he and RTW parkrun were suited to each other. The stats tell their own story: by the beginning of June Mark had already undertaken no less than 29 volunteering duties, including marshal (16 times) and token sorting (11).

Mark in action at today's parkrun, first as a marshal and later on token sorting duties
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What does Mark particularly value about volunteering at RTW parkrun?

Mark was made to feel welcome by the run directors and by the supportive team of volunteers. This helped to draw him in at the outset. He thinks that parkrun is well run as an organisation and that it really appreciates the contributions made by volunteers. This includes the simple touches like the reminder email volunteer received beforehand and the thank you email that comes afterwards. Likewise, Mark appreciates the flexibility of parkun's approach to volunteering, valuing the contributions of both those who are able to volunteer regularly but also of those who can only do so from time to time. And he also thinks it's great that there are a wide variety of different types of volunteering role to suit different people's likes and abilities.

What about his role as marshal?

You’ll often see Mark stationed towards the end of the lap just where the path leaves the lakeside to go down the long straight toward the fountain. (This part of the course doesn't seem to have a special name, but you'll probably recognise it from the picture). Mark is particularly enthusiastic about this spot as an excellent place at which to marshal. I hadn't realised it had quite so much going for it - but everything Mark said made good sense!
* good visibility - it's nice to know in advance who's about to come past you. Mark likes to build up the number of regular parkrunners whom he recognises by name and so can give them an extra bit of personal encouragement along the way;
* near lap end - so he can without exaggeration tell any parkrunners struggling toward the finish that they are nearly there and only one last push is needed;
* near Halls Hole Rd car park Mark will still be out marshalling when some of the earlier finishers walk past him on their way back to that car park. So, often people will stop by to have a quick word and to thank him. Meanwhile, of course he also appreciates the waves and "thank you marshals" from parkrunners out on the course.

You’ll not be surprised to hear that Mark thoroughly recommends volunteering at RTW parkrun. I'm sure that all of us at RTW parkrun, not least the many perspiring runners who have had the benefit of Mark's encouragement towards the end of their 5k, are grateful to Mark for his contribution.

If you would like to volunteer, or would like to find out about volunteering, at our parkrun do have a word with Judy our friendly parkrun co-ordinator. Or drop us an email at royaltunbridgewellshelpers@parkrun.com

In other news....

It was a lovely warm morning for the parkrun. Run Director, Noeline, announced a number of new members to the run clubs: Junior 10 - Bethan Chandler, Connor Bourne, Leo Rodney and 50 club: Greg Clark, Annie Galanti. Noeline reminded the parkrunners that next week is the NHS 70 celebration event. This special event sees parkrun events up and down the country teaming up with their local NHS Trust in order to encourage new participants, including NHS staff and volunteers, to come along to their local parkrun to recognise the contribution that the National Health Service has made to the health of the nation over the past 70 years.

Meanwhile, I had decided that it was not a temperature conducive to a fast time, for me at least. So I positioned myself near the boathouse to take pictures of the starters before dutifully trotting back up to the start line to begin my run a couple of minutes later than everyone else.

The start...
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Tailwalkers - Jane and Rosemary - enter the finishing funnel bearing cones. Rosemary (right) at this stage was looking relaxed - clearly unaware that I was about to make her morning considerably more fraught by accidentally picking up her blue running bag instead of my own rather similar looking one!
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As I was about to leave, also looking very relaxed, was a gaggle of parkrunners enjoying refreshments on the cafe balcony. I took several pictures - but the one with Colin standing was the only one where you can (just about) see everyone's face. Sorry Colin!

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This week's stats:
* 234 parkrunners
* 31 volunteers
* 14 first timers to our event (of whom 7 were running their first ever parkrun)
* 29 personal bests

This week's volunteers were:
Adam JEE • Bethan CHANDLER • Colin RATCLIFFE • Croz CROSWELL • Derek JEE • Emily MULLETT • Eve DUBREUIL • Francis EAMES • Geraldine JEE • Jack NORWOOD • Jane FENTIMAN • John DYSON • Joseph WATTS • Judy GUEST • Keelan STUBBS • Kerry FRANCIS-WATTS • Lara JEE • Louise FITZGERALD • Mark DENNISON • Mark SCOTT • Noeline SIMS • Paul HOLLIS • Rachel SADLER • Richard WOODFIELD • Robin BARWICK • Rosemary SUMPTER • Sian DUBERY • Steve BARNFIELD • Valerie STUBBS • Victoria MULLETT • Yolanda WITT