So this parkrun yeah, how does it all work?

Many thanks to Hove Prom parkrun for the inspiration for this week's news report. As there are a lot of new parkrunners at this time of the year we thought it would be useful to explain how things work.

We've come a long way since 2nd June 2017 when we first welcomed parkrunners to Upton House. Since that day, 206,435 km have been run on the course and our numbers have risen from an average of 150-200 to seeing over 400 on a regular basis. Who knows where we will be next year?

With this in mind, and with so many new people joining us on a Saturday morning, we thought we'd put together some information about our event - why we ask you to do what we do, give you a bit of terminology and let you see how everything works.


Firstly, everyone is a volunteer; we try to be as professional as we can be, but do bear this in mind if the results are late, or there are no photos on the Facebook page yet (photographers are also volunteers so there won't always be photos every week). Having said that, we volunteer because we love it - it's fun, engaging and you can learn new skills in a warm and welcoming environment. It's not a closed club and anyone is welcome to join in, whenever they want to.

So, let's look at a few parkrun day rules and explain why they are there!

So that run brief? I heard it last week so don't need to hear it again..right? - nope and that couldn't be further from the truth! Yes, there will be some recap on the rules we and every parkrun have to have in place, but there may be hazards on the course and other things to be aware of, as well as some announcements of special events and running milestones. Also, just because it isn't your first time, it doesn't mean that there aren't new people there so they won't have heard it before. All we ask is for 2-3 minutes of silence before you parkrun. Please keep quiet during the run brief.

Don't forget your barcode (or #DFYB) - this is the parkrun golden rule. Without a physical barcode you can't get an official time. You can still take part of course, but please take a finish token and simply give it us back.

What is a funnel ducker? - this is someone who enters the finish funnel then jumps out without taking a token. This causes issues for the team when processing results as the below explains.

Why should I take a finish token? - when you cross the line into the finish funnel, our timekeepers will click the stopwatch. Every time someone crosses the line, they click. These "clicks" are recorded and we upload them to a results processing system called webFMS. The data is very simple - it tells us that the 99th runner over the line crossed in 25:00, the 100th runner crossed in 25:10 and so on.

At the end of the funnel you are passed a finish token. These are in numerical order and what we aim to do is ensure that runner 99, gets token 99. When we scan you and your position token, and upload that to webFMS, the system looks at all of the information and basically says, runner 99 is John Smith and the 99th runner clicked was 25:00 so therefore John Smith's time is 25:00. Simples, eh?

BUT - things can go astray! If runner 99 were to be a funnel ducker, then there is a chance that runner 100 actually gets token 99 - meaning the computer gives Joan Smith 25:00 when she actually got 25:10. Now this doesn't sound much but if a few people do this, then as more and more people enter the funnel (and if a few duck out) then the results get more and more mixed up - still with us?

The same would happen if you refused a token - the person behind would get your time and so on. So we're not being funny when we say that you must take a token - it's simply how the results are processed.

What if I don't have a barcode and I'm not fussed about a time? - In this case we ask runners to still enter the funnel, collect a token and then hand it to the finish token support person in the orange hi-vis. We note down the numbers of positions where the runner had not barcode which helps the team when processing the results. We don't think this is much to ask. But, if you are using the parkrun as part of a long run and want to keep going, or if this above sounds too much like hard work, then please simply don't enter the finish funnel. We would prefer it if you did so we can get an accurate number of participants, but if you aren't prepared to wait a few moments in the funnel for a token, please don't enter it.

I'm in the funnel but why do I need to stay in order? I've crossed the line so it's ok, yes? - well no actually! On the same basis as what we said about the stopwatch clicks, you will only get an accurate time if you stay in the finish position you entered. Taking a token in order means you'll get your actual time rather than your funnel neighbour's time.

When does the stopwatch start? - timing starts when the Run Director says "go". Some of you start your watch as you cross the start line and though this could be a few seconds after the Run Director has started the run, your official time is from the first click on the stopwatch.

Why can't my time be from when I cross the start line? - resources, simply. We are a free timed run and don't have chip timing as some races do.

These tokens are nice and would look good on a keyring; can I keep them? - Sadly not. The finish tokens are always required back at the end of the run. If you have your barcode with you, the scanner will retain your position token so we can use it again next week. If you've forgotten your barcode, please simply pass the position token to a barcode scanner - please don't take them home. If you were to do this, and you find it in your pocket, please let us know! We're always relieved to get them back - just email us with the number!

I would like to take part but may not be able to complete the full 5k, can I still cross the finish line and get a time? - parkrun is open to everyone and we love to see people getting out and active. Our tail walker will always be the last to cross the line and participants can take as long as they need to walk/jog or run the course. However, as the event is a 5k event if you do decide to drop out and not complete the full course please do not cross the finish line as our results system is not designed provide times for different distances. It won't be long before you can complete the full distance.

Oh no - I ran a great run today and didn't get scanned until 15 mins after I finished - does that mean my time will be 15 mins more? - no, this isn't the case. Whilst it is always a good idea to get scanned straight after the run, a delay in scanning doesn't add minutes to your finishing time. Remember the tokens we discussed above? The system knows that if you crossed the line in position 200 and collected the appropriate finish token, that your time would match the 200th click on the watch.

I've taken a photo of my barcode on my phone - you can scan that, right? - actually we can't, sorry. Our scanners cannot read off screens and a photo of a barcode will be locked away with a PIN number so if something were to happen to you, we couldn't access your "In Case of Emergency" (ICE) number. We only accept paper, tag or wrist bracelet barcodes.

Ok, so you won't take it off my photo, but you can write it down, yeah? - again sadly no. The rules for this are firm and clear and when you access your barcode from your profile screen, that photographs are not permitted. If the volunteers were to do this, there is huge potential for them to be manually adding lots of results from people who didn't apply the rules. The same applies if you have forgotten your barcode. We will not add you to the results for the same reasons. At Upton House, if you can go and retrieve your physical barcode and present it to us in the tea-rooms before we have finished the results we can add you in.

Sounds a bit mean! - It's not really. Let's put this into context - our volunteers between them have to remember to bring a laptop, stopwatches, scanners, hi-viz, lanyards, folders, signs and many other pieces of kit to ensure the parkrun happens safely each week. Then it is packed away, results are processed, tokens are sorted, run reports done and social media updated - all we ask is that you bring one thing - your barcode.

Ok, you've got me. But what happens if my barcode gets smudged or the scanners can't read it? - now, that's a different story. As you have brought a barcode and for some reason it can't be scanned, then we will write it down for you and add you manually. This is the only occasion where we do this and another reason why we don't write down for people who've forgotten or have it on their phones. We utterly LOVE parkrun and volunteering, but we do like to do other things on a Saturday after the run has finished!

What else do I need to think about in the finish area? - to make the core team's role easier and the results more accurate there are a few more things we ask.
- Only cross the finish line once - if you have already finished and collected a token and run the last stretch with a friend, please peel away in plenty of time and do not cross the finish line a second time as you will have a second time recorded. Similarly, if your child did not complete the course and wants to run in with you, please ensure they do not cross the finish line.
- Do not re-enter the funnel. As described, it is important that every finisher who enters the funnel stays in the same order and collects a position token. We have volunteer funnel managers to try and ensure this happens. Access to the area on the far side of the funnel such as the new play area please must not be through the funnel, please go around. You can enter at any point beyond where the tokens are handed out.

That covers quite a lot and hopefully some things are a bit clearer now. Perhaps you already knew this, but it's quite likely that there is something in there that was new to you. We do the results in the tea rooms and you are always welcome to watch and learn. And of course, if there is anything that you are unsure about, please ASK! We're a friendly bunch and want you to come back again and again. Plus your barcode is your passport to 2,500 parkruns across the globe. No need to re-register!

See you at Upton House soon!