New Race Perspective: Volunteer for a Day

I’ve never been a steward for anything before, ever. As someone who has participated in more races and events than my t-shirt drawer can hold since starting running some eight odd years ago, I feel quite ashamed of that. Don’t get me wrong, I have volunteered randomly over the years for different things, but just never as a steward. Bottom line: Running events, triathlons, duathlons, aquathons, etc could not take place without the generosity of volunteers, who so unselfishly give their time to helping out on race days and while I have always made a deliberate effort to acknowledge their valuable contribution, I probably haven’t done it as much as is deserved.


Parkrun is an entirely volunteer-led, free 5km event which takes place in numerous towns in numerous countries around the world every Saturday morning. The “parkrun” idea was born out of an initial gathering of park runners in Bushy Park, Teddington in the United Kingdom in 2004. A small number of runners together worked on developing a “cookie-cutting” approach to the 5km event that would essentially allow any willing group of volunteers to adopt the approach and setup their own parkrun in their own hometown. Parkrun is now operational in 12 countries and boasts 560 weekly 5km events. There are currently 25 parkrun events in Ireland which you can pop along to any Saturday morning. All you need to do is register online before you head down, print off your barcode (so they can scan you in at the finish line and give you an accurate finish time) and lace up your shoes! We are lucky enough to have a parkrun event in our town and the Naas event is excellently organised. There is a core group of volunteers whom I understand are not only responsible for bringing the event to Naas, finding a venue, negotiating with the town council, local sports partnership and the venue owners, but who physically turn out every week, without fail, to man the volunteer posts. They quietly set up the course on cold (and often dark these days…) mornings; take photos; cheer people on; heartily congratulate each person as they cross the finish line; provide tea, coffee and water supplies; discreetly pack up only when every man, woman and child has crossed the line; and they do all of this expertly. It’s military precision done with a smile and a pat on the back, for you, not themselves.


This morning I got to witness this firsthand when I decided to volunteer for the first time. The job assigned to me was barcode-scanner, which entailed scanning people’s personal barcodes, followed by their finishing chip, which together would give them an accurate finishing time. It was fun and I really enjoyed both watching the race from the sidelines from start to finish (another new for me!) and getting to know some of the volunteers. It was a good experience and one which I think all runners should do at some stage if for nothing else than to learn to really appreciate the work of the volunteers. As they might say nowadays: #Respect

Myself and the mother at last week’s parkrun. The self-proclaimed non-runner has completed 32 parkruns to date. As I said to her, I quite simply do not accept the statement: “I can’t run”. See?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s