Now start a parkrun…

This week I was getting my fix of “With Me Now”, a weekly podcast about all things parkrun, and they mentioned the idea of blogging about a week in the life of a parkrun event director. I LOVE with me now as the two presenters are based in my two former home towns/home parkrun cities of Leeds and London so I love to hear about where they are spending their Saturday mornings and I have been thinking about the idea of writing something about starting a parkrun for a while now, so I thought I would try and combine these two things and see what comes out.

parkrun (with a small ‘p’), has been a huge part of my life for a few years now, especially over the last few months with the recent launch of Lillie parkrun, Ann Arbor. With around 600 event locations in the UK, most Brits have heard of parkrun, but across the pond in the USA and very few people have even heard of this event, never mind actually visited one. There are now 26 parkruns in the USA with a new one starting this weekend (number 14 this year!) so parkrun here is on the rise, but it’s nowhere near as big as in the UK, Australia, or South Africa, where parkrun is really a huge event.

Anyone can start a parkrun event and they can contact their local country manager through the parkrun website if it is something they are really seriously interested in. That is what I did when I moved to the US in February this year and I am so glad I did! So with all of these things in mind here is what a week in the life of a new event director looks like (although I should add but I am very lucky to have my husband picking up some of the slack right now)!

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A snapshot of the conditions at Lillie Park this week. Cold, yes, but also beautiful!

Sunday/Monday:

Check parkrun email account for any issues or complaints about results from last weeks event, find some snazzy pictures for the run report, tidy up all of the signs that I threw in the boot 🇬🇧/trunk 🇺🇸 of my car after event tear down on Saturday.  Update volunteer roster for next week with any already confirmed volunteers. Write and publish run report, check facebook page for questions comments or notifications.

Tuesday:

Tuesdays are big days at Lillie parkrun HQ as they are the days we send out our official volunteer emails. The toughest position for us to fill at the moment are marshals for the lake bridge and roundabout… it gets pretty cold in Michigan in Winter so people don’t love the idea of standing around while everyone gets to run but I can promise that marshaling is actually really fun, especially if you bring a friend/doggo to keep you company! More facebook page and email checking.

Wednesday/Thursday:

Refresh emails/facebook to see if anyone new has offered to volunteer. Repeat every 5 minutes until bed time. Wash and hang volunteer high viz jackets if needed.

Friday:

Create facebook/twitter/instagram post reminding everyone how awesome parkrun is and that even if it snows we will still run as long as the course is safe. Send out volunteer reminders. Repeat Wednesday/Thursdays tasks throughout day. Locate all scanning and timing equipment and get everything charged and ready for Saturday. If the barcodes from the previous week haven’t been sorted out yet that is another Friday task, then get everything in a bag ready for the next morning.

Saturday:

Get up super early to double check everything is charged (6:30 at the latest, earlier if you want to throw in a pre-event run). Head to the event to set the course up making sure someone is back at event HQ by 8:30 incase anyone turns up early and wonders what is going on. Tell volunteer in charge of first timers/pre-run briefing of any important information such as park conditions, milestones, etc. Make sure volunteers are happy and know what they are doing for the morning, then go to assigned volunteer role, preferably barcode scanning but realistically anything except timing works for me.

After the event, pack up the car and head for coffee. Try and speak to everyone there but realistically end up chatting to just a couple of people briefly before heading home to process the results/volunteer pages, and invent some engaging content for social media. Then I move on to any other admin tasks like adding events to state-wide running websites etc to encourage more people to join us.

Being an event director can be exhausting but it is super rewarding. At least half of the runners last week told me they had never ran in temperatures that cold before, so if having a parkrun in their local area is encouraging people to get out and enjoy the fresh air in winter then it’s totally worth every minute!

 

 

 

 

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Louisville 139.1

Incase you aren’t aware, three weeks ago I did my first Ironman. I thought I better write about my race before I decide to do something stupid like sign up for another (just kidding… there is literally no way).

I guess I should start by explaining the title of this post, since the triathletes among you will know that an Iron-distance tri should be 140.6, well after standing in the rain for 3hrs to get a good swim spot, we found out the river current was too strong for us to swim the 0.8 miles up stream before the turn around point, thus the swim was shortened to just 0.9 miles… but more on that later, since where I should really start is the expo and the all important undie run!

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We arrived in Louisville on Friday afternoon and I headed straight to packet pickup, followed by first-timers and athletes briefings. These really just served to freak me out about the bike and persuade me to go to the expo and pick up extra gels and an inner tube which I didn’t end up needing but many people I saw did. After all this it was time for the famous undie run, raising money for the humane society. I would recommend these events at any races that have them…  We ran a total of about 2 miles over the bridge from Kentucky to Indiana in the rain (I ran in my casual trainers as my running shoes were in the hotel), had about a million photos taken by passers by, and just had an absolute blast! Then it was time to go home and get changed before heading out for dinner, when we used a $25 voucher provided by Ironman that was valid at a few restaurants in downtown which I thought was a really nice touch.

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The next day we got up early-ish but skipped the practice swim in favour of a giant stack of pancakes and the beautiful Joe Creason parkrun then spent the rest of the day gathering food (two McDonalds cheeseburgers and a turkey sandwich), and emergency cold/wet weather items (trash bags and a cheap shirt for my special needs bag). Then it was time for an early night before race day.

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So then it was finally here. A lady in the hotel who was also doing the race was kind enough to give me a ride to the start line so I could get a good swim spot, and I then stood in the rain for 3hrs making some awesome line friends who actually don’t live too far from me so maybe I will see them again! Eventually we got the news about the current and the shortened swim and then we began our slow walk to file into the river to start the swim. Now, it may have just been 0.9 miles long but it was the scariest swim of my entire life!!! The current was pushing everyone so far off course that without the amazing marshals screaming at us we would have been completely lost!!!

After surviving the swim, I was stripped of my wetsuit and it was on to T1 where I went with a full outfit change because I ‘didn’t want to be wet on the bike’. Thanks to my trash bag gillet my outfit did stay mostly dry but I was absolutely freezing throughout. I really don’t know what to say about the ride other than it was long, cold, and hilly, and the volunteers were AMAZING. I dropped my pop tarts (literally could have cried when I had to cycle past them all mushed up on the road) but made up for it with cliff bars at the aid stations, and it took me 8hrs to cycle 112 miles. I wasn’t quick but I did it, and I was so happy to see my husband that I cried going into T2.

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I both love and hate this photo ’cause I look like an idiot but it definitely captures the shock and amazement at crossing that line

T2 involved another change of shorts to my amazing Athleta pair that have full length side pockets, a quick fill up of my camelback, and then I was off!  If I learned anything at all during this race it was that I LOVE running!!! I ran the first 16 miles of the race without stopping and caught up to two of my triclub comrades. I didn’t exactly hit a wall at 16, but I knew my 9:30 min/mile pace wasn’t sustainable so I switched to a run/walk that dramatically lowered my pace but I was almost at the point where I couldn’t take on any more gels so something had to give. Even so I managed a 4:37 marathon, and I suppose I didn’t HAVE to stop and pet a kitten that was running across the course at mile 23 so I guess I could have taken a minute or so off that. I was leapfrogging with a young man who’s name I can’t remember but who was an absolute godsend those last few miles! We chatted and joked our way to the last mile, and then we crossed the finish line within seconds of each other and made our way to our waiting spectators. In total the race took me 13hrs and 15mins, and I both loved and hated every minute. During this race I pushed my body to the absolute limit, and I was amazed that I could do it. However, for me, once is enough! I will definitely do more half distance races but I just don’t need the training or extreme fatigue that comes from the full distance (minus a mile), ever again.