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)!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!