Monday, 14 January 2019

Digesting 2018: Parys parkrun (pt 4)

Parys parkrun

I've put our Parys parkrun here because it has been a constant in my life since I moved to Parys (three years ago this past Dec). Parkrun was not only something I enjoyed participating in, but as the Event Director here and fulfilling Run Director and other volunteer roles, I have made new friends and a community in this town. I love driving past parkrunners and waving at them or having a quick hello at the shops. Small town joys.

In November we were alerted that volunteer runs before the 8am parkrun start would no longer be permitted. I spoke to Gill Fordyce on the phone and she explained that this was coming from parkrun UK and also for reasons of safety and that outside of the parkrun time that volunteers were not covered by the event's liability.

OK. I can understand this. But...

Our volunteers are participants too. We've tried to get non-participating volunteers - family members of participants - but realistically you don't get enough of them volunteering often enough to make this viable. Many of our regular volunteers help out weekly or twice a month. They would hardly get to run if they did not run before parkrun.

Our volunteer run serves two purposes.

First, we start at 7, open the two gates on the way and we check the route for hazards and pick up litter.

Secondly, it is an opportunity for volunteers to participate and is a small thank you for more than an hour of their time spent enabling other people the opportunity to enjoy our parkrun.

Volunteerism in South Africa is something like 5%. I don't know how this is calculated - like number of people who have volunteered (ever) against total number of registered parkrunners? Anyway, we only have around 30-50 locals who regularly (more than twice a month) come to parkrun. We've got a lot more (maybe over 200?) parkrunners who have Parys as their home parkrun.

Small parkruns cannot exist without the same people who volunteer almost every week - rain or shine. We have people who are nearing 50 parkrun milestones - and they have never volunteered. We have people nearing 100 who maybe volunteer once or twice a year; and this is with having a volunteer run so they can still do their run and get their points.

Now how about telling my regular volunteers that if they volunteer they can't participate? Boom! They may then volunteer once every three months. Actually, I'm a fairly compulsive volunteer but if I didn't get to run I wouldn't volunteer as much either.

I've given up so many parkruns the past three years - like this past Saturday when I was Run Director (I didn't run early because of Rusty, not because of parkrun's ruling). I'm almost on 90 volunteerings and 90 parkruns. I would have been on 100 parkruns months ago if I didn't volunteer as much. It is one thing choosing not to run for my own reasons rather than to be told by parkrun that I may not participate.

Our volunteer roles mostly all take place during parkrun time because we need all the hands we can get. We do not have the luxury of being counted as volunteers for 'equipment storage', 'other', 'race briefing' or 'results processing'. Just this morning I fulfilled these roles as well as that of Run Director, Barcode Scanner and Finish Tokens (and I took photos at the finish of our milestone runners).

I found an email in my parkrun inbox this morning from parkrun.

"We have received feedback that Parys parkrun is still allowing pre runs? Please will you confirm that this has been stopped as requested telephonically to you in November last year?"

Dum-dee-dum

Yes. We. Are.

So what can happen here?

Parys parkrun can close down.

We now have a MyRun in Parys on Sunday mornings so people can still do a timed 5km run and they can get their Vitality points.

Parkrun is important to me because:
  • It is run on public ground and is part of the community.
  • The start is closer for our runners coming from the township.
  • It brings visitors to the town.
  • Parkrunners chase milestones, a motivation for them. Yes, they can aim for 50 MyRuns but is isn't quite the same (yet). As there are no more parkrun milestone tees, this is maybe not quite the incentive that it was.
I feel that Parkrun SA is bigger than both Gill and Bruce Fordyce. Each and every event is run by volunteers who make the 170 plus events in South Africa happen each and every Saturday morning (and the world, in fact) with absolutely no input from headquarters. We promote our parkruns, setup the equipment, help the participants, pack up, process the results, run our Facebook pages. 

We now have five Run Directors here - a super team. It wasn't that long ago that it was only me and Karen. Most of us volunteer on other days when we are not being the Run Director too. And we all usually do the early volunteer run - opening gates and picking up litter - happy to give up our time afterwards to allow our community to participate.

There are two types of volunteer roles: during parkrun and not-during parkrun. The later includes things like the aforementioned equipment storage as well as pre-event setup, post-event close down, communications, results processing, token sorting, first-timers briefing, other, run report writer etc. While these tasks are required to be done, they don't require a person to give up participating. Here in Parys, we do these roles too and don't even count them as volunteer roles, because we don't have the luxury of extra people to do these.

During-parkrun roles are those of run director, tokens, time keeping, marshalling and barcode scanning. Fun roles during parkruns that allow you to also participate are those of photographer and pacer (I didn't know that this role existed) and tailwalker.

Would they give up 12 to 40+ parkruns a year? This is the number of times that some of my volunteers volunteer each year.

I've just checked our parkrun email and I've been instructed to remove some volunteers from the results.

"All the above need to be removed from the results by Friday 18th January - this week. It is such a pity that this has happened and that so many visitors were witness to this. We have had feedback from a number of people about this."

Well, I hope that 'a number of people' will enjoy there being no Parys parkrun because this is the direction we're headed. I can bet that these visitors have not volunteered half as many times as our volunteers.

Parkrun runs off the goodwill of the volunteers. Take away goodwill and what do have? Nothing.

No volunteers. No parkrun. No participants.

// end of pt 4

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