On Saturday mornings, when I can, I volunteer at an event called Parkrun with my two family friends, Poppy and Rose. Even if we’ve not been able to do it much recently because of exams, revision and stress, last Saturday I did it again with Rose and it reaffirmed to me just how much I love it and why I do it.
Parkrun is (usually) held weekly in parks around the UK and in other parts of the world. People run around a 5 KM track, each having an individual barcode which they can scan in at the end if they want to be timed. It’s not really a race because the only person you’re racing is yourself, if you’re not the competitive sort. Depending on your park, a different number of people will run it every week: it’s free, maintained by volunteers, sponsors and organisers and (in my opinion) is an amazing way for people to get together in a relaxed setting and exercise.
You may ask, “What do you actually do if you don’t run it?” because I know, the thought of me running the thing is so ridiculous that it makes me laugh. I really should one day… My dad has been running it almost weekly for nearly 2 and a half years, completing 130 or so runs. That’s how we first heard of Parkrun and my friends and I have been doing it for about 1 and a half years now, though not as regularly as I would like.
When runners are on a track and are busy exercising, they need to know which way to go especially if they’re unfamiliar with the course. We point them in the right direction, encourage them (or scream in the case of me and my friends) and are the eyes of the course if anything goes wrong. We wear high-vis jackets and, depending on how many volunteers – or marshalls as our specific role is – there are, there are normally 3 people to a section of the course, more if in our case we need to be supervised as we’re under the age of 18. There are other jobs, such as the ‘funnel people’ (that’s not their official name) who scan barcodes and the tail runner(s) who are at the rear of the runners and indicate to us when there are no more people so we can leave. I’ve only ever been a marshall because realistically, I couldn’t scan the barcodes and we’ve never tried to be tail runners.
Volunteering all started when Poppy wanted to do it for her Duke of Edinburgh: she asked me if I wanted to join her and I said yes; she and I both knew it well because of my dad and even Rose and her had run it about 6 times the summer beforehand. Both of us did it for a while before Rose joined: when she did, it just felt right and whenever one of them can’t do it, it’s not the same. Even after Poppy stopped D of E, we carried on because it’s become something of a tradition. I’ve always done it because I love it and even for waking up at 7, it’s bloody worth it.
Poppy, Rose and I have become somewhat known in our specific park – I won’t mention any details of the course or the average turnout because anonymity. People know us because, well, we’re very enthusiastic. Whether that’s literally screaming, yelling or cheering, all of us have really got into the spirit of it.
Part of the reason we work so well together is because of our friendship. I feel quite sorry for the people who volunteer alongside us because all of us insult each other constantly, comment on our “sarcastic” cheering (it was an accident okay?) and generally end up throwing what anyone else would call horrible remarks at each other. Any time one of us is awkward, which is usually me, the others take the piss out of them for it. Often, we repeat the same things, culminating in ‘running catchphrases’. We’ve even made plans to make a cheesy running Spotify playlist and I’m pretty sure all the runners mildly hate us because we don’t just stand around clapping. I couldn’t care less though because it puts a smile on my face.
Whenever we do volunteering, afterwards, I feel so happy and much more relaxed. I’d never want to be payed for it because I think it’s against the spirit of the entire thing; I’m happy doing what I’m doing. If I can encourage people and let them know they’re doing a great job, it makes me happy as well as them. Having Poppy and Rose with me whilst we do that is amazing because I wouldn’t feel comfortable shrieking around anyone else. If other people joined us that we knew, it’d be weird and I don’t think I’d approach it with the same level of enthusiasm. When the only people who know you properly are those doing the same thing as you, you can act how you’d want to act without being self-conscious.
Volunteering has made me more active, brought me closer to my community, gave me a little more motivation and showed me that money doesn’t have to be a reward but being around people can be. I love it more than I love a lot of things because it lets me feel useful and just plain good.
Do you run at Parkrun or do you want to? Have you ever volunteered and if not at Parkrun, where do you volunteer? Let me know!
From Elm 🙂