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I'm Jane McIntyre, a voiceover and writer, formerly an award-winning BBC radio newsreader and producer. My blog covers life, love and loss; travel, coffee and chocolate; with some heartfelt pieces in the mix about my late dad, who had dementia. Just a click away, I'm half of the team behind - two empty nesters who whizzed round the world in 57 days.

Tuesday 28 January 2020

Volunteering at #parkrun: my view from 'the other side' .

Parkrun couldn't run....without volunteers.

Even so, as a new runner with just three events under my belt, I'd planned on getting my speed up a bit before joining the hi-viz heroes

But a minor knee problem meant no running for me last Saturday and, instead, gave me the chance to bring my first volunteering shift forward. Would I shiver on the sidelines and feel frustrated that I wasn't on the course? No. And here's why.

It was a bit damp and chilly, but I was wrapped up in a duvet-thick coat (and that hi-viz), and swapped my trainers for heavier hiking shoes. I was one of the marshalling team, planted on a corner to make sure people headed the right way.

One thing I've learned from my first three parkruns here is this: encouragement is contagious. I've been bowled over by the smiles, support, warm words and cheers from marshals along the route every time, and was damn sure that, standing on 'the other side', I was going to give some of it back.

It wasn't long before the speedy set hurtled past on the first circuit of our repeated course. 'Well DONE.....' I heard myself yelp...slamming my gloved hands together in a muted thud of applause, with, a rather gobsmacked: 'Blimey, you're so....FAST...! '

'Thank you, Marshal,' said one, without missing a beat, making me feel quite important. And then, as I ripped my gloves off to clap, and shouted a bit louder about a slippy bit, more thank yous came back. Some loud and clear, some breathless, whispered, grateful gasps: parkrunners are so polite!

There were the club runners. The hobby runners. The couples, the families, the female friends. The young, long haired girl with the beaming smile, which got wider every time she went past (fast!), the dad, thundering along with his toddler in a buggy; the buddies, the joggers, the walkers, the stroll- along-and-talkers. The anguished cry of  'it's so FAR'...from a lady in pink. The promise back from me that if I could do it, anyone could. (And she did).

I watched some of the fastest participants complete the course, then head back down towards the woods again to find friends and family; to repeat their own steps and run their friends to the finish. Saw a bloke struggling a bit near the end, but who still managed to wish me a great weekend. And I even felt a bit teary as the tail-walkers came into view; they were there, as ever, to make sure no-one ever finishes last.That's the brilliant thing about a parkrun: great running, for sure. But a great community spirit, too.

This was heightened even more by a pre-run tin collection for the local foodbank, and the presence of a local cricket team, fundraising by brewing hot tea and coffee for donations.

Apart from marshalling duties, volunteers are needed to set up, pack up, mark the course, scan barcodes, take photographs, write reports and more. Even though I hope to run again next week, I'll definitely join the hi-viz heroes again soon. For a newbie, it's not just an awesome masterclass in running: it's a pretty fine masterclass in teamwork, too.

Photographer: Ben Coates


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