One of the themes of the world of running in 2017 was the value of volunteers. And of the value in volunteering; that lending a helping hand wasn't just a sacrifice, something you did because of a sense of obligation, but worthwhile and enjoyable in itself.
That thought was in my mind as I headed off to my local parkrun last Saturday (10 March) on a wet, cold morning. I reported into run director Simon and chatted to fellow volunteer Finn who had already set out the course markers and signs.
Simon knew a rookie when he saw one and allocated me a marshalling role before he dealt with his first problem of the day. A runner appeared and asked if he had missed the start - it was a couple of minutes after 9.00am. No we reassured him - the start is at 9.30 (it was a Scottish parkrun). Our new friend wasn't happy - he was wet, 30 minutes from his hotel where he had to check out by 10.00am. and as a regular parkrunner in England he had assumed a 9.00am start. We left him to make a call!
Soon I was settled in my marshalling spot but feeling a bit miserable in the rain. However my mood brightened when the runners came into view. Our visitor was leading the smallish field of 50 but looking strong as he powered up the incline.
This was the fun part of the volunteering experience as runners of all shapes and sizes battled by - I was positioned halfway up a steepish hill! Two young women with smooth running actions looked to be having a good tussle for fastest female honours but the rest were a typical parkrun mix - all ages and various degrees of fitness but everyone getting the benefit of a Saturday morning effort. And I was getting a good reponse to my words of encouragement - smiles, thumbs up and some great banter!
It was a good feeling to be part of making this happen and a bit like running at a parkrun event gave me a bit of a glow for the rest of the day.
It turned out that our visitor was Nick Marriage, who had earlier this year recorded first places at Maidenhead, Wythenshawe and Tooting Common. Nick was first home in 18:13, more than a minute and half slower than at Tooting, but would have enjoying a testing hilly course. Elin Cave was the fastest female, more than a minute ahead of her nearest rival at the finish.
Yevgen Gorash recorded the midpoint time at 26:27 and Annette Finnie, who does most of her parkrunning at Marple, and tail walker Gillian Banks claimed the last two tokens.
Thoughts at the end of the day? Simply that my experience had underlined that parkrun is a real melting pot. It is a joy to watch strong athletes performing well but equally rewarding to see the effort and determination of those at the back of the field.
I'm looking forward to my next parkrun and hoping for decent spring weather but I'm also looking ahead to being a volunteer again soon.
Image courtesy Lynsey Parker Ruchill parkrun