There’s a crack in my rose-tinted spectacles.

I love parkrun*.  I love the venues, I love the people, I love the t-shirts, I love the low key nature and I love the statistics.  It turned me into a runner, it turned me into a collector and it gets me out of bed on a Saturday, week in and week out.

Since I ran my first parkrun back in January 2011, I have been at a parkrun every week except when I have been out of the country visiting relatives in Canada.

But for all its detail, for all its statistics, my parkrun record does not reflect the whole of my relationship with parkrun, because it does not show my volunteer history.  The weeks when I have volunteered, which to me are an integral part of my parkrun experience, are not recorded.  There is no record of the venues, no record of the roles, no reminder that I was there.

When I asked about this back in November 2012, I was told that:

“We don’t believe it would be conducive to our community atmosphere to start totalling volunteer records, as it could provoke rivalry. Volunteering should not be thought of on as something you can total and produce statistics on. It’s best to think of it on a weekly basis – as something you do to help your local community because you want to do it, not to watch a number rise.”

To which my considered response is:

  • Please don’t tell me how it’s best to think.  I’m injured, and could have stayed in bed for a month of Saturdays.  I choose to volunteer because I welcome the opportunity to give back to a community which means so much to me.  I do it because I want to, not to watch a number rise.  But I would still like to be able to see that I volunteered at this venue on that date in that role, because it forms part of my whole and I find it unsatisfying not to have that information.
  • Not all parkrun data is visible to everyone, for example my barcode page.  If rivalry is a problem, then a volunteering history page could sit within My Profile, and be mine to cherish and not yours to envy**.

*Or for @notmucharunner and @henniemavis I live parkrun.

**To which the response may well be that resources are stretched and better spent on other things.  Fair enough.  It was just a thought.


About abradypus

A Bradypus or Sloth am I, I live a life of ease, contented not to do or die but idle as I please; ... [Michael Flanders and Donald Swann]
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12 Responses to There’s a crack in my rose-tinted spectacles.

  1. Running Gaynor says:

    I’m not sure how rivalry would be a bad thing if it meant that more people volunteered or those who volunteered already did it more regularly. People have many different reasons for volunteering and I think seeing a number go up could encourage some people to volunteer more.

    • abradypus says:

      I think there is a fear that people who don’t volunteer might have that held against them and thus feel pressured into volunteering. I completely agree with the volunteering from the heart bit, but just don’t think that the current policy is the only way to achieve it.

  2. shazruns says:

    I think people should feel pressured to volunteer, after all no volunteers = no parkrun!

  3. Oooo what a good debate!

    Apologies for the long reply…
    I guess that the whole purpose of parkrun is to get people running. I think the volunteering aspect is great and is obviously part what keeps it free at the point of use, but if folks felt that their volunteering history was available for all to see, it might prevent them from turning up to run.

    I think I have been to only 3 parkruns. Usually my boy has a tennis lesson that I take him to on a Saturday morning. Very occasionally, that is cancelled and I MIGHT be able to do parkrun. It is usually late notice and volunteer rostas are full (I have asked). If volunteering roles were displayed, I’m pretty sure it would make me feel worse about ‘just turning up’.


    (That being said, I think your idea about having them available for you alone to see and keep track of where you have been, is a good one)

    • abradypus says:

      (1) Keep just turning up!
      (2) I did no volunteering until I’d run about 60 times because I wanted my 50 t-shirt. I obviously have a much higher shame threshold than many.
      (3) my local parkrun, like yours, is very well stocked for volunteers and you need to give about 4 weeks notice to bag a slot. Which is why most of my volunteering is done at a not-so-local one who fill their rota pretty much on the fly. This is one of the benefits of living within spitting distance of many, many parkruns.
      (4) Personal commitments vary and not everyone can volunteer formally. Just by being at parkrun when you can and talking about it and taking your son to it you are contributing.
      (5) Keep just turning up!*

      *I may have mentioned this already.

    • James Rees says:

      Even if the main volunteer positions are all filled, most parkruns are always glad for an extra photographer. And as a bonus, if you’re not stood where runners are used to photos being taken, you get to watch runners suddenly realising that you are there and trying to pose / speed up / show good running form at short notice 🙂

  4. James Rees says:

    I don’t think it would add much competitiveness to add the volunteer roles into the runner histories. On a year to year basis, the annual points tables for each parkrun tell you who has volunteered the most times already. Anyone who is competitive enough to worry about such things* will have already found these. And spreadsheeted them and the weekly results for future analysis**.

    Of course, this doesn’t track down those sneaky uber-tourists who rack up 60 runs at lots of different events without volunteering…

    The volunteers & their roles get entered into the system when the results are processed so the information is certainly floating about somewhere.

    * Runners are certainly not known for being competitive. At all. I’m sure hardly anyone ever looks at their stats on the web page.
    ** Not that I would ever do that. The spreadsheet would get far too big and complicated. Probably. I wouldn’t know of course.

  5. zoecakes says:

    I agree it is a shame you can’t see your volunteering history together with your run history. The data is there as within the volunteer management system you can see who has done what roles and how many times for a particular event. But I suspect the limited resources spent better elsewhere is one of the reasons for not making this available even privately. Whatever, I still love parkrun and thank you for being the person that really pushed me to get out there and do my first one! 🙂

  6. henniemavis says:

    HA! You DO “live” parkrun, no question about that. If it weren’t for you, I’d still be a parkrun virgin! Wish I could run more of them, but that would get expensive… unless I move to Michigan, North Carolina or Florida (only US parkruns). And who wants to move there, when I could move to UK & have my pick of hundreds? I wish!

    I just saw this (a little behind on my blog-reading, oops). I can see why you’re disappointed about not having personal stats on your volunteer hours. Here in the US, many organizations are required to keep track of # of hours donated by volunteers if they want to qualify for certain privileges (like the right to apply for certain kinds of funding or other perks). I volunteer for some such orgs & they get upset if volunteers forget to record their dates/hours in a logbook. They do keep track of # of hours by week/month/year, but don’t break the hours done by individual volunteer. We have to do that on our own, if we want it. I too would like if they’d record by individual & tell us privately (perhaps in a thank-you letter?)… but when I asked one org, they suggested I volunteer to be the one to keep track of that for everyone, HA! No, thanks 😉

    Probably good I don’t know… as if I did, you can damn well better believe I’d try to outdo notmuchofarunner… like I’m trying to now, by leaving a longer comment than him, bwah ha ha ha! 🙂

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