We recently sent our roving reporter to spend the morning with the officials at the Whitley Bay event to see how much organisation goes on behind the scenes. In the first of two reports we see what is involved for the organisers to ensure the smooth running of the event while in Part Two who speak to Race Director, Heather Gould.
This week we took a bit of time out to meet the team behind the Whitley Bay parkrun to see just what happens with all those course markers and barcode scanners after we’re all long gone and home on our sofas eating bacon butties ...
Meet Whitley Bay parkrun
A bit of background if we may ... Whitley Bay is a relative baby in the parkrun portfolio having only kicked off on 16 June this year with an attendance of 209, a record which remains to be beaten, but with attendance averaging 140, a number which is growing and growing, we’re sure that magic 200 will be surpassed again.
It’s not the quickest of courses – with a few twists and turns to test the rhythm and a cheeky hill to add to the mix, and indeed only 9 men have broken 17mins and only 2 women have gone sub 20 mins on the course. It’s a sort of out and back across 2 laps, staying low and stretching along the sea front promenade and then back high amongst the exposed park area, so the weather if oft to chuck in a few challenges too.
Your average runner finishes in around 26:48 making it one of the more, well, slower on the pacing than some of our other courses which are often used as speed sessions or time trials by local club runners.
Meet the people behind your Whitley Bay parkrun
We were there mainly to meet the Race Director Heather Gould to talk about her run as well as gaining an insight into what being Race Director actually means.
For Heather – it seems to us it’s certainly a lot of co-ordination true, but it’s much more about enthusiasm, meet and greet, acknowledgement and service with a smile!
Heather's Saturday starts early with volunteers arriving down on the course for around 08:20 where she’ll slip into Director mode by donning the ‘Orange Jacket’ of leadership which job starts by helping to set out markers and cones and the finishers funnel. Then it’s a case of getting to the start area and so begins the meet and greet while runners congregate. Next job of the day involves manning the megaphone!!
First up – invitations to “any parkrun tourists today” setting the scene that Whitley Bat welcomes newcomers from near and far and there were a fair few hands going up, then congratulations are in order for William Robson who Heather awarded a parkrun 10 t-shirt, then the usual health and safety announcements including noting the new finish which has been moved for the winter to be next to a more sheltered area – not it seems for the runners but more for the volunteers who have a lot of hanging around to do and had been battered by the weather in the previous few weeks!
Lastly of course Heather has the honours of giving it the “ready, steady, go.... !!!” and the 154 runners were sent on their way complete with buggies and dogs! It really does take all sorts down course!
Runners pass the finishing straight during the run so we reconvene with Director and marshals at the new finish – which Heather is delighted with!! She checks that roles are understood by finisher marshals, makes a few last minute tweaks to the finishing funnel and then before we know it the runners are coming. Everyone gets a clap – and we mean everyone, lead by Heather the shouts of encouragement and rounds of applause start and keep coming and coming. A few “thank you” s are thrown back but their unnecessary – these guys love it! They love the fact that people are out running the event they love hosting for them.
Now that the runners are coming through Heather has just enough time to have a quick debrief with one of the volunteers who, as a one off, took on lead bike to check how the course changes worked. Then it’s a case of getting in amongst the people but not getting too lost – you can always spot that orange jacket!
Back to Boardwalk base for butties ...
We walk back with the volunteers (for Whitley Bay 9-10 is the minimum needed) to load the equipment into the back of Heathers BMW before picking up the tech and heading to the Boardwalk Cafe.
Ever wondered why Whitley Bay are so quick to do their results? Coffee of course! Indeed as with many of the other parkruns with the “we’re friendly” tagline, runners congregate at the Boardwalk Cafe afterwards to get their 10% off their butties and coffees after their run and continue the community theme.
First up is inputting the volunteer duties – each volunteer earns ‘parkrun points’ which are also taken into account for monthly parkrunner prizes and a just a nice way to recognise peoples’ commitment to the event. It’s also important for the parkrun sponsors and in particular for the Whitley Bay sponsors (Sir James Knott Charitable Trust, William Leech, RW Mann and North of Tyne Primary Care Trust) to see these hours logged.
Now onto the processing of results which is basically a bit of a merge between the 2 scanners, which along with Colins laptop are supplied by parkrun. Facebook page (http://en-gb.facebook.com/whitleybayparkrun ) posts and Tweets (@WhitBayparkrun) are sent out to hunt down missing tokens and a thank you message to all runners and volunteers. With 397 ‘likers’ and 204 ‘followers’ it all adds to the community and there’s every chance they’ll turn up!!
Results uploaded, a few fixes made for missing results and thats it – job done. Now just time for a sneak peek at a few results of regulars the team know well and back to the coffee where we now get chance to ask a few questions ...
Dont miss Part Two of our Whitley Bay parkrun review where we speak to Race Director Heather Gould....