First-time volunteer roles

Volunteering is one of the most rewarding aspects of parkrun, and the best thing is, it’s so simple.

Some roles need a little bit of training, but nothing that can’t be done within a few minutes.

Over in the Runs With A Barcode facebook group we shared what they did for their first volunteer role.

Hope they inspire you, or maybe someone you know who needs reassurance they can do it.

What was your first volunteering role?

  • I was a Marshall at Ballarat parkrun in the middle of the winter of 2015. Seems like the cold didn’t frighten me off because I still volunteer now.
  • Handing out barcodes at Cornwall Park back in the early days.
  • I was Tail Walker at Tauranga’s inaugural.
  • Timekeeper! My fave still.
  • Timekeeping at Albert Melbourne parkrun.
  • I was helping with the carparking at Penrith Lakes parkrun.
  • Funnel manager – ???????? that was stressful at a busy parkrun!
  • Timekeeping at Cairns, was always a worry with the old stop watch system, you were never too sure if the watch would upload correctly
  • Marshal at St Peters parkrun in Sydney
  • Backup timer, other timer got out of sync so my results were used so I didn’t feel like I had wasted my time ????
  • I think I went straight to run report writer. I was terrified of some of those in person, in the moment roles, especially timekeeper…
  • Timekeeper at Western Springs, seemed easy enough. I mucked up a bit at barcode scanning the first time I did it so have always preferred timing, especially with phones.
  • Marshal at Shrewsbury as I was running a 10k (turned out to be 12k) at Ludlow in the evening. My first timekeeper role was at Tauranga inaugural with 272 participants. That was a bit scary!
  • Timekeeper for me too. I’ve now done every role we have available.
  • I actually can’t remember! I’ve done all our roles but have no idea what I did first.
  • Timekeeping at Berwick Springs learning the ropes so I could launch ???? Sunny Inverloch.
  • I think it might have been tailwalker.
  • I was timekeeper, I did it two weeks in a row, then again a few months later. That was in 2016, not done it since but I’ve done plenty of barcode scanning.

Want to learn more about each volunteer role? You can see all the volunteer profiles I’ve featured on my blog in this link.


Volunteer Profile: Run Director

It wouldn’t be a parkrun without the volunteers. In this series of blogs we’ll be learning more about the key volunteer roles and the people who fill them.

In this blog we learn about the role of Run Director from Owairaka Event Director Julie Collard.

The Run Director(RD) is in charge of a particular event on a specific day.

They have ultimate responsibility for deciding whether or not the conditions are suitable for the event and with advice from the other volunteers may decide to modify the course (because of new hazards, for example), delay the start, or even in exceptional circumstances cancel the event that day (very poor weather being the most common reason for this).

They will usually carry out other volunteer roles in addition (before and after the event, such as equipment storage or results processing) but they cannot carry out a volunteer role crucial to the running of the event, such as barcode scanning or marshalling.

You can usually identify the Run Director by their white and blue marshal vest.

Julie Collard at Owairaka parkrun

Julie Collard has been run director at two different parkruns, having started her volunteering at Western Springs parkrun.

“I got involved early on in volunteering and had the root of an idea that I’d like to start up a new parkrun,” she said.

“A friend who was already RD at Western Springs told me I should start with becoming an RD, so I did. Then I started up Owairaka parkrun.

“Now, after more than 6 months, that one is flourishing, so I kind of have an idea at the back of my mind that maybe one day when enough people are involved at Owairaka, maybe I’ll go and start up another one somewhere else.

Reasons to RD

“I like to be in charge and am pretty organised too, so it’s natural for me to want to take on responsibility and get involved! The main reason I have such a passion for it though is that as an RD you are helping to spread the word about parkrun.

“You are a very public starting point for many people when they come to parkrun for the first time, but also through the email and Facebook channels. On a week to week basis I do love the camaraderie with the volunteers who come to help and with the parkrunners on the day too.

“While it can be a bit stressful as well, organising the roster, getting everything set up on time, etc, it’s also very satisfying and you do get a lot of gratitude from people. Simply, it’s heaps of fun.”

She says the most important aspect is to ensure the event runs without a major hitch. This involves filling the volunteer roster, sticking to health and safety guidelines and being on time.

“I do think some especially important things are to reply to people who want to volunteer in a positive and timely way so that they feel valued, and to be approachable and encouraging in all your dealings with people on parkrunday.

“Some people can be super stressed, frustrated or just annoyed about stuff and it’s a kind of customer service, you have to make sure all the parkrunners are happy or they won’t come back.”


There are many things that could go wrong for a Run Director, such is the role and the unpredictability of people.

Julie says filling the roster can be a bit stressful, in order to be able to put on the event in the first place.

“I’ve learned that patience and humour are good ways to gently persuade people to come forward. A good meme can go a long way, as can the threat of cancelling parkrun (even if we’re not 100% serious about that).

“On the day I guess it’s an RD’s nightmare that it can turn to custard and everyone gets 59:59!

“It’s never happened to me, thank goodness, but there’s always a first time.

“I think that we need to maintain a certain standard of professionalism and care to make sure the chance of disaster is slim, and then just cross fingers and hope for the best.

“It is fairly common to have smaller hiccups with the timing, but usually they can be sorted out with a bit of time and effort.”

Julie says anyone already considering run directing must already be the right type of person for the role.

“Who would volunteer to be in charge if they weren’t a giving, patient and hard-working sort? Some people may be nervous about speaking in front of a crowd for the run brief, maybe that’s why most of the run directors at my parkrun are teachers – we’re used to speaking to an audience.

“Others are scared of the technology – that was me. When I first started I needed a lot of support from the more experienced RDs and they were happy to help me, so I think that is the norm, we are all a helpful bunch. What are you waiting for?”

Other volunteering

Julie says she enjoys lots of other volunteering roles and I really enjoy a lot of roles and is working on her V-Index.

“I enjoy timekeeping as you get to see everyone finishing and it’s a challenge to get it done perfectly without a glitch (I usually fail, but not in a major way).

“I prefer it to barcode scanning as you’re looking up not down. I also like being photographer to practice my skills and be creative, and writing the run report which is great as it’s portable, meaning you can do it as a visitor when you visit other parkruns.

“I have done this at a number already (Barry Curtis, University of Waikato, Taupo, Lower Hutt) and will do more.

“Last, I’m looking forward to doing more pacing as Owairaka is starting up pacer days soon. I have done three before, at Western Springs, and apart from helping others, I also like the challenge of trying to keep a steady time and nailing the time goal.

“I’ve done 14 different volunteer roles, but there are still ones I’d like to try, such as guide runner. I understand that you’d need to learn a lot to do this, have a great relationship with the runner, and do special training, but it would be truly rewarding and a lot of fun (though not easy) I’d expect. Maybe one day!

“I’m currently chasing my double 100 – that is 100 runs and 100 volunteer days. I hope to get there on the same day in a few month’s time.

“To me it’s important to maintain that balance between running and volunteering. I have the rest of my life to run so I’m in no rush to run every time.

“If I can inspire just one person to pick up an orange vest and give volunteering a go, then it is worth it.”

To volunteer at your parkrun send them an email with what position you’d like to do and when, comment on the volunteer appeal on facebook, or chat to the event team when you’re at parkrun.


Volunteer Profile: Run Report Writer

It wouldn’t be a parkrun without the volunteers. In this series of blogs we’ll be learning more about the key volunteer roles and the people who fill them.

In this blog we learn about the role of Run Report Writer from Lower Hutt parkrunner Dan Joe.

Many parkrun events add Run Report Writer to the volunteer roster and while it can seem a bit overwhelming, it’s not as challenging as you may think.

Lower Hutt parkrunner Dan Joe (A4225353) has written the run report for Lower Hutt a number of times. He has also volunteered to write run reports when he has been visiting other parkruns, with eight different events covered so far.

“I wrote my first report for parkrun when I reached my 50th milestone and decided to write a report as my friend suggested that I should give this role a try. You can do this role and still be able to run/walk.

“It was my first time volunteering and I haven’t looked back since.  

“I had a look at a few run reports from other parkrun pages as well and said to myself that this is a good way to practice and improve on both your proofreading and communication skills.


“The one thing about doing run reports is that you can choose to write about almost anything that relates to your day.

“Some run reports can talk about how you feel about parkrun, the report can be short or long, but some emphasis on writing reports will definitely get other people to read and interested in putting your hand up for the role.”

Dan Joe at Blenheim parkrun

Dan plans to write a report for his 150th parkrun (some-time this year barring no disruptions) and maybe at new events he has not yet run at.

“Writing a run report is sometimes a time consuming task and you will value your own experiences on how you felt and achievements accomplished by other participants at the event.

“Writing some history for a particular parkrun is a great way to introduce new ideas to attend a parkrun. You can template your own run report or have it prepared to write it before the actual event starts.”

Do your best

He says having good grammar and spelling is crucial, as well as proof-reading your report before you submit it.

“This is something I don’t always get right and it is okay to make mistakes as no one is perfect. You don’t have to get it written as soon as the event is over; most run directors would like it to be done within four days of the event.

“Feel free to ask the run director of the day if you are unsure on how to do this.

“The run director most times will tell you to write about yourself and pretty much almost anything that relates to the event.

“Writing the run report usually consists of new parkrunners attending the course for the first time, recording new PBs, milestones and also the volunteers that help out.

“It can literally be anything that you can write about. Some run reports don’t have any of the above listed in the run report writer’s parkrun report. 

Save it

“I recommend doing the run report if you like to run and find out ways to get a run and a volunteer token. Being a run reporter is a great way to slowly increase your volunteer participation. 

“Once the run report is completed, you will email the run report to the respective parkrun you wrote for.

“It is good to have a saved version of the report as I do with all my reports, just in case the attachment fails on the person’s device when they download it. 

“You will get recognised for doing run reports as I have had some people approach me about writing on a great grasps of topics.

“It is a privilege to be recognised by others and it will definitely make you feel encouraged to attend parkrun more regularly.

“It is also a great way to get your volunteer shirt quicker, which is achieved once the participant has done at least 25 different days, regardless of the amount of roles volunteered on any given day.

“This is one of the main reasons why I want to get my purple v25 shirt, but to do it at a great pace to achieve it.” 


Volunteer Profile: Photographer

It wouldn’t be a parkrun without the volunteers. In this series of blogs we’ll be learning more about the key volunteer roles and the people who fill them.

In this blog we learn about the role of Photographer from Whangarei parkrunner Jan Sherley.

One way to capture the magic of a parkrun is by the photos but it doesn’t matter what your experience, almost anyone can fulfil this role.

Jan Sherley has probably been photographer more than any other parkrunner in New Zealand with 185 occasions at the time of writing.

As partner to current Whangarei event director Ron Crowhurst she has been involved with the event since it started in 2016.

“Ron was asked by the founding event director, Jim Kettlewell, if he would help set the parkrun up. I said it was a brilliant idea. I used to do a lot of walking but now I have arthritis so I don’t do as much. I saw the benefits of it being free. I went down once or twice and Ron suggested I bring the camera down to see what photos I got.

“Ever since then I’ve been out of bed early on a Saturday morning.”

Jan and her camera

Jan says she likes to people-watch, catching people unawares.                                                 

“I look at people talking and expressing with their hands.”


So what skills does a photographer need to have?

“Firstly don’t worry about equipment. Some people get hung up about cameras not being good enough, or photos not coming out right but the more you practice the better they get.

“Don’t rush it. Look at the background and where you’re taking the photos – try not to get right in the face of runners.”

While it’s not compulsory, Jan has been on a photography course. She said the main thing she learned, which she applies to parkrun, is to break the image into thirds.

The rule of thirds is a type of composition in which an image is divided evenly into thirds, both horizontally and vertically, and the subject of the image is placed at the intersection of those dividing lines, or along one of the lines itself.

Other things to consider are if someone makes it clear they don’t want their photo taken to abide by that wish. Some people will call out, but another accepted signal in parkrun is to cross your arms. This makes it easy to delete before uploading photos.


At the end of parkrun Jan will go home and transfer her photos to her computer. She says she never Photoshops but she will crop some images to make them look better, before uploading them to the Whangarei parkrun page.

Each album is named and dated with the event number and date of the parkrun to make it easy for people to look through.

“I’ve never had anything go terribly wrong, I stepped backwards into dog poo once, and a bird chased me when I got too close to its nesting site b one of the wharves.”

Jan has got to know local parkrunners and has met visitors who have told her it was the photos from the parkrun that spurred them on to visit.

“Being photographer is not a scary thing!” 

To volunteer at your parkrun send them an email with what position you’d like to do and when, comment on the volunteer appeal on facebook, or chat to the event team when you’re at parkrun.


Volunteer Profile: Lead Bike

It wouldn’t be a parkrun without the volunteers. In this series of blogs we’ll be learning more about the key volunteer roles and the people who fill them.
In this blog we learn about the role of Lead Bike from Anderson parkrunner Andrew Jones, aka Ajay.

There are some volunteer roles that aren’t mandatory but still play a vital role for their events. One of these is Lead Bike, which is only in use at a handful of parkruns in New Zealand.

Ajay leading out runners at Lower Hutt

Ajay has fulfilled the role at Lower Hutt, Anderson and Porirua parkruns – 166 in total at the time of writing. Overall he’s just 40 parkrun finishes, it’s pretty easy to tell which he prefers.

“I started at Lower Hutt in 2013 when [my wife] Joce finally dragged me along. I did one then jumped on the volunteer roster after that.

“I took on the role of lead bike for the best part of six years.”

One of those occasions was a New Year’s Day Double occasion where he was lead bike at Lower Hutt and Porirua.

“Lead bike involves keeping track of the front group. Although many runners are quick they don’t all know where they’re going. When you get elite runners they shoot off.

“I worked out that I have to maintain 17kmh and no one will catch me. It became a numbers game.

“I tried three different bikes on the same course on one afternoon to work out the best bike.”

He said he passed on his numbers to the run director in case any runners wanted to try to catch him.

Lower Hutt is an out and back course and on a path that is well used by non-parkrunners.

“I go about 200m ahead of the start and talk to anyone who’s out on the course. I let them know what’s happening and if I have time I can fill them in more.

“I stay with the lead group for the entire 5km. Once the lead group have come back then I’ll roll back out and see if there’s anyone in trouble, such as with asthma or cuts and scrapes.”  

Ajay usually does a course inspection before the run starts and when he heads back out after the lead group have finished he packs the event down behind the tail walker.

Aside from being able to stay ahead of the faster runners, Ajay says volunteers who take on this role need to have spatial awareness.

“Some runners aren’t always the most attentive.

“You also should be positive and friendly to everyone. At Lower Hutt I’ve had high fives from runners on their way out as I’ve been coming back..

“I’ve had a flat tyre once in the entire time I’ve been doing this, there was a bit of glass in there. I still came in second. Luckily I had an apprentice and told them they had to do it.”

Ajay says he’s tried every volunteer role available bar Run Director, though don’t expect him to give that one a go.

“I like the camaraderie from volunteering. Being there to support everyone else.”

To volunteer at your parkrun send them an email with what position you’d like to do and when, comment on the volunteer appeal on facebook, or chat to the event team when you’re at parkrun.


Volunteer Roles: Finish Tokens

It wouldn’t be a parkrun without the volunteers. In this series of blogs we’ll be learning more about the key volunteer roles and the people who fill them.

In this blog we learn about the role of Finish Tokens from Lower Hutt parkrunner Glynis Ng.

The second volunteer most commonly found at a parkrun’s finish area is the person handing out finish tokens.

When parkrun first started these were washers stamped with a finish number.

These days they’re small plastic tokens with a finish position and a barcode on them, though if you’re reading this you’ll more than likely have been given one, or 100.

Lower Hutt parkrunner Glynis Ng has volunteered on finish token duty five times out of her 32 volunteer times.

Lower Hutt has an average attendance of 146 parkrunners.

“I choose jobs that don’t require a lot of co-ordination so timekeeping wasn’t a job I was going to volunteer for.

“For finish tokens you need warm, clean hands. You’ve got to keep an eye on the order of people coming through the finish line, to make sure no one jumps the queue – the places matter.

“You’re multi-tasking, if there’s a lot of people coming through you hope the finish funnel manager makes sure they’re in single file so they get the right token for their place.

“You have to make sure everyone gets a token and they go to the next step, which is barcode scanning.

“It’s important that everyone crossing the finish line gets a token, even if they don’t have a barcode, as it helps with results processing.

“The big rush is generally from 25 to 30 minutes, that’s where a lot of people finish.”

Glynis says there are a few things she likes about this volunteer role.

“You get to acknowledge everyone who comes through. It might only be for two seconds but for other you might have a little longer.

“Any of the jobs in the finish area you experience parkrun from the other side of the fence.

“You get to see people’s happiness when they finish. I like that.”

Glynis says when she’s on finish token duty she tends to wear something with deep pockets so she can keep the token stack on her person.

“The biggest fear I have is dropping the tokens and for them to get out of order, but if that were to happen you’d make a note of the first token you hand out and the results processor can make adjustments.

“I hold the string in my left hand and I pull up 10 tokens so they’re ready to hand out.

“Having the pockets means I can have the next set ready to go.

“At Lower Hutt we have two timekeepers and they’ll yell out what number they’re up to so you can check you’re in sync.

“You’ll want to do that after a rush has come though.”

Glynis has run 233 parkruns since she got her barcode in October 2014*.

“I found out about parkrun by chance. A friend had started doing it. With it being an 8am start I could run and then have time to get ready for work.

“I got hooked on parkrun when I saw the red shirt and wondered how I could get one. I just kept on going.

“Everyone was so welcoming and inclusive, that was a big thing for me. You have the very fast people and then those who are slower.

“Then the competition with myself to go faster, I enjoyed that. I also like that it’s family-friendly, open to all ages and you don’t have to run the whole way – you can run, walk or a bit of both.”

One of the roles she’s not yet done but would like to give a go is one marked down as other.

At Lower Hutt this is collecting the turnaround cones at the end of parkrun and then putting it out the following week.

To volunteer at your parkrun send them an email with what position you’d like to do and when, comment on the volunteer appeal on facebook, or chat to the event team when you’re at parkrun.

*Correct as of November 2020


Volunteer Roles: Timekeeper

It wouldn’t be a parkrun without the volunteers. In this series of blogs we’ll be learning more about the key volunteer roles and the people who fill them.

In this blog we learn about the role of Timekeeper from Millwater parkrunner Sofia McLeod.

Sofia McLeod has volunteered at parkrun on more than 50 occasions, with almost half of those as timekeeper.

Sofia McLeod (right) timekeeping at Millwater parkrun.

The 15-year-old says it’s a job that requires a clear mind.

“Volunteering as timekeeper is probably one of the roles people are most stressed about until you know what you have to do.

“You need to keep a clear mind and press the button [or tap the screen] when someone crosses the line.

“That’s all there is to it.

“You have to tap it as fast as you can. Practice makes perfect and with the app you can practice at home.

“It’s better than the old system, we’ve more control. One thing I feel they should add on the app is being able to swipe and delete if you’ve done a wrong entry for some reason.”

At Millwater parkrun Sofia can often be timing between 150 and 200 runners who finish from 17 minutes to an hour.

“My advice for anyone who has never been Timekeeper before is to make sure you’re in control and you have a clear mind.  Stay completely focussed and watch people coming through.

“Touch the screen when people cross the line – imagine there’s an invisible line and that’s when you touch the screen.”

She says the worst thing that’s happened while timekeeping is when it was raining and the raindrops were so hard they were being registered as finishers.

“It’s important to check you’re in sync with the other timer and whoever is on finish tokens. If you’re constantly checking then if something goes wrong you can nip it in the bud.”

Sofia started coming to parkrun with her mum, Nuria, dad Rob and brother Bruno. Soon she discovered she could volunteer at parkrun and have it count towards her Duke of Edinburgh Bronze Award. This award requires three months of service.

She’s now working towards her Silver Award, which is six months of service. As a consequence she’s run just 12 times, though she says she does her running outside of parkrun so she can be involved as a volunteer.              

There are two main roles she’s yet to volunteer for – Run Director and Run Report Writer.

“I’m thinking of writing the run report when I’ve finished my Silver Award. I’d like to do Run Director.

“It seems like a lot of fun, standing on the bench and talking to people.”

To volunteer at your parkrun send them an email with what position you’d like to do and when, comment on the volunteer appeal on facebook, or chat to the event team when you’re at parkrun.


Volunteer Roles: Tail Walker

It wouldn’t be a parkrun without the volunteers. In this series of blogs we’ll be learning more about the key volunteer roles and the people who fill them.

In this blog we learn about the role of Tail Walker from East End parkrunner Erica Perry.

Erica Perry recently achieved her 25th volunteer milestone, coincidentally on the same day as her 50th run.

“I love parkrun but I’d rather volunteer than run,” she says.

“I was wondering how I could achieve both of these milestones on the same day when I realised I could be the Tail Walker.  I’d originally planned it all out so I could achieve it on my birthday, so it could be a triple celebration, but due to Covid that didn’t happen.

“I still got cake though.”

Erica made a cape to celebrate the milestones – it was fitting given she’s also dressed in a cow onesie for the volunteer role.


Tail Walker used to be called Tail Runner. It was introduced and made compulsory at all Junior parkrun events in 2013 and from  January 2017 this was extended to also include all 5k events in the UK.

In June 2017 the name of the role was changed to Tail Walker to be more inclusive, it reaffirms the messaging that parkrun is for everyone, not just runners.

The role is now a compulsory one in New Zealand – and across the world – and is a popular volunteer position due to it allowing run and volunteer credits.

“I never used to like being last but with a Tail Walker it means I’m never last – unless I’ve chosen to take on that role.

“I like Tail Walking because it gives me the chance to stand out more than I do already. I spend my life making people laugh. If I can do something to make someone’s day I will.

“One time I was Tail Walker I was dressed in a cow onesie with a pink tutu.”

Erica says she’s happy to walk at the back if no one wants the company.


Her top tip for people who have never taken on this role is “just go for it”.

“You get to tick off a run and you get to tick off a volunteer. You can go as fast as the last person.

“Being Tail Walker means you get to see the sights, you get to check out your surroundings more and enjoy the walk. There’s no bad side to being Tail Walker.

“If you’re a slower parkrunner you don’t feel any pressure to go fast. Plus you can dress up. We have a mermaid’s tail at East End, but I don’t wear it if I’m already dressed up. I stand out anyway but I try to stand out in a positive way.

“I highly recommend it to everyone.”

Be prepared

She says nothing has ever gone wrong while Tail Walking, but in any case, she always has her phone in case she needs to contact the Run Director on the day.

A role she’s not yet done but would like to try is Barcode Scanner and Run Director (“I can do the public speaking but the rest of it I would find challenging so I’m happy to leave that to other people”).

“I like timekeeping because you’re standing around doing nothing for an hour.”  

Why parkrun?

Erica got into parkrun when training for the Round The Mountain relay. Her personal trainer posted about parkrun on facebook and she said she thought it would be a good thing to do to help prepare for the event.

“When I started going and meeting new people I thought it was a good social thing. I live alone with a disability so social outings aren’t forthcoming, but once a week I can go and have a coffee with people and be included.

“It’s more about the social aspect than the 5km.”