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.

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