“I’m off now to do what I do best,” I told the reporter as the interview finished. “What’s that, then?” he asked, packing away all that new-fangled kit radio broadcasting has these days. “Shouting at people, I’m going to shout at people.” And so it turned out to be.
I’ve volunteered at Leeds parkrun for a couple of years now, but in the past 12 months I’ve been promoted to Chief Shouter-Atter, though they do prefer that I refer to myself as one of the run directors as shouting isn’t technically a proper job. Personally I think a bit of being shouted at is like a tonic and therefore qualifies as a form of therapy.
I was getting up a good head of steam in honour of Leeds parkrun’s seventh birthday when the call came from the local radio asking if they could interview us as we prepared for our weekly 5km run. I was happy to delegate this task to Sam who has a background in broadcasting, whereas I was a mere humble print journalist. But no, they wanted us both to join them at the radio car where we spoke at the passing cars, imagining them to be the Radio Leeds listeners.
The interview went well, with me challenging the reporter to join us. It turned out he’d forgotten his kit, though I said it was quite acceptable for him to run in his knickers and vest like we had to at school when we forgot our kit accidentally on purpose. He politely declined, so we then turned to the job in hand, getting 400 runners safely around the course and then packing them off to the refectory at Leeds University for breakfast and a right good celebration of all things parkrun.
Volunteering is something everyone should do at some point in their life. Careers are all very well, if you can keep them and so are jobs, if you can get them, but volunteering is a way of giving and receiving a reward better than money. At parkrun, I’ve done everything from setting up the finish funnel to the responsibility of unlocking the toilets with the additional burden of checking the toilets for foreign bodies. I’ve handed out tokens, scanned them and collected them at the other end, though not all on the same day. I’ve taken photographs and written reports (you can take the girl out of journalism, but not journalism out of the girl), but top of the parkrun pops is shouting encouragement to the hundreds of people who sprint, run, jog, walk and occasionally limp past. Shouting is definitely what I do best.