Just another shouty day as a parkrun volunteer

Shouting is what I do best
Shouting is what I do best – thanks to Ian Watson for the photo

“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.

Local sport for local people

The Brownlee brothers face the media pack at the Leeds parkrun

The excitement of the London 2012 Olympics may have died down a little, but not a lot. The Join In Local Sport campaign is encouraging us to all to get off our backsides and join in something sporty. Not that we need much encouragement here in the Independent Kingdom of Yorkshire, we ARE sport.

Just in case you’ve been on Mars with the Curiosity Rover, whose cameras were pointing at the Olympics to see all the action, Yorkshire did well in the medals table. Very well indeed, in fact, we finished 12th, with seven golds, three silver and two bronze, which was above Spain, Jamaica, South Africa and Brazil. Not that we’re counting or showing off or anything, noooo, not us.

Two of our medal winners joined in the Joined In campaign, turning up at the Leeds Hyde Park parkrun, one of the best examples of local sport for local people ever invented. It’s a weekly timed 5k run – and it’s free, we Tykes like that. The Brownlee brothers, who won gold and bronze in the triathlon, started us off then, to the relief of anyone wanting a personal best and those of us who don’t want to be lapped twice, they peeled off and set off to Sheffield in the pink Join In bus.

The bus had also brought BBC presenter John Inverdale and former Olympian Sharon Davies, along with the lovely David Moorcroft, former world record holder for the 5000 metres (or parkrun distance as we like to call it in our house) and a keen parkrunner. He hung around and applauded us all as we finished our first lap, I was touched, I’ve never been applauded by a champion before!

The idea of Join In is to join an established club or to start something up so others can take part. Here in our village, there’s no excuse, all the local sports are listed in the Creative Calverley site. Well, it’s only four years to the Olympics in Rio…….

The camaraderie of runners

Scarborough, the parkrun relay and coffee

The 10k had been run, more with enthusiasm than style or speed, the finish line crossed, the tee-shirt, bottle of water, banana and souvenir pen claimed and it was time for coffee, good coffee and cake.

Andrew and I had enjoyed a sunny and delightful run along Scarborough’s sea front, along with 1200 others taking part in the Yorkshire Coast 10k, cheered on by his wife Lou and youngsters Amber and Sam and the ever-patient Noel who’s desperate for his leg to get better so he can show me what a REAL runner looks like.

I did get a personal best – not the one I hoped for at under an hour, but at 1.05.08 a PB nevertheless. As we sipped our coffee, we were like a magnet for other runners who spotted our tee-shirts and shared their stories. All were amazed we came over from Leeds where, we told them, we have hills, not slight inclines. Personally, I said, in what must have been a caffeine/endorphins-induced haze, I prefer hills. I think they thought I was mad.

The previous day I’d been part of a three-strong team which took on 27 other teams in the annual parkrun three-legged relay at Leeds Hyde Park. Three legs of a mile each, that is, not a three-legged race, which could only have ended in tears. Anyway, thanks to the magic of handicapping, we came FOURTH! Andy stormed in first, handing over to Melvyn who put in a scorching lap, leaving it to me to finish fourth. No prizes, but the taking part was good enough! And of course there was coffee, cake and camaraderie to follow.