The magician shows us the inside of his top hat—clearly empty. With an “abracadabra” and a wave of the wand, to our surprise and delight out pops a white bunny rabbit!
It all happens so fast, the seasoned magician makes it appear effortless. We raise a cheer and laugh at the bunny. Seldom do we stop to consider the years the magician spent learning and polishing the craft, all that goes into smuggling the bunny into the hat and practicing the routine until it becomes second nature to pull it off without a hitch.
Nor do we ask—who cleans the bunny rabbit’s cage?
So too at College Park parkrun, there is so much more than meets the eye going on to make the magic happen every Saturday morning.
At the risk of spoiling the illusion, let’s take a peek behind the curtain and learn a bit of what goes on behind the scenes. Here’s how the magic happened for event 164.
Before Event Day: August-November
Co-event director and volunteer coordinator Andrea lines up a run director for each parkrun date. This typically happens somewhere between three weeks to three months before the event date. Andrea started in August lining up volunteers for run directors for all the dates in September through November. For event 164, Yancira Amaya volunteered. Thanks Yancira! She always does a fantastic job.
During the 5 weeks leading up to each event, members of our community sign up to be volunteers. Over 300 different people have volunteered at CP parkrun. You can see what volunteer roles are available for upcoming events by looking at the “volunteer” tab of the CP parkrun website here. If you wish to help make magic, the first step is to opt in to the CP parkrun email list from the link on your results e-mail. Or you can volunteer by sending e-mail to email@example.com. Don’t hesitate to reach out early and often to volunteer, and make Andrea’s job a little easier. The mid-week email from Andrea has updates on the week’s happenings and news, plus volunteer needs for the coming week.
This week for event 164, we had a terrific group of volunteers, helping out in such roles as run director, event setup, first-timers’ briefing, course marshal, timing, tokens, barcode scanning, tailwalking, event take-down, token sorting, communications czar, and run report writer (that’s me, Stewart!).
A special thanks to Alyssa and Aaron for helping out with tokens this week. Great job!
Getting back to our story…
On Friday night, Andrea sends out an e-mail to make sure the run director and volunteers know who is doing what and how to contact each other in case of emergency.
Event Day: Saturday, November 23, 2019
8:19 a.m. The run director, event directors, and a couple of volunteers arrive at Acredale Park to start setting up.
8:33 a.m. Setup is complete: the finish funnel has been built, equipment table is up, all the signage is in place, the run director’s step-stools and megaphone are ready and waiting. Andrea and Zoe pull out the colored chalk and get busy writing inspirational messages at the starting line.
8:38 a.m. Course marshals Lisa and Hump arrive. Lisa says hello to the team then heads out to the turnaround point. Hump drives over to Hump’s Crossing to serve as crossing marshal. On her way out, Lisa checks the safety of the course, and messages the start line crew if there are any alerts. She also places dimple cones to discourage creative parkrunners from going astray.
8:30-8:45 a.m. Volunteers make predictions of how many finishers we will have today. Winner gets gazes of admiration from other volunteers and a free timed 5K.
8:30-8:44 a.m. Members of the St. Francis International School running club arrive, exemplary in (1) their punctuality, and (2) reminding us the importance of dynamic stretching.
Is your school running club looking for a free 5K on a Saturday morning? parkrun may be just the ticket. Give us a shout, we’d be happy to give you the rundown.
8:30-9:00 a.m. Abracadabra! Blink your eyes and Acredale park transforms from nearly empty to over 150 runners, walkers, and volunteers. Veteran CP parkrunners welcome the newcomers.
8:44-8:52 a.m. Numerous individuals are spotted confusedly trying to show anyone wearing a hi-viz vest a freshly printed page of six barcodes, asking where to sign in. They are kindly invited to … 8:53 a.m. Andrea’s first-timers briefing, She makes it sound completely spontaneous every week.
8:58 a.m. Run director Yancira gives a warm welcome to all the first timers and visitors. Then she lays down the law!
9:00 a.m. exactly. (ok, maybe a few seconds of wiggle room there … minutes maybe if there are extra announcements or celebrations)
And we’re off!
9:00-10:10 a.m. Tailwalker Ellen doubles as photographer, takes great action shots along the way…
First timer Marishka came with her dad, veteran parkrunner Lloyd. We hope to see you back again soon!
Welcome back Paul, visiting from Long Island, NY. Second time at CP parkrun.
More of Ellen’s action shots:
Start time + 16:47: Zoom! First finisher Chris crosses the line.
Start time + 18:50: Tomas finishes second and volunteers to help take over as timekeeper. Thanks Tomas!
Start time + 19:02: Cotter sets a new Personal Best time on his 73rd parkrun, and rings the PB cowbell. Nice work, Cotter!
Start time + 26:56: Dylan sets a 5-minute PB!
Cotter and Dylan were just two of 18 PBs this week! Ring that cowbell, College Park!
Don’t let these numbers deceive you—CP parkrun is also for walkers. By walking, you start to notice a lot of magic that you might not see when flying past at full steam.
Start time + 1:13:28: CP parkrun veteran and frequent run director Anna completes her 73rd event. Great to see you, Anna!
Start time + 16:47—Start time + 1:13:36: Colin takes finish line photos
Ever wonder why a volunteer takes photos at the finish line? They serve double duty. They make for nice pictures in the run report and other post-event communications. But these photos also serve as a backup to resolve discrepancies or ambiguities with the scanning. If something goes awry at results processing time, Colin’s phone is another rabbit we can pull out of the hat.
Walking along the Little Paint Branch Trail can turn strangers into friends. That’s a kind of magic we can’t explain. But we love it!
Start time + 16:47—Start time + 1:13:36: Celebration with friends
Finishers scan their barcode and token to record their time. Nobody forgets to return their token (ahem!). Some do a bit of cooldown stretching, some catch up with friends. Many cheer as finishers come in. Some head down to The Board and Brew.
Start time + 1:13:36: Tailwalkers Ellen and Joan cross the finish line.
Lisa has brought the pylon and dimples back from the course on her way back. The last token is scanned. Timekeepers stop the clocks. Timers e-mail their time files, and scanners e-mail their barcode files, from their phone apps to the CP parkrun e-mail account.
10:20- ~10:25 a.m. Volunteers take down the finish funnel, equipment table, signage, and pack it all in Colin and Andrea’s trunk. It really doesn’t take long, and the park is as clear and empty as it was two hours ago. We always aim to leave without a trace.
10:45 a.m.- ? Colin, Andrea, and Yancira join many others at The Board and Brew, where parkrunners are enjoying breakfast and coffee. At one end of the table, volunteers sort finish tokens and double check that none are missing, making sure all is ready for next week. At the other end of the table, Colin and Yancira are busy processing the results. This means running a computer program that pulls in the time files and links them to the barcode files, then manually checking all the results and correcting any errors.
… for example, this week we noticed that one speedy parkrunner accidentally presented his girlfriend’s barcode, creating a PB that would have been hard for her to beat.
11:24 a.m. Results processing is complete. Participants receive e-mails with their results; volunteers receive thank you e-mails. Colin, Stewart, and Rebecca pose for a picture modeling the latest apricot parkrun fashion shirts.
After the event
Saturday afternoon: Communications team (Colin) posts a collection of 22 highlight photos on Facebook, with accompanying stories from the morning, as well as several highlight photos on Instagram.
Sunday and Beyond:
Colin assembles a larger collection of photos and places them in album accessible through Flickr or Facebook.
Tim Keer from Livonia parkrun in Michigan compiles a report with interesting summary statistics covering all events in the US, and providing interesting nuggets of information derived from each parkrun’s results tables. From this week’s report, we learned that 146 finishers is a new College Park record for the month of November! We also learned that parkrun USA had over 2,500 finishers and volunteers this week, within a whisker of the all-time record.
From the report we also learned about CP parkrunners on tour at other US parkruns. We learned that Larry Washington visited Byxbee parkrun in Palo Alto, CA; that Kathleen Gustafson visited Durham, NC parkrun; and that Külli Crespin and Teresa Perdomo checked out Roosevelt Island parkrun in DC. Nice tourism, everybody!
Later in the Week:
- Event directors replace any missing tokens.
- Run report is drafted, edited, and posted on the CP parkrun website.
- Communications team from parkrun USA culls interesting pictures and stories from all US parkrun events to create a weekly update online newsletter.
- Communications team sends out additional posts on Facebook and Instagram to remind everyone what a great time we had, and get us thinking about coming next week.
I’m sure I missed a lot, but now we have a glimpse of how much goes on behind the scenes before, during, and after parkrun. After 164 events, it works so smoothly week after week. But there are many ways of helping out with the community -- drop us a line if you can lend a hand.
This week we have an extra event on Thursday, and then of course another event as usual on Saturday. A million thanks to Colin, Andrea, and all the volunteers for all you do to make the magic happen each week at CP parkrun.