A shortage in volunteers for the Letterkenny parkrun that resulted in the popular weekly event being cancelled last Saturday has prompted calls for new people to get involved.
Race director, Linda Cronin, was left with no option but to cancel last weekend’s parkrun due to a lack of volunteers. Numerous appeals for assistance were made through social media and other channels last week, but these attempts failed to secure the number of volunteers necessary to allow the event to proceed in a safe manner, and the race was called off last Thursday.
Letterkenny resident, Helena Ferry, volunteered to help at parkrun in 2021 when she saw that a parkrun in November was cancelled due to nobody being available to act as race director.
“I really enjoyed the experience and would encourage everyone to consider volunteering at parkrun,” she said.
“There’s a great atmosphere up at parkrun on a Saturday morning as young and old gather and brace the elements, or enjoy the warmth of the sun, to walk or run the 5km route together. Completing the parkrun really sets you up for the day, but as well as taking part, we really would love to see more people volunteering to help. And not every Saturday, maybe one in every six weeks would work fine. If all the regular participants were able to volunteer for one in every six weeks, then we wouldn’t be struggling each week, as we are right now, to fill the volunteer roster,” she added.
“It’s an easy opportunity to get out in the fresh air, make new friends, have fun, learn new skills, and be a valuable part of your local community. There’s a real feel-good factor in having played a part in ensuring that the event on a particular day runs smoothly. It’s great to see the sense of satisfaction and achievement on the faces of those who finish the run or walk, especially those who perhaps have beaten their PB, ran for the first time with their child or completed their 100th parkrun, or whatever.
“I’ve also started to rope my three girls, aged 12, 9 and 6, in to help as volunteers, and they are really starting to enjoy it. They get to say ‘3, 2, 1’ at the start over the microphone, or they get to hand out the finish tokens as walkers or runners cross the finish line. They’ve even started asking when can they be the race director. It’s a great way to build their confidence and do something different on a weekend.”
Marshalls are needed at junctures where the running/walking route meets the main road, or exit from the park, to ensure that walkers and runners stay on the correct course. Timekeepers are required to record finishers as they cross the finish line so that results can be correctly processed later in the day. Some volunteers arrive early so that they can help put signage in place and assist in erecting the gazebo, while other volunteers stay back afterward to take down the signage and help pack up.
The Saturday morning event is 5km long and the Letterkenny parkrun route winds through the Bernard McGlinchey Town Park and up behind the St Conal’s buildings. If you run or walk it, your finish time is recorded using a barcode that you print out (in advance) from the ParkRun website. This makes the event popular with those runners and walkers who train to try to beat their PB from previous events. Many participants also try and complete parkruns all around the country and even around the world.
There is no time limit and no one finishes last – this is because a volunteer walks as a tail walker, making sure that all participants make it back safely to the finish line. Everyone is welcome to come along, whether you walk, jog, run, volunteer, or spectate.
Those who would like to be involved can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message to the Letterkenny parkrun Facebook page. Alternatively, they can turn up on a Saturday morning at the Vestry at St. Conal’s and tell the race director they are willing to volunteer.