A brief guide to parkrun volunteering

Since moving, I haven’t had the chance to check out Clumber, which is my new local parkrun. I don’t drive, so hopefully at some point we’ll all get up early enough on a Saturday to head over. It feels like I’m a newbie all over again. I know sometimes people find going to parkrun for the first time a bit scary, but my experience is that parkrun volunteering is a great way to get over those nerves as you will naturally get talking to people.




This post was actually inspired by ReeRee of Rockalily who recently volunteered as a marshall at her local run, as a way of scoping out what happens before taking the plunge and running herself. It’s a great way to get involved as without the volunteers, there can be no run. For those of you who are thinking about getting involved, or are nervous about volunteering for the first time, I thought I would do a brief write-up of the volunteer roles I have done so far.


This can be a high pressured role but is exhilarating and great fun. Your job is to time every runner as they come over the line. I have done this a couple of times and the task is theoretically simple – I was handed a stopwatch and I had to press the button every time someone crossed the line. You need to stay alert for this one as it’s easy when the runners are spread out, but when people come through all at once, you need to pay attention. It’s lots of fun and probably my favourite role.

Barcode scanning

I have a confession. When I was younger, I always loved the beep of shopping as it scanned in supermarkets. I’m also one of the few people who likes self-service, because I find the scanning extremely satisfying. This role is great as I get to satisfy my urge to beep. Runners will provide you with their barcode which you scan, followed by their finishing token. Most runners will know the drill and provide you with code first. If a code doesn’t scan, just write it down and if someone has no barcode, then they get no time. Occasionally people will get a bit narked and ask if you can just write down their name, but this is very rare and most will understand when you explain no barcode, no time.




Tailwalker (formely tailrunner)

This is a great role! Volunteers who tailwalk will add a parkrun to their total finishes while getting credit for volunteering. The role of the tailwalker is simply to stay at the back with the last finisher and let marshalls know when they can stand down. It’s a lovely role as you will often get talking to people on the way round. Use your judgement, some people will be concentrating on the distance and won’t necessarily want to engage in a conversation, but some love to have a chat. If people drop back, then it is your job to drop back and remain with them – it is your job to be the last runner to cross the finish line. I did this the day before a half marathon and really enjoyed it.

Event putdown

The opposite to setting up – you are helping to put things away. Many hands make light work and if you can hang about after the run, you can help the event team clear up in minutes.

Run report writer

I wrote the run report for Guernsey parkrun after I did my 50th run there. This is an enjoyable role as people enjoy reading the write ups. I love reading run reports written by different people as everyone will add their own experiences, which makes for enjoyable reading and helps to decide which to visit next, if you enjoy a bit of tourism.

The parkrun website has a great overview of all the different volunteer roles you can do – these are just the ones I’ve done so far. I look forward to marshalling at some point and I can’t wait to get back to parkrun!

What’s your favourite parkrun volunteering role?


Bexley parkrun finish line


  1. November 1, 2017 / 3:35 pm

    I’ve just done general marshalling where I’ve stood on a corner and directed the runners, clapped and cheered them on. It’s great fun :-)

  2. November 2, 2017 / 6:54 am

    I like being a marshal to cheer everyone past (I used to bring an instrument from school- like a tamborine, but now they have their own to choose from too), or if I want to run, doing the new runner’s briefing is good as you get to welcome tourists and first timers, and share your enthusiasm with them. I do like tail walker too, but that post seems to get filled before they even publish the roster now!
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  3. John M
    November 2, 2017 / 1:46 pm

    Accurate descriptions! (I’ve read some things written about parkrun volunteering that are just wrong, so good to read a correct one!)

  4. November 18, 2017 / 8:24 am

    I love barcode scanning, but I think my favourite is being a pacer at our monthly paced runs. I still get a run but get the warm fuzzy feeling of helping someone to get a new PB or stick it out if they having a tough run.

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