A Bedford parkrun tail runner

I hadn’t fully decided on which parkrun to attempt last Saturday when a friend sent me a message to say that they were looking for a tail runner at Bedford parkrun.  I had been hoping to tick off another new course (currently looking at the Rutland Water one which is an hour away) but the opportunity to have a go at the new-to-me marshaling position of tail running was too appealing so I dropped the Race Director an email and was assigned the task.

Bedford parkrun volunteer rotaAlthough there are two of us listed on the roster above, I ended up being the only tail runner on the day.

I was told to arrive by 8:45am for the marshal briefing and to bring along my phone – something which I hadn’t thought of doing but which made perfect sense.  If something happened, even though Bedford park is still very busy with non-parkrunners each morning, it would make sense to have my phone on me so that I would be able to call for help.

The marshals were all super friendly.  I got the impression that the majority of them who I stood talking to at the start were either part of the core marshaling team, or at the very least regularly volunteered to help out at the event on a Saturday morning.  Each of us marshals were issued with a lanyard to wear around our necks detailing all of the information we might need in case of an emergency.  On one side it gave us local information about the nearest hospitals, and on the other it told us the process we should follow if there was an incident, the details of the local cafe, the postcode of the parkrun location and contact numbers for those at the run.  A very good idea and something we could have done with at our own club race on Sunday to be honest, although I’ll get to that in tomorrow’s post.

Bedford parkrun lanyardI’ve marshaled a couple of times at my local parkrun – Northampton – before, although not received anything like this.  Picking up lots of good ideas for if I ever manage to get a parkrun off the ground!

Bedford parkrun was a busy one on Saturday as local club Biggleswade had brought 42 members along with them, – many who had just completed the Couch to 5k course and were looking to run their first parkrun.  (35 of them were first timers!)  The course was a sea of blue and yellow Biggleswade tops.

Bedford parkrun

I moved myself right to the very back of the crowd that had gathered and the run was started.  I was very conscious for the first few minutes that I wasn’t at the very back, as several runners appeared to have arrived quite late and ended up sprinting past from behind me.  I hoped that nobody slower than the back runners had started, otherwise I would never know!  I don’t think that was the case though and after five minutes, runners stopped sprinting around us back markers.

It wasn’t until we started that I suddenly realised I’d have to make a decision as to whether or not to run with the person at the back or behind them.  As it turned out though, the very last lady was a Biggleswade Couch to 5k runner, and their coach stayed with them for encouragement, so I backed off and remained a little distance behind them, so as not to put her off for the run.

Bedford parkrun marshal

I assumed that I would be able to gentle-jog most of the route, but in actual fact I casually walked the entire way round.  The only point where I got into a little jog was when I had been talking to another marshal right at the start of the run and fell a little way behind.  To be honest though, I would have caught up had I lengthened my stride slightly.

As well as sticking to the back of the run to ensure all was OK with the runners, on the third and final lap (Bedford is a two and a half lap course), I had to collect the km markers as I passed them.  I only found the markers for 2km and 4km, so I worried that I just wasn’t very observant and had missed all of the others, but it turned out that they just hadn’t been placed on the course that week!

Bedford parkrun km course markersAs we neared the end, more and more of the Biggleswade runners came to join the lady at the back and support her on her way to the finish.

Bedford parkrun

There were more than 20 of them by the time she picked up her pace for the finish line straight.  I had said that the only time I jogged was at the beginning, but I actually jogged through the finish line at the end as well.  Because there were so many Biggleswade runners at the end it got rather confusing as to where my back runner was, but I remained a few seconds behind the large crowd that were storming towards the finish line.  The rest of the support crew ducked out before crossing the line.

I took my token upon crossing the line and headed over to get it scanned, turning just in time to see a lady in a Biggleswade top slowing to a walk behind me.  I couldn’t tell if she had crossed the line or had just been running round the finish line to run in with her friends.  She had slowed to run with the back runner at about one mile, but then picked up the pace and shot off a little, so I didn’t see her out on the course again.  I definitely hadn’t passed anyone else out on the track, but I felt awful just in case she had been waiting on the sidelines with the cheering squad and had finished her run at the end.  I was very diligent in ensuring I had been at the very back but I still worried that I had missed someone.

When I was texted my time later that day I checked on the Bedford parkrun results page and there was an ‘Unknown’ runner listed on the page behind me.  Unknown runners aren’t listed with a time, so I couldn’t check how far that person had been behind me.  (Has it always been that way?  I’m sure they used to still list times of unknown runners?)  I know there had been some confusion with the timekeeper over the number of Biggleswade runners crossing the line at the end, so potentially they had just clicked too many times at the finish.  The results show that I crossed the line 9 seconds behind the coach that had been running with the back runner, so I had stayed a fair distance back.  Although again, I’m not entirely sure that was correct, as I don’t think the back runner had sprinted enough to finish 19 seconds ahead of her coach?  Anyway, I’m certain I didn’t pass anyone else out on the course.  There must have been a slight error in the end results.

Once I had gotten my barcodes scanned I helped pack up some of the cones then began sorting the Bedford parkrun barcodes into the labelled boxes along with the other marshals.  They had a craft box, with holes labelled in increments of 10 so that you could easily sort each barcode into order.  With the full team working on it it didn’t take too long and it wasn’t long after 10am before I was saying bye to the other marshals and heading for home.

Garmin time: 54:51
Official time: 55:01
Position: 395/396
Gender position: 172/172
Age category position: 16/16

If you were at the back of a race would you prefer someone to run with you?  Or behind you?
Do you know anyone that started running via the Couch to 5k course?

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6 thoughts on “A Bedford parkrun tail runner

  1. I do love a laminated lanyard! My two local parkruns do this, although they have details on the front of the job you are going (eg for each marshal point, a photo of someone standing where you need to, a little map, and instructions such as “check the tail runner closes the gate”) and on the back they have the mobile numbers of all the run directors. They even have a laminated prompt sheet for the new runners briefing which is really useful.
    Tail running a lapped course is much harder- I’ve only one it once (at St Albans) and I was glad there were two of us as we could keep an eye on the back people more easily.
    I think I would rather have someone with me, as chatting passes the time, but I know some people want to get on with it by themselves- If I am tail runner I normally say hi and then see if they seem as if they want to chat.
    Maria @ runningcupcake recently posted…Savse smoothiesMy Profile

    1. That’s a really good idea to add to the lanyard a photo and details of the job role. The more information that can be given pre-event, the better.

  2. That’s a great idea about the lanyard. I wonder if I should mention that to my parkrun…
    I think you just need to ask the person – or say I’m here if you need me or something. I know when my dad has done parkrun (and bless him, he’s usually always at the back) he’s happy to have someone walking with him as he likes the support and also has a great sense of achievement if he overtakes someone and “loses” the tail runner hehe.
    Our tail runner tends to be the same guy (a lovely Spanish guy called Aurellio who always sets up as well). He’s run with so many people in other races as well to help them complete marathons etc. He’s great at encouraging as well. We have a lapped course so it’s tricky to clear up but we tend to follow him at the end picking up stuff as he goes past (and he will too) so it isn’t insulting to the last runners (who wants to see people clearing up a course before they’ve finished?).
    Anna @AnnaTheApple recently posted…ENERTOR™ Insoles ReviewMy Profile

    1. Yes, suggest it to your parkrun. I’ve seen so many great ideas at parkruns since I’ve started heading out for a bit more tourism over the last couple of weeks. I’m definitely taking these ideas on board.
      I think what you’ve mentioned about your Dad is probably how most people feel about being at the back and it probably would be best to offer some company on the run.
      Aurellio sounds very selfless and reminds me of one of the guys from our club whose aim next year is to offer himself out to club runners who want to complete goals over any distance. He plans on running with them at races to ensure they tick off their goals. Such a selfless and lovely thing to do.

    1. That’s the thing – it’s knowing how to read what somebody else would want! I always prefer running by myself, but I completely understand how some people need the encouragement and support.

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