I’m not an athlete.
I won a chocolate rabbit for ‘most improved’ in cross country at school…the trophies ended there.
But recently I decided to set myself a goal and stick to it. Being press-ganged into setting a date by my brother (a triathlon!! Yes!!) and raising money for two causes I really care about helped with all-round motivation. But when and how to exercise? It’s harder to do the things like badminton/squash I used to with the other half as one of us needs to be home with Ivy. So that leaves the lonely sports. Or does it…
I found PARKRUN! A weekly run manned by volunteers that makes running 5k frankly the most pleasurable it can be, ever. It’s completely revolutionised my excercise, but hey this blog’s meant to be about volunteering….
As I lumped myself around the course week to week I started to notice… First, how many youngsters were coming to run, and also how those youngsters and other runners’ kids were helping out too.
There’s Tom: his six year old Emma was fascinated by the fact he ran every Saturday and leapt at the chance to come with him when he volunteered for the first time last month. “I think children always have a fascination with what their parents get up to when they go out without them – I don’t know what she expected but had lots of questions that Saturday morning…
“I like to think she was impressed to think of her Daddy running up the notorious hill three times every week. I was on finish tokens duty and she proudly wore a fluorescent jacket and was actually a great help handing the tokens out as people crossed the line.
She found the whole morning good fun and both cheered runners on and provided an entertaining commentary while we were waiting for the first runners to finish.”
Tom thinks Parkrun is great for getting kids involved in volunteering. “It’s outside and they can make as much noise as they like, and there’s always something interesting to look at or talk to them about – and as a runner it’s always great to have young supporters cheering you on.”
And there’s Rachel… Her youngest, Evie, likes to marshall and Rachel thinks it’s the next best thing to running – if she comes to volunteer, maybe she might run in the future? “When I was a child I hated exercise as I wasn’t good at it (i.e. I wasn’t the fastest or best) but now I love running and I think it could be that my parents both being active when I was young somehow rubbed off on me.
“Parkrun isn’t about making money or being the best, but just everyone enjoying running together, and it’s great for Evie to be part of that. I like sharing something that I feel so enthusiastic about – she gets to see that side of me.”
And what does Evie think? “She said it’s nice to be on her own with me… and she likes being in a big open space. She also likes it cos I buy her hot chocolate! She would like a reward for marshalling AND a megaphone for cheering…”
And there’s Sarah. “With running it can be quite a selfish thing when you’ve got kids. It’s about time to yourself – having a break and focusing on your own improvement.
My kids sometimes resent me going as it’s time away from them – bringing them with me is an opportunity …for me to be involved and be with them at the same time. They understand more about it, and what I am doing when I am not at home.
It seems like a practical use of my time – I get to spend time with them and do my share of volunteering. We’ll usually have a good chat. They can bring activities so they don’t get bored and they can dip in and out of cheering people on. It’s quite relaxed so there’s no pressure.
I also think it’s a great experience for them to see so many completely different people: men and women all ages shapes and sizes and a great example that you can be fit and active at any age or ability.”
Any challenges? “Getting them out of the house on time after a week at school, and being organised enough with snacks and an activity always feels like a rush. I also normally need a good plan as to what we’re doing afterwards which is usually something they’ve chosen – to make it fair.
“Other than that, the set-up at Parkrun is ideally suited to volunteering with children. It’s relaxed and they’re very much part of it rather than being an inconvenience. They get to meet new people, feel responsible when they’re helping out and even get their own volunteer vests to wear which makes them feel incredibly special and important.”
Thank you Tom Rachel and Sarah! There are LOADS more. If you’re one of them, tell us why you do it in the comments!
Try parkrun. As a volunteer, or a runner. If you’re a Walthomstow bod, I’ll see you there! And me and ivy will be marshalling soon. Just as soon as I get this triathlon out the way. Did I mention I’m doing a triathlon?!