“The work of volunteers means that anyone can access coaching and running support to improve their fitness.”

February 5th, 2018

2018 is the Hertfordshire Year of Physical Activity, aiming to make Hertfordshire the most active county. One in five adults in Hertfordshire do less than thirty minutes of activity a week and miss out on the physical, mental and social benefits.

Volunteers are integral to keeping organisations and clubs running which encourage people to exercise. Sharon shares her experience of volunteering with her local running groups and the difference it makes.

Where do you volunteer and for how long have you been doing it?

I started at parkrun in Panshanger when it launched in October 2014 after taking up running in August 2014. I started volunteering in support roles about a year later, then moved over to Westmill when it launched in July 2017 where I became a Run Director. I will also become a Run Director with the new Hertford Junior parkrun launching at the end of January 2018.

In addition to this I volunteer with my local running club, Ware Joggers, which I joined two years ago. I organise the kit sales for the club and provide support at the training sessions which are run by qualified coaches. I have recently assisted teaching two beginner courses, taking people from no running to 50 minutes of running. I am also on the committee which delivers our annual running event, the Ware10s.

What do you do within your volunteering role/roles?

My main role is that of a Run Director at parkrun. That means on the day, and for the week leading up to the Saturday event, I am responsible for putting on the event. I have to find enough volunteers, train them up on the morning and ensure that we can put on a safe event. I brief all our participants on the rules of the event and then process and publish the results before handing over to the next Run Director, who will be in charge the following week.

What motivated you to volunteer?

At first, I tended to sit on the side-lines. I am not generally one to push myself forward, but I do like to help where I can. My first volunteering stint at parkrun was marshalling the car park, it was just a case of “As I’m here”.  I then started to understand more about the setup and how I could get involved.

I have suffered with severe anxiety and depression in recent years and started running to help improve my mental health. This meant that I lacked professional confidence and always sought to avoid public speaking. By starting with the “First Timers Briefing”, I have gained confidence and started to challenge my own negative thoughts. I cannot believe how I can now stand up and talk in front of large groups of people. It has made a world of difference in the two years I have volunteered.

What do you enjoy about volunteering?

I like to share my enjoyment about running, and hope that other people can enjoy some of the benefits that I have from participating in the sport.

It makes me so proud to watch people achieve their own dreams and ambitions. To see former beginners who could not run for more than a minute at a time to then confidently take on a parkrun in the space of a few months, makes it all worthwhile. One of my proudest moments was guiding and pacing a visually impaired runner to a new personal best.

What difference do you feel volunteers make to the sporting community? Why are they important?

Volunteers make all the difference. Without volunteers, many sporting events simply wouldn’t happen. Parkrun is entirely dependent on volunteers to put on events, to ensure it’s free at the point of delivery.

Ware Joggers is also a low-cost organisation, reliant on volunteers. There are so many different roles and responsibilities that need to be carried out to organise a successful club with more than 250 members. The work of volunteers means that anyone can access coaching and running support to improve their fitness.

How do your children get involved in volunteering and what do they enjoy?

My children are aged 9, 6 and 6 and they love helping. I think it is positive and important that they seem me as a person, rather than ‘just’ as Mum. 

They started coming along to watch me run, and as inquisitive children, the questions began and they got involved.

Acer likes to come along and sell the Ware Joggers kit, which has been brilliant in support of his speech therapy.

Isla’s favourite job at parkrun is barcode scanning, and she loves to greet each runner by name. Just recently she has started to give the First Timers Briefing at Westmill parkrun. It is fantastic to see her have such confidence and grow in a safe environment.

Jake loves to sort the finish tokens back into order, and who can resist a foam finger when you are marshalling.

If someone was interested in finding out more about the organisations you volunteer for how could they get in touch?

Westmill parkrun is based in Ware and the run starts at the Edge Outdoor Activity Centre. It takes place every Saturday from 9am. Just turn up from 8.30am and speak to any member of the team, or email us at westmilloffice@parkrun.com. You should register online for free at www.parkrun.org.uk and bring a printed barcode if you want to record a run time.

Ware Joggers have sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays at Wodson Park, meeting at 7pm.  Again, just come along and see if you like us. Our website is www.ware-joggers.co.uk