It was an interesting morning to have agreed to volunteer for Parkrun. For those, not in the know, Parkrun is a not-for-profit organisation that holds free 5K runs in parks worldwide on Saturday mornings. Stoke Gifford parish council (who must be wondering what has hit them) have required Parkrun to pay a fee to use the park. Cue much weeping, wailing and gnashing of teeth, not to mention a great deal of newspaper print and tweeting. Little Stoke run, as a result, was cancelled and presumably will remain so for the forseeable future.
As a result of all the publicity, of course, there were a huge number of new runners at Parkrun this morning. I lost count of the number of times, while waiting for the run to start that I said, "Do you have a barcode? That's all you need. Just go along to the start and we'll scan it at the end" or, alternatively, "Do you have a barcode? That's a shame, you can still run but we won't be able to give you a time at the end." It was my first time actually scanning barcodes so there was also a fair amount of mutual confusion as I tried to work the scanner and new people tried to figure out what was going on. We had beautiful sunshine, but it was pretty cold and I rather quickly lost sensation in my scanner button pressing fingers.
Anyway, before the rush started I managed to take a picture of the first two across the line.
"Which of the front two won?" one of the marshals asked us at the end. The other barcode scanner and I exchanged slightly blank glances since we had not memorised names and then she said "The front one." After we'd stopped laughing she elaborated. "He was wearing orange."
For the record, charging people to run in a Parkrun is out of the question, but, as a not for profit, the organisation does have sponsors and staff so it wouldn't have been out of the question for the park fee to have been met from central funds. I don't know how much Stoke Gifford were requesting, but given they initially proposed charging £1 per runner one assumes it was in the region of £5,000-£10,000 per annum. Multiply that across all the parkruns and I can see why the central organisation baulked at opening the door to suddenly needing to raise several hundred thousand a year more just to cover park fees. However, it is a desperate problem that councils simply can not afford parks under the current austerity regime (at least if this Guardian article has its facts right) and there will be no Parkrun if there are no more parks...