Today I made my now annual pilgrimage back to the event where I ran my first parkrun on my parkrun Birthday to volunteer and give something back. By this point last year I had run 29 times and shamefully never volunteered, however I am happy to say that my average since then has gone on to 13 runs and 2 more occasions volunteered (all at St Peters in different roles).
Continuing in my aim to not do the same volunteer role twice (yep I set myself the same goal with volunteering as I did with running), I was a Barcode Scanner this time around. The last of what I like to call the ‘Holy Trinity of Finishing’ (Timer, Finish Tokens, Barcode Scanning).
The majority of the aspects of the day were the same as the other times I had volunteered here so I won’t go into too much details about that, however the position of Barcode Scanner was great and I think I can say it is the one I have enjoyed the most so far! That is not to say that there was anything wrong with the other volunteer positions as they are all key to the running of this great event, however with this one I felt like I actually had more to do with the runners than other roles.
In terms of the role itself, it was a very quiet and uninvolved role for a large chunk of the time you are there. With the other roles there are bits you have to do to prepare for the runners returning but with this it really is just standing and waiting, which allows you plenty of time for you to chat with your fellow volunteers.
As for the training needed to operate the scanners it really couldn’t be simpler, there are only two buttons on the whole device to worry about and even then you only have to press one of them. The big button activates the scanner which you hold a short distance away from the barcodes and you keep pressing until you hear the beep and the smaller button resets the whole device, so keep away from that one! I have heard stories of some volunteers pressing the smaller button to scan, or even scanning the whole number of runners correctly and then pressing reset at the end before handing it back to the Run Director to ‘reset ready for next week’ thinking that the scanner is sending the data into the cloud somewhere by Bluetooth or WiFi or something, so please do be careful of the small reset button, that would be my only advice!
Once you have got the button(s) worked out, the only thing you need to know then is the order in which you scan. You always scan the person’s own barcode first then the position token, and the rest is done to put it all together in the results upload. Person (beep), position (beep), person (beep), position (beep), that’s really all there is to it! No matter what type of barcode people have, the process is all the same – today I saw and scanned paper barcodes (in various states of togetherness), laminated paper barcodes, printed small token barcodes, printed round token barcodes (both attached to trainers and not) and even a few of the new wristband barcodes. Sadly 3 or 4 people also tried to use the barcode on their smartphone screen – sorry it just won’t work guys 😦
And when I said earlier about it feeling like I had more to do with the runners, that was because this is the one role where they don’t just run past you and carry on their merry way, they actually have to stop and stand with you, albeit for only a few seconds, but long enough for you to say ‘Congratulations’ or ‘Well done’ and for them to say ‘Thanks for volunteering’ or ‘I appreciate you standing out in the field today’. This is the perfect role for that little boost to know that they truly appreciate you giving up your time to facilitate their run. That said, even though I was able to have a brief exchange with them all, I don’t think I saw the face of a single runner today, just approx 150 midriffs and sets of running trainers!
Once I have gone through and profiled all of the different positions, I think Barcode Scanning is definitely one that would be the top of my list to do again, I recommend everyone tries it at least once even if only to realise the importance of volunteers and how much people do actually appreciate the work the volunteers put in!
Volun-cheers all round! 🙂