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Woodstock parkruns looking for weekly helpers

  • Volunteers are needed to help with weekly timed runs that will take place at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Park in Woodstock. (Geraldine Fowler photograph)



Valley News Correspondent
Saturday, May 25, 2019

WOODSTOCK — Beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday., there will be a free, timed 5K run/walk held weekly at Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller National Historical Park at 54 Elm St. To make that happen, a host of volunteers are needed to help organize the events and guide participants.

The event is called parkrun, and is part of a global initiative that has similar events in 1,500 cities around the world.

“The focus is on community and sustainability, rather than on competition or swag,” Geraldine Fowler, who co-directs the Woodstock event with Dominic Lord, wrote in an email.

Fowler first became interested in parkruns last year when she participated in a Montreal parkrun with her sister.

“I was immediately taken by the community feel of the event,” she said. “The volunteers were awesome, the runners were so friendly and everyone cheered and supported one another.”

When she returned home to Woodstock, she tried to find a local parkrun, but saw there weren’t any.

She reached out to the national parkrun association about starting a local event, and was connected with Lord, who also was interested in starting a parkrun in Vermont.

“One of the first things I did, when I moved to Vermont, was to try to find a parkrun,” said Lord, who relocated to Vermont in 2016 from Wales. “With the nearest option being Boston, there was only one course of action left, and that was to get involved and try to create our own here.”

Each week, Lord and Fowler are looking for about seven volunteers to donate an hour and a half of their time.

There are a variety of roles available for volunteers. The run director is in charge of a particular event on a specific day.

“They have ultimate responsibility for deciding whether or not the conditions are suitable for the event and with advice from the other volunteers may decide to modify the course, delay the start, or even in exceptional circumstances cancel the event that day,” Fowler said.

Marshals along the course help guide participants and warn of any obstacles on the course.

“Marshals perform a crucial function. If there aren’t enough marshals, then the event can’t go ahead,” Fowler said.

Volunteers also are needed to scan each participant’s barcode for timing purposes and to hand out finish tokens to participants.

Each week a trail walker volunteer stays at the back of the pack to ensure that all participants are accounted for.

“The volunteer component is so vital and so rewarding,” Fowler said.

Walkers, dogs and strollers all are welcome on the parkrun route. After the event, coffee and snacks will be served at the Carriage House.

For more information or to volunteer visit parkrun.us/marshbillingsrockefeller or https://www.facebook.com/mbrparkrun/, or email marshbillingsrockefeller@parkrun.com.