Lenny Sayers:‘Volunteering for Parkrun over 100 times is my proudest achievement’

"Unsung heroes volunteer selflessly; their challenges unseen, yet vital. Let's acknowledge and support them in their noble endeavors."

There is always a group of volunteers behind the community activities, volunteer work is part of the symbol of social cohesion, but behind the volunteer work is also full of challenges and hardships.

The volunteers are organizing the runners in the morning.

Lenny Sayers is principal bass clarinet at the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, but he is also run direct at Parkrun in Cardiff. “Since the relaunch of Parkrun in 2021, I have been a member of the Parkrun core team since then as run direct. But I’ve actually been a Parkrun participant for a long time, I love the community of Parkrun. Parkrun has made a massive impact on my life and running has helped me mentally and physically, especially at those many times when my work life feels challenging,” he said. “The fact that I’m a novice at running direct means I have a lot of challenges ahead of me.”

Parkrun is a free activity project held in Bute park every Saturday morning in Cardiff. Participants can choose to walk or run five kilometers to complete it, and each participant will have two barcodes, one is their identity barcode and the other is their running number. Participants will come to the finish line after completing five kilometers of exercise. Look for Parkrun volunteers to scan codes so their scores can be recorded and then ranked by email or published on the official website. “But we’ve also been complained about because we don’t have a decent scanning facility,” he said. “We donate our time to work, and the activity is free. We ask volunteers to download special software to scan the QR code. Sometimes the scanning does not work properly or in a timely manner, and we often get complaints about this.”

 “Volunteers need to donate more energy, but receiving complaints is inevitable. But as volunteers, you know, the extra cost we pay, both in terms of time and effort, is often overlooked by the public, “he said. “Like me, every Saturday, I have to go to the park at 8 am, and at the same time I have to organize more than 20 volunteers in different positions to ensure the cleanliness of the running track, and at the same time prepare emergency medical equipment to prevent emergencies. Parkrun usually ends for good around 10 o ‘clock, but as workers we often need 11 or 12 o ‘clock to finish work. So I think the biggest challenge of this job is being complained about by the public for not doing a good job or whatever.”

Lenny Sayers (man from left) is arranging the event with other volunteers.

Parkrun volunteers will be dressed in different colors. Blue and orange volunteers will accompany the participants, and orange workers will walk at the back of the line to ensure that everyone can complete the sport.” Our staff printed Parkrun, Parkwalk, because some people don’t like running, but they want to do it, because we also encourage people to finish the 5K, it’s a new form,” Lenny said.

Parkrun, as a kind of park sports time trial, has set off a new trend in Britain. Cardiff is no exception, with around 750 people taking part in the Parkrun at Cardiff’s Bute park on both 11 May and 18 May. A huge number of participants, but also need more volunteers to maintain order. Every Saturday morning, Lenny gives the participants a short briefing before the start of the competition. Parkrun’s Cardiff office posted on May 11: “Our run direct Lenny spoke to 747 runners today, but unfortunately it wasn’t long before a small group of people started talking loudly enough to drown out what was being said. It’s vital to listen to safety briefings before running in the park, especially about route changes, but even more important to know where the defibrillators are and what they can do in the event of an emergency.”

Volunteers are explaining today’s running routes and safety tips to the runners.

“Parkrun probably has a core group of volunteers, about 10 people, and we’re begging for more people to participate, because if we don’t have volunteers, we’re not going to be able to have this regular Saturday activity, and that’s what the public doesn’t want, and that’s what we don’t want,” Lenny said.

In addition to the challenges Lenny faces in the coordination of volunteer work, because he has to assign the work and position of volunteers in each sports event, he may also face complaints from competitors because of timing problems. At the same time, Lenny also needs to ensure that the public has a safe environment for sports, or does not interfere with activities or residents near the park. “Last week we had complaints, this week we have to be more cautious,” Lenny said.“Last week we had conflict with some people who run the council stables. We were on a different course, we have alternative course but sometimes we can’t use this course because the council tell us that the Bute park is busy so we go into Pompano fields on the other side of the river but the people who own the stables said they had horse riding lessons, so they were telling us we were being too noisy and scared the horse last week.”

Cardiff’s Parkrun is also facing new controversy. “Not long ago, when we organized Parkrun, there were protests with posters, although there were only two of them. It’s a complicated thing, but you should not forget that all of us are working without pay, and I think their protests or complaints don’t realize what efforts the volunteers have put in behind them, “Lenny said with a little frustration.

In the morning, volunteers are ready to go to their posts.

Parkrun recently became embroiled in issues of women’s equity and transgender participation. In last year December, the Policy Exchange thinktank said its analysis found that at least three Parkrun female records were held by trans women. 

The survey has raised eyebrows among sections of the public who believe transgender athletes have greater physical advantages than women. In the final data presentation, the performance of transgender athletes affected the performance equity of female athletes. Parkrun said it would remove records, including speed, to reduce “objectionable situations.”

Parkrun said: “Our inability to screen athletes is disrespectful, and our original intention is to create a free, positive sports environment that promotes sport for all. We hope that our dedicated staff should not be harmed by this incident.”

“I ran in the park for the first time, and it made a big impact on me, and I hope this good impact can be passed on to more people,” Lenny said. “I know that the work of volunteers is very challenging, and our efforts may be ignored, but I sincerely thank every volunteer who came to help, because of your presence, our team is more cohesive, and help Parkrun to solve the difficulties.”

“Of all my recent accomplishments, volunteering for Parkrun is the one I am most proud of. We also hope that more people will join us in the future, whether it is participants or volunteers, we welcome everyone who is eager to try to join us!” Lenny said with pride.

Posters of how Parkrun volunteers and participants participate.