Tail running, probably not a role I would have previously associated with myself. However, the act of tail running intrigued me, you get to move around unlike other marshalling roles and you can keep the person at the back company and offer support. Furthermore, as part of my mission to reach 50 parkruns by the end of 2017, I will be running parkrun most weekends and therefore feel that I should volunteer a couple of times this year too. Finally, from a selfish point of view, tail running offers a chance to volunteer and also counts towards your running total. So I signed myself up to tail run at South Manchester parkrun, number 27 – here I come!
We arrived at 8.30 am in the green mobile, bizarrely entering the park behind another identical green mobile (Jason would later try and unlock the wrong green mobile). I picked up the standard yellow marshal bib and was instructed to make sure that I finished behind the last runner. I discovered that wearing the yellow bib makes you instantaneously more approachable. A young student came up to me, and asked if she could stand with me, she preceded to tell me how self conscious she had been about doing her first parkrun but how now she had done the run, she loved it. I found this very interesting as it provided some firsthand evidence of parkrun’s inclusive nature, which coincidentally is the topic of my dissertation. So it’s good to talk.
Then it was time for the run to start. I slowly made my way to the start line, trying to stay at the back, whilst a gentleman told me about his recent run in Newcastle, like I said that bib works wonders. I jogged a bit and about 400m in, I bumped into Jan, who I would accompany for the next 40 minutes or so. As stated, this was my first experience of tail running, so whilst wanting to provide encouragement I was also mindful of the fact that Jan might not really want to converse too much during the run. I opted for the tactic of speak a bit but not too much. Jan told me that she was in her 60s, and that this parkrun was her first since last summer, where she had managed a PB of around 46 minutes.
We continued round the course, me making the occasional remark. Jason joined us about 1 mile in. As we approached the 2 mile mark, I looked at my watch and saw that we were currently running at a pace close to a sub 45 minute 5k. From my weekly obsessive examination of parkrun results, I realised that this was quite a fast time for a final finisher. I asked Jan if she was going for PB or if she was aiming to just get round, her answer was the latter. She then divulged that she was hoping to one day run sub 45…
The final mile continued at the same consistent pace, and impressively Jan did not walk. As we ran past other runners, who had finished and were on their way home, they cheered us on. The final stretch of South Manchester parkrun finishes next to the lake and is about 200m long, this provides the stage for the obligatory sprint finish. As we came onto the lake, we were on 41 minutes. Time to tell Jan that she was about to break 45 minutes. We crossed the line in about 43.30, me after Jan and Jason, of course. After the run was over the student I had been talking to at the start came over to say goodbye, after having waited to watch us finish.
I have now experienced being the parkrun tail runner and it didn’t disappoint. I spoke to people that I would never normally come into contact with and saw running from a different perspective. I encourage everyone involved in running to give tail running a go, you might surprise yourself.