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Can volunteering banish my injury blues?




I did once finish first in a 5km run, but you’ll have to take my word for it.

The history books will forever say the winner was ‘unknown’, as after the epic encounter (epic being my own choice of word) I forgot the personal barcode that’s needed for a result.

I’ve never been back to Malling parkrun, so I like to pretend I’ve become legendary – the mystery man who came and conquered but was never seen again. In reality the run was probably quickly forgotten about for everyone but me. Anyway, that was back in my personal running heyday (last year) and before several injuries that led to my physio warning me against ‘trying to run quickly’. So taking the physio’s advice (and pretending not to take offence at the word ‘trying’) I find myself in Nowton Park on the other side of the fence as a volunteer.

The start of the Parkrun event at Nowton Park, Bury.. (16205884)
The start of the Parkrun event at Nowton Park, Bury.. (16205884)

My role for the day is ‘barcode scanner’ and I’m the first to meet runners after they cross the line. I have two jobs: Scanning the personal barcodes (my nemesis); and collecting finisher tokens.

Easy, right? Not for me. I’m not sure if I am clumsy, slow-witted or both, but the half-hour I am in action becomes quite a mental challenge. And after scanning 100-or-so barcodes, a physical one. Near the end, as the runners are encouraging me to keep going, I am wondering if completing the 5km would be all that much harder.

But while I did become aware of how much better at scanning my fellow volunteers seemed, it was an enjoyable experience. The runners were appreciative and being part of a community was enough to make me feel better about being unable to (try to) run fast.

Finally, an especially heartfelt ‘well done’ to the winner who crossed the line in about 18 minutes. I say ‘about’ because the unfortunate chap didn’t have a barcode! Whoever you are, I know how you feel.

Late August and early September often offers some of the most pleasant weather we have all year. It’s also that great time when cinemas bring in Oscar hopefuls and phase out titles with numbers and colons (eg. Mata’s Column 2: the Free Press’s Great Mistake).

But the change in season is also still enough to bring back a sense of dread that I associate with going back to school.

I recently stepped into a Bury secondary to cover the GCSE results and was struck that it is now ten years since I took my own exams. Ten years. That’s long enough to say ‘back in my day’ without being ironic.

When I started out as a reporter, I’d sometimes get mistaken for a student at results collection. Those days might sadly be gone, but the feeling that school is about to start again remains. It might be you are looking forward to the first day back. But, for anyone reading who may feeling nervous, I can promise these two things:

1) The day will end.

2) Once you have had your first day back, it is the longest possible time until the next first day back.



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