Being Keano and parkrun volunteering

My 2019 Dublin Marathon did not go well, in fact it was like chalk and cheese compared to my 2018 experience. A long running foot niggle erupted sixteen miles in and I limped uncomfortably through Dublin’s southern suburbs to the finish on Merrion Square. The race weekend wasn’t without joy though as I vicariously celebrated Holmesinho’s sub three hour finish and cousin Dan’s PB (he’s getting closer to my 3:26) at Ryan’s on Camden Street, the usual post marathon watering hole.

I sillily ran at St Helens parkrun the following Saturday but haven’t ran since, thirty one days and counting. I’m ‘Being Keano.’ Now that doesn’t mean attempting to kneecap a passing Norwegian nor picking fights with a tall Senegalese-born Frenchmen nor walking a Golden Retriever to exhaustion nor absconding from a Japanese island. The term stems from Roy Keane’s infamous 2002 autobiography.

Keane sustained an ACL injury at Leeds Utd in 1997. He heeded good advice, rested then trained appropriately, didn’t do anything stupid and recovered to lead his team to the treble in 1999. This contrasted with his former Man Utd teammate Lee Sharpe who had suffered the same injury but did the opposite to Keane and was never the same player again. Whenever a running pal gets injured and has to rest up my mantra is ‘Be Keano, not Lee Sharpe.’ I’m now heeding my own advice, doubled downed by a 2:40 Tokyo marathoner, in order to deal with the annoying Morten’s Neuroma in my right foot.

The 2:40 Tokyo marathoner putting me straight.

Not running is bloody hard when it’s part of one’s routine. I’ve been relatively injury free for a good few years and the ability to put the runners on and head out for a run has been taken for granted. It’s frustrating but I just have to suck it up, I’ve got to be patient and think long term.

The benefit of having ‘a little rest’ as my late sister Sinéad would’ve said is it allows me to volunteer at my home parkrun at Heaton Park. In my first five years of parkrunning I volunteered regularly, around once every six weeks, in a variety of roles but that has slipped markedly in the past few years. All I’ve done are the odd pacing day as part of club takeovers with Prestwich AC. I felt guilty particularly when seeing the same faces each week hi-vizzed up and volunteering but I justified, if only to myself, that I’d already put my time in. I wanted to run.

So when I decided to rest up I duly sent an email to the Heaton parkrun team. I hoped for a nice clappy shouty role like marshall or funnel management to ease me back in. Timer, was the reply. Timer! Great! The whole damn run, potentially one thousand runners strong, rested on my right thumb’s ability to coordinate with passing runners. They’d confidence in me alright. One thing I failed to declare was that I had previous in not exactly getting parkrun timing right.

A happy timer

In July 2017 my much better half, the OC (my daughter) and I went to Australia. We started off in Perth and I searched for a location to sate my Saturday fix. I decided on Cottesloe between Perth and Fremantle. We were catching the ferry to Rottnest Island, home of the Quokkas, from Fremantle port at 1000 so it fit perfectly. I emailed the team and the Event Director Mark disclosed that they were low on volunteers. After consultation I offered up my travelling companions to assist.

Parkrunday arrived and we got to Cottesloe Beach early. It was a grey winters morning and viewing the Indian Ocean from Cottesloe I could’ve been mistaken for thinking I was at Blackpool looking out on to the Irish Sea. All that was missing were inebriated Caledonians and hindpart flashing Hen parties. Mark gave MMBH the finish tokens and the OC, at the time ten years old, the timer. What! I iterated, reiterated and rereiterated the OC’s age to which Mark replied ‘she’ll be fine mate’ with typical Aussie confidence. Okay pal but on your head be it if it goes tits up. Hoping for a quiet day a school cross country team turned up to swell the ranks beyond double digits. I was worried, very worried.

The run started and I headed off with the other runners. The route was 2km south along the coastal path then down on to the beach for an energy sapping 1km on soft sand before returning north on the same coastal path. I rounded the final corner and saw the OC with both hands in her pockets and feared the worst. Crossing the line I nervously asked her if everything was okay. Fine, she confidently replied. Her hands were cold and was nonchalantly clicking away at the timer inside her fleece pocket. I checked her current position with the finish tokens. The OC was bang on. No errors. Mark’s confidence in her was right. As the run wore on and her fingers grew colder I took over from her. She handed me the timer at position ninety five and what did I do? I missed one of the last six runners. Very poor. It goes to show that you should always have confidence in your offspring. Never doubt them as they can make you look a right eejit.

The OC timing at Cottesloe parkrun.

Thankfully my timing stint at Heaton went grand. The early November icy wind froze my fingers and I did miss one runner out of the 711 but I knew exactly where the error was made so it was easily rectified in results processing. It’s not an easy job particularly in the really busy period between twenty three and thirty minutes where it feels you are like pushing down on the button every nanosecond but it’s really a fulfilling role. You see the ecstatic elation of those runners busting an absolute gut to achieve a PB and the simple enjoyment of those finishing a nice saunter around the park of a Saturday morning.

Heaton startline ‘Green One to start Geoff?’

I’ve been timer at Heaton for three out of the last four Saturdays (would’ve been 4/4 but for an icy cancellation last Saturday). Volunteering gives one a different perspective and ‘Being Keano’ has allowed me to rediscover my enjoyment in parkrun volunteering. I do however want to allocate a few dates when I’m back running to hi-viz up and volunteer. There’s no obligation to but give it a try if you haven’t already, I’m pretty sure they won’t stick you on timer straight away but I’m positive that you’ll enjoy it.

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