Clermont Waterfront parkrun

Some days begin with such hope and excitement, only later to have the wind taken right out of your sails. But more on that shortly…

The excitement and general “buzz” during the event was as high as ever, with everyone in jubilant moods and enjoying the company of their fellow parkrunners. Although the morning had typical Florida August heat, that did not stop the many finishers from crossing the finish line with smiles on their faces, no matter whether they completed the course in 50 minutes or more, or less than 20 minutes.

Clermont Waterfront parkrun had 194 walkers, joggers, strollers, and runners cross the finish line this week (and quite a few “barkrunners” as well!). Ten volunteers made the event possible, and we cannot thank them enough for their dedication. We are rounding the height of our tourist season, as evidenced by participants of 44 different clubs taking part in the event!

Alan Cochran, visiting from Bracknell parkrun, completed his 100th parkrun milestone with us! We were glad to celebrate this major accomplishment with him on his second run at Clermont parkrun. In what was perhaps a moment of foreshadowing, the run director joked during the run briefing that he “hoped we didn’t mess up the results,” which would put Alan’s 100th run in jeopardy.

The event finished without incident, the volunteers packed everything up as usual, and we made our way to our favorite breakfast/coffee spot: Cheeser’s Palace. As we began processing results, the stopwatch was not uploading the times as usual. A few people swooped in to offer assistance, only to realize that the stopwatch had no saved memory. It had the finishing times saved when leaving the event, but by the time we arrived, it had completely reset and had a date stamp of January 1 at around 1:00 a.m. (indicating the reset occurred about an hour before we determined our issue). No one did anything to cause this malfunction, nor do we believe it could have been prevented. We did not have enough volunteers for the day to have a backup timekeeper, so we were left with no times for any of the 194 finishers.

parkrun procedures call for posting everyone’s times at 59:59 in the event something like this happens. We proceeded to upload the files from the barcode scanners so that we at least could report everyone who finished and the order in which they finished.

We utilized three barcode scanners all using the “parkrun Volunteer” app; two of which were iPhones and the third an Android phone. Those volunteers emailed their files without issue, and we imported them without issue (or so we thought).

Upon uploading them and acknowledging that no times were present (therefore meaning everyone would receive 59:59), we found it odd that the system was showing 600+ finishers, all of which appeared as “unknown.” At this point, the run director experienced a lack of judgment and assumed the additional finishers were a result of not having the timer file available to line everyone up properly. The results were submitted and the team continued to stew about what just transpired.

Once the results emails began to arrive, we were quickly informed that the results were reporting 600+ finishers, a very zealous number above the 194 who actually finished. We inspected further to notice that a token scanned in at number 641, which corresponded with the number of finishers being reported. (This added insult to injury.) Some quick assistance from an experienced run director (and frequent Clermont parkrun tourist) from the UK helped us fix this and submit edited results for processing. We thought that issue was resolved, only later to learn that once results are submitted with a certain number of finishers, that number cannot be reduced be resubmitting the results. parkrun HQ is investigating whether this can be overridden at the time of this writing so that our official records will not reflect this incorrect number. Upon further investigation, we learned that the mis-scanned token originated from the Android device being used for scanning.

What began as a very optimistic day ended with a deflated team of volunteers who feel terrible about the mishaps. The comments on Facebook and the emails we have received have all been extremely positive, and we are so grateful for everyone’s support and understanding. The volunteers at Clermont parkrun are truly dedicated to the mission of parkrun and to ensuring everyone enjoys their experience with us—whether for the first time or 100th time. We deeply regret the issues and hope this has not negatively impacted anyone’s view of parkrun in general, and that everyone will give us the opportunity to deliver the quality timing we expect of ourselves and have offered at our 245 prior events.

A silver lining in all of this is that Alan Cochran did receive credit for his 100th parkrun milestone, albeit with a default time of 59:59.

Coming out of this Saturday’s event, we have captured the following lessons learned:

  • This week’s run director will never, ever, EVER again joke about “messing up” the results!
  • The backup timekeeper volunteer role will be mandatory going forward, and we will need support from volunteers to ensure this critical role is filled
  • For good measure, we are replacing the battery in the stopwatch (although the current battery has shown no signs of running low, as we have noticed in the past when it needed to be replaced)
  • We will continue using iPhones for barcode scanning, but we will hold off on testing Android devices until further notice

Sharing mishaps with other parkruns will hopefully avoid them making the same mistakes.

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