Coping with large numbers
This principle provides some guidance to parkrun events that are anticipating or experiencing large numbers. It provides a number of solutions that may be used in order to ease pressure and reduce the impact that a large attendance may cause.
When do big numbers occur?
One-off events such as:
- Special Day
- New Year’s Day
- Another parkrun close by is cancelled
- An event close by attracting parkrunners (such as a marathon in the city)
The popularity of the event increases over time and regular attendance grows.
- Stopwatch capacity
- Running out of finish tokens
- Congested start line
- Finish funnel options
- Location and provision of scanners
The previously supplied (in some countries) JUNSD stopwatches have a limit of 500 ‘slots’ to store information. Given that it also uses the slots to store the start time, end time, and some other pieces of data there are actually fewer than 500 spaces to record participants finish times.
Other, non-supported timers may also have restrictions.
The best solution is to use the official parkrun Virtual Volunteer App which has no restrictions. The Virtual Volunteer can be installed on iPhones and Android devices for both scanning and timing duties. There is a Quick Start Guide available for more information.
Another solution involves using two JUNSD stopwatches which are both activated on the word ‘go’. The volunteer records the first 450 or so finish times on one of the stopwatches and then swaps to the other one to record the rest. WebFMS will merge the timer files on upload.
Obviously, if there are more than 1,000 participants another stopwatch is required... and so on for each block of 500.
Running out of finish position tokens
Where a rare high attendance is anticipated and there is a concern that there will not be enough finish position tokens, sheets from 1 to 3000 are available for printing via the parkrun wiki here.
The tokens can be cut out to use as individual position tokens or finishers can be given finish numbers using stickers, raffle tickets, or have their finish position written on their hand, and the barcode scanning volunteers can use the finish token sheets to scan their position.
We will not send extra tokens to event teams for one-off events even if they have the funds in their donation pot. Extra position tokens are only supplied when an event has regular increased attendances.
Congested start line
With increased participant numbers comes an increased safety risk at the start line.
If possible, consider moving the start where a larger area for everyone to congregate and proceed for the first few hundred metres. Bear in mind, that any change will require the risk assessment to be reviewed, changed and approved by Event Support.
During the briefing ask participants to position themselves roughly in line with their finish times and, if necessary, give some guidance either verbally or using signs as to the right place to stand.
Finish funnel options
Ask participants to hold their hand out for a token. This can make a huge difference to the speed with which finishers move through the funnel.
Additional numbers may mean that the usual finish funnel length is insufficient but extending the length of the funnel and/or using multiple funnel managers to encourage all finishers to take their token, to keep moving forward and to stay close together may be enough.
You may also wish to have several volunteers undertaking the ‘finish tokens’ role to help keep it fluid. The first person hands out the first batch of tokens alerting the next person to ready themselves to take over with the next batch when they are running low. They move away to collect the next batch as the second person takes over. Repeat.
If there is limited room then a double funnel may need to be deployed. This involves splitting the finishers into batches as they finish.
- Create two funnels just after the timers
- Strong volunteer management is needed to keep people on track and moving through quickly
- Participants finish and enter funnel 1 moving quickly through to collect a position token
- When Funnel 1 is full close it and direct finishers into funnel 2
- The first person entering funnel 2 is given an identifier - such as a letter or number e.g. ‘A’.
- Once funnel 2 is full participants are directed back to funnel 1 which should have cleared by now. The first person back into funnel 1 is given the next identifier ‘B’.
- This continues (using subsequent cards ‘C’, ‘D’ and so on).
- When participants have exited funnel 1 and the person with ‘B’ is at the front. The exit of funnel 1 is closed and participants from funnel 2 (with the A) are moved through to collect a token until they reach the person with ‘C’.
- Funnel 2 is then closed and we move back to 1unnel 1 and the person at the start of the queue holding the B is moved through to collect a token until we get to the person with ‘D’.
- The exit continues from each funnel moving on a letter at a time.
- Keep filling between the funnels until only one funnel is being used.
You will need extra Funnel Managers to direct people to the correct funnel and to hand out the identifiers, plus Funnel Managers to hold people in the funnel before releasing them to collect a position token.
Location and provision of scanners
Utilise the official Virtual Volunteer App for additional scanning capacity. As a rule of thumb, the provision of one scanner per 100 finishers should be provided as a minimum. Any in addition to that will help the situation. Early finishers can be encouraged to help out and use their devices to provide more capacity.
Locate the scanners well away from the finish line to avoid the scanning queue backing up towards the end of the funnel.
Important to remember
- The AED must be available for the duration of the event
- Additional volunteers may be required to help deal with increased numbers
- The team may need to get to the event early as setup may be more involved than usual
- Encourage participants to walk, jog, cycle, use public transport or car-share
- Remind participants to park responsibly
- Volunteers may be required to assist with traffic management before/after the event