On your marks?

23/09/2019
Written by Jenny McCullough

Most of us can agree on the benefits of exercise as a break from our screens but that walk, jog or run might also help when we’re working in front of them.

Editors and proofreaders are getting away from their desks and out and about as part of the #StetWalk movement reported on by Cathy Tingle for the Society for Proofreaders and Editors blog. The StetWalk hashtag is used by editors on Instagram and Twitter to post photos taken while out walking, as a way of encouraging each other to get out of the office and on the move. Inspired by Tanya Gold’s original idea and the emergence of #StetRun, the Run On virtual running group launched by Cathy is thriving on a ready supply of support and chat for runners of all distances and intensity levels.

Running does for me what gardening does for AM’s Rhiannon: just putting one foot in front of the other and moving to some sort of a rhythm (on a good day, anyway) is an escape and at the same time a technique for putting thoughts and words in order (even when the data from my runner’s watch shows up my tendency to take every wrong turn).

I know about the kind of benefits Run On brings to its members from my involvement with parkrun, an ever-expanding collection of free weekly volunteer-organised five-kilometre walk-jog-run events that provide endless resources of advice, support and encouragement. ‘Organised’ is a key word here, as organisation is the key to parkrun’s success. It might be worn lightly – like the hi-vis vests that identify those in formal volunteer roles – but from the event set-up to the technology for recording participation, organisation is what keeps everyone moving safely in the right direction.

Providing the right information at the right time is vital to effective organisation and although one of the joys of parkrun is its simplicity, there are essential messages to convey to people who are new to a parkrun course or new to parkrun altogether. Before each event, a volunteer gives ‘first-timers’ a briefing on what to do and what to expect along the way. This is followed by another briefing for all parkrunners who have gathered up ready for the start.

Both briefings need to be talked through in a structure that makes sense and in terms so clear that runners/joggers/walkers can recall the information at the finish, by which time some of us might be struggling to put our thoughts in order. Like the event itself (unlike me when I’m running on my own), the briefing must have a route and stick to it: a kind of critical path.

The briefing test is a good one for editing and checking, depending on the audience: what does the reader or listener need to know and when? Will this make sense to someone with a raised heart rate who is trying to remember it? It might not be a race – unless you’re on deadline – but pacing is as important a way of keeping readers and listeners on track from start to finish as it is a method for proofreaders and editors to keep on working from page to page.