“Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.”
Forrest Gump, 1994
Between the 93 official parkruns and 33 proto-parkruns, we’ve now been meeting up on the Paint Branch Trail every Saturday morning for 126 weeks. Andrea and I are there every time that we’re in town. You might think it would get boring and repetitive, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. When we pack up the car and leave for Acredale Park on a Saturday morning we have little idea of who we’re going to meet.
Well, we do know some things. We know who the volunteers for the day will be. We know that Lisa and Hump will almost always be the first people we meet, helping to set up and then heading off down the course before most people arrive. We can be pretty confident that we’ll see Frank Filteau. Occasionally somebody has told us that they’ll be coming along, or we’ve made plans with them because they’re celebrating a parkrun milestone. But aside from that we really don’t know. Around half will be regulars who are now like old friends, but we don’t know which regulars. Some will be more recent parkrunners - sorry if we recognize you but don’t know your name yet. 10-20 will be first timers, often easy to spot if they clutching a barcode printout and wondering what to do with it. We love meeting newcomers and learning about your story. Often first-timers come along with friends or family who make introductions. We love seeing people return after their first visit, bringing their kid or their mom. Sometimes we’ll see somebody who we haven’t seen in a long while. Hey, welcome back! And sometimes we meet visitors from far away who are in College Park only because of the parkrun. The parkrun tourists generally arrive a little early, so we have a bit more chance to chat with them.
All of these things happened this week. Lots of old and new friends, and lots of surprises. It was just wonderful!
On a warm but good-for-July morning we saw the biggest crowd yet for a ‘normal’ Saturday, with 143 finishers and 15 volunteers.
One person who we knew we’d see was Cindy Feld, celebrating her 50th parkrun. Cindy is a smiling, helpful, positive presence anytime that she joins us, and she looked resplendent in the red 50 sash. To mark the occasion, Steve Feld baked lemon bars (yum!), and he ran with Cindy rather than ahead of her (security detail!), and Cindy brought along a couple of friends to celebrate with her. Also, Andrea baked two of her delicious parkrun cakes, one of which survived until Cindy had caught her breath.
Another special guest was Pam Marcus from our sister parkrun in Kensington. Our second biggest crowd of 2018 was back in January when we gave a send off to the Kensington crew as they headed off to create a parkrun community on the Rock Creek Trail. They have been meeting every week since then, and hundreds of people have taken part. It was great to see Pam back on the Paint Branch Trail, meeting old and new friends. And also great to see her able to run again after injuries.
We also had guests from far away. Fred Babumbo Lukwago is a South African doctor who called in on us one year ago. He normally parkruns at Uvongo parkrun, which runs along the Indian Ocean. This week Fred was back, this time bringing his wife Sarah and their two sons. Sarah did her first ever parkrun. In College Park, of all places, and she had every reason to feel good about it.
Tim Waggett joined us from Buckingham parkrun in the UK, where he has run 138 times. Tim learned why we appreciate our summer shade so much, and why we love The Board and Brew.
We also had THREE parkrun transplants from Oxford, UK this week. John Jensenius is a recent regular whose 85 parkruns put him in the hunt to be the first CP regular to earn a black 100 shirt. This week John came with a stroller, allowing Emily Jensenius to run with us for the first time (welcome Emily!). Both John and Emily used to run at Oxford parkrun. Meanwhile, a few seconds ahead of Emily was Jorge Santin, who also recently moved here from Oxford. But Jorge was a regular at Oxford’s “other” parkrun, Harcourt Hill parkrun, which Nick Huang visited last year. Small world!
In other cool stroller-related stories, Erica Barnhardt set a PB. Without a stroller. Last week she was pushing the stroller while husband John was setting a PB. This week John had the stroller. That’s teamwork.
You’re free to run or walk at whatever pace suits you. But it’s great when consistency pays off and you set a PB. 21 people did that this week. One of our favorites was Kim Fisher, who also had a big birthday a couple of days ago, and showed that 60 is no barrier to parkrun PBs. Kim was already a regular in the days before we were an official parkrun, when there were often just 6-8 people, no volunteers, no timing, and we kind of fudged the distance. She used to say, “Don’t wait for me at the finish, I’ll be too slow.” (We waited, of course.) How cool to see her a couple of years later running most of the way, with plenty of company, and over 50 people following her. Fantastic, Kim!
Others with PBs included Cotter Rosenberg, who’s edging close to 20 minutes and leaving his old man well behind. And Kalonji Collins, who this week brought his mother-in-law and father-in-law along. Welcome back Alice (PB!) and welcome Bill. For a long time Jim Cantwell was mostly volunteering rather than running, but recently he has been on a running streak, and it’s great to see him progressing. Meanwhile, Lauren Strothers, Dominique Lisiero, Brian Koen, and Kim Bills are on PB streaks.
We welcomed 24 first-timers with barcodes this week, and a few more without barcodes. The first-timers’ briefing was quite busy. This week’s first timers included John Rigg, recently elected as a College Park city councilman. This makes 6 of 9 city elected officials that are now parkrunners. Yet more evidence of a healthy community. Another notable first-timer was Sharyn Gordon. Husband Kirk Gordon is a regular, to put it mildly, having completed 85 parkruns already. But this week Sharyn did her first, at a speedy walk, and with a beaming smile. Welcome Sharyn!
As you perhaps know, our advertising budget is the same as our entry fee, i.e., $0. So the marketing department is you, the satisfied parkrunners. Thanks for spreading the word and introducing us to your friends and family.
In addition to the official parkrun milestones, we like to give a shout out to folks who reach notable steps along the way. This week Gloria Cottman did her 25th parkrun. Bud Verge, John Giamalva, and Daniel Walker all did their 10th. And new 5-club members were Rebecca Purvis, Tim Purvis, Robin Walukonis, Dexter Guillaume, Niko Eidson, Isaac Scott, Susan H., and Brian Koen.
College Park parkrun wouldn’t be what it is without the wonderful volunteers that give the event its warmth and fuzziness every week. Give it a try some time. It doesn’t feel like a sacrifice, more a fun way to create something good. So many people helped out, making my role as Run Director really very easy. Lisa and Hump took care of you out on the course. Shortly before the start Lisa called to warn about a slippery section of trail -- she’s our final course check every week. And we got a message from Hump that he had a bowl of water for the barkrunners. Wonderful idea, and the pups are now part of Hump’s fan club. Win Persina, Joel Goldberg, Clare Imholtz, Tracey Huard, and Kayla Hayes were the finish line crew. Win helped me to lead the cheering section, too. When we saw the big crowd we knew that we’d need more barcode scanners, so as soon as Nick Huang and JJ Su finished, we handed them yellow vests, and they knew what to do. Sheila Wilson-Doby was your smiling tailwalker, and Andrea Zukowski was your roving paparazza. Jen Murphy and Steve Feld sorted a bigger-than-usual batch of tokens. And much to my relief, Nick Huang relieved me of the purple parkrun laptop and took care of the results processing in no time flat.
As usual, we showed up at around 8:30, with nobody in the park. And by 10:15 everything was gone, with no trace of what had been happening a short while earlier. Well, except for the parkrunners doing Yoga in the Parks. If you haven’t tried this yet, there are a few more weeks to go.
Do you receive Andrea’s email newsletter and volunteer update every week? There’s no obligation, it’s only once weekly, and it’s as charming as you’d expect from Andrea. You’re less likely to receive it if you started parkrunning in our first year. To sign up, login to your parkrun profile and update your preferences.
Do you like our photos? Each week we (... “royal we”) sort and edit our favorites from the 1000+ that we generally start with. We share them on our Facebook page, but you can also find them on our Flickr feed. Here’s the link to this week’s set.
Do you receive the parkrun USA newsletter on Friday mornings? It’s a once-weekly email with inspiring stories and news about parkrun to get you in the mood for the weekend. If you don’t receive it, then login to your parkrun profile and update your email preferences.
See you next week.