Piece of cake (Run Report #54)

On Saturday College Park parkrun celebrated its first birthday. The weather was perfect, we had one of our largest turnouts yet (116), and the birthday cake was incredible. Really, Andrea’s rendition of our course in edible form, together with Hump and Lisa stationed in their usual spots, was wonderful.

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But I must confess that the things that really made the day for me were a few comments that we heard, all from people who are not stereotypical runners.

  • “parkrun is one of my favorite things about College Park”. From somebody who recently moved here.
  • “I started looking up real estate in College Park.” From a long-time Montgomery County resident.
  • “I hadn’t run since I was in the Army, 50 years ago.” From one of our most regular parkrunners, who runs in the 70+ age category.
  • And the person who used to stay home with the kids while her speedy husband went to running events, but now leaves the husband with the kids while she goes to parkrun, where she is improving by leaps and bounds.

It’s things like this that have me reaching for the tissues. I am an unrepentant data nerd and I could put you to sleep with numbers about the first year of College Park parkrun. But at the end of the day it’s encounters like these that we find most rewarding after one year and 54 events.

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When College Park parkrun launched one year ago our core team had two main things on our minds. First, relief at finally making it to the start line. It had taken 10 months to jump through the various hoops needed to get the event going (permits, insurance, fundraising, etc.), and we had organized 33 proto-parkruns along the way, utterly low-key affairs where we were joined by anywhere from zero to a dozen people. Second, apprehension about being able to pull off an event every week, year round. Would people keep showing up, even in the cold of winter or the hot, humid summer? (Yes, in ever greater numbers.) Would we somehow find enough volunteers every week? (Yes, because of the wonderful community support.) Would we get burned out? (Not even close. But we didn’t expect to be spending so much time on spreading the good things happening in College Park to other US communities. If you’re a long time local resident, as we are, you’ll understand how good that feels.)

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Back to this week’s run …

Aside from the cake, which really was the star of the show this week, there were plenty of other things that deserve a shout out.

Nick Huang reached his 25-time volunteering milestone. So he’ll soon have a snazzy purple volunteer shirt that perfectly matches our purple parkrun laptop. We would normally celebrate a milestone like this at the pre-run briefing, but we were caught napping on this one. Ironically, Nick finished up the results processing at The Board and Brew (with help from understudy Ginger Wilkerson) and two minutes later was surprised to get an email from parkrun telling him that he had reached his volunteer milestone. Thank you, Nick! Nick is one of the people who has been with us from the very start, and who has volunteered more often than he has run. He is our results guru, and he is the person who you want on your team when things go wrong and you’re tempted to panic. He is cooler than a cucumber.

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Another thing that stood out was the great number of regulars who came out for our parkrun birthday. If you’ve run 10 or more times, then you’ve pretty much drunk the Kool Aid by now. And of the nearly 100 who have drunk said Kool Aid so far, more than 60 of them were with us this week, either as runners or as volunteers. So there were a LOT of familiar faces. This was awesome.

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As usual, we welcomed a few first-timers and visitors to College Park this week. Also, as usual, most people came because they heard about us from a friend. Perfect! Our one parkrun tourist this week was Kylie Corso, who came with her 7-month old daughter Adeline. You might have guessed that Kylie is an Aussie, but she is based in London, where she is volunteer coordinator at Wimbledon Common parkrun. That event is one of the oldest parkruns. So old, in fact, that they started before they were called parkruns. This week they had their 570th event. Wow.

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We had over 20 PBs this week. Again. It’s hard to comment on all of them. But here are just a few. 8-year old Violet Ridge took yet another big chunk from her PB, ducking under 30 minutes for the first time. Her proud dad, Clark Ridge, will reach his 50-run milestone next time out. Emily Flamm and Susan Whitney both continued their impressive PB streaks. Jordan Foley this week ran without a stroller, and it was very cool to see her daughter Colette pacing her to a PB. Jay Bao set another PB. He didn’t get a barcode until this week, so his progression slipped under our radar. Harish Guda got yet another PB today, another person who seems to get faster every time.

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We also had a few age-category records. Clare Imholtz seems to set a new record every weekend. Second-timer Maggie Gill got the record that she narrowly missed first-time out. (Jessica Molloy: your move next!) Ann Fields took a handy 10 minutes from the 65-69 record. And first finisher Bernard Kelly regained his 40-44 record … but the 45-49 and 50-54 records are substantially faster. So much for aging gracefully.

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No official running milestones this week, but plenty of unofficial milestones. Chris Kujawa did his 25th College Park parkrun (he has also run at Livonia parkrun a few times). We had our largest ever crop of new 10-timers: JJ Su, Bob Silverman, Sarah D’Alexander, Emily Flamm, Cameron McPhee, Pam Marcus, Judy Mulusa, and Dale Morey. And there were a bunch of new 5-timers too, taking the total to 209: Maria Cecil, Stephanie Coomes (to go with her 161 parkruns elsewhere), Dan Stafford, Chris Rasmussen, Kara Wharton, Trace Huard, and Anna Tinnemore.

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This week’s volunteers were an elite crew. Together they had volunteered at College Park parkrun over 350 times already. That’s amazing. Big thanks to Jim Cantwell, Eduardo Valente, Jenn Augsburger, Dustyn Kujawa, Zoe Phillips, Alex Haile, Diana Gough, Carlos Gough, Lisa Wilson, Hump Plotts, Anna Tinnemore, and Schuyler Price.

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With our big birthday event behind us you might think that we’re ready to kick back and coast through the rest of the Fall. Not exactly, as we have a number of cool special days coming up.

  • October 28th: UMD Homecoming 5K at College Park parkrun. We’re excited to be teaming up with UMD for this event. All welcome, as ever, but do encourage any Terp alums, students, or faculty/staff that you know to join us. UMD will be giving free Homecoming shirts to finishers. And we’ll also have a special guest: Testudo will be coming to parkrun!
  • November 4th: Walking groups day, led by the UMD Arts & Humanities Staff Council. Are you part of a walking group, or have friends who are? Encourage them to join us for a lovely Fall walk on the trail.
  • November 11th: Tree planting with Prince George’s Parks at the start/finish area
  • November 18th: Kid Takeover Day! (some volunteer slots still to fill)
  • November 25th: Thanksgiving burnoff. Bring the family.
  • January 1st: one to put in your calendar. We’ll have a special parkrun New Years Double. Early morning, join our friends at Leakin Park parkrun in Baltimore. Then zip back to College Park for a mid-morning parkrun, co-hosted with Prince George’s Running Club, followed by a New Years brunch for all DMV parkruns at The Board and Brew. More details to follow.

See you next week. Testudo will be there. Will you?

Colin Phillips