Feels like Homecoming every week! (Run Report #55)

This week, College Park parkrun partnered with the University of Maryland to host the Homecoming 5K. It was such a win-win that we are already planning to repeat the partnership next year. It seemed fitting to host a Homecoming event, because parkrun is starting to feel like a homecoming every week. Colin and I (co-Event Directors) have been working in College Park (at UMD) and living in the College Park area for 18 years, but College Park has never felt more like home to us than it does now. That’s in large part due to the wonderful, diverse, supportive community that has gradually built up around parkrun during its first year. It’s one of those things where you don’t know that something has been missing in your life until you have it, but once you have it, you cannot imagine life without it. We suspect that some of you feel the same way. That’s partly because you tell us. But also based on the fantastic responses I get when I send out my weekly volunteer appeal. You might think volunteer wrangling is a hard and thankless task, but for me it is a weekly reminder that you all are just as committed to keeping parkrun going as we are. I was blown away by the number of people who offered to help this week for our special event that needed more volunteers than usual. I had to turn some people down!


We had our second largest attendance this week: 158 parkrunners and 15 volunteers. We can’t know for sure how many of this week's 53 first timers were there in honor of Homecoming, but it’s a good bet that many of them were. 50 of them had never done a parkrun anywhere, and we were thrilled to introduce them to our community. If you’re reading this -- we hope to see you again!


Did you get a selfie with Testudo? Testudo was truly the star of the show this week. Thank you, Cynthia Martinez, for arranging for him to visit us. While we’re at it, we also owe a big thank you to Anne Martens. It was Anne’s idea to have Homecoming partner with College Park parkrun for their 5K this year. Thanks to both Cynthia and Anne for their help making this partnership happen. And thank you to Lisa Helfert of UMD for sharing with us her fantastic set of pictures from the day, which you can find on our Flickr group here, or on Facebook here.


Some of our favorite stories this week are about walkers. Two people who are normally speedy runners—Christian Knapp and John Whitridge—came along and walked/jogged with friends Alia Abdelkader and David Straitiff. It was David’s first 5K (but we predict not his last). And one of our partners/advocates from Prince George’s County Parks, Antonia Bookbinder, took multitasking to a new level this week, walking the course while spinning wool into yarn by hand. That was after having camped out in a nearby park overnight so that she would be close to College Park on Saturday morning, since she lives far away. Incidentally, Antonia will be leading a tree planting project at our start/finish area following parkrun on November 11th. The trees we’ll be planting will provide shade for us when it gets warm again next year. Please come out to parkrun on Nov. 11th, and then stick around to help plant trees! That will start around 10am. One hour of your help, times many of you, will make light work of it, and we will all benefit next year as the trees get larger. We are so grateful to PG Parks for arranging this for us!


We had one big parkrun milestone to celebrate this week. Clark Ridge completed his 50th parkrun, earning big kudos and a free red 50-parkrun shirt. Clark is the first ‘native’ College Park parkrunner to reach this milestone, and it’s amazing that he did so after only 55 events. Clark is proof that nice guys can finish first, as he has been our first finisher 26 times. Many weeks he can be found running with his daughter Violet and learning the simple pleasures of puddles. He has volunteered a few times by running around ahead of everybody else and then picking up a volunteer job at the finish. One of our favorite Clark Ridge moments is the day when the turnaround cone was placed only halfway to the correct spot. Clark reacted calmly by snatching it up as he zipped past and then took it to the right spot before anybody else got there. Congratulations Clark! You have a rain check on the celebratory cake.


We also saw a lot of unofficial milestones this week. Nina McGranahan and Evan Hirsche became the 99th and 100th members of our 10-run club. Jian Kuang, Daysi Cruz, Yukun Fung, Annabel Gorman, Sharon Bollers, Dana Bogle, and Julie Bringman all joined our 5-run club. Julie brought her husband Silas Kulkarni along for his first. Great idea!


In the area of PBs and acts of extreme speediness, we also had a lot to report this week. 4 parkrunners set age-category records: Katie Hirsche, Eldad Mulugeta, and Daniel Ritter all upped the ante in the younger age groups. But we were especially interested in Mark Neff’s new record. With his 17:27 in the 55-59 group, it is now the case that the 55-59 record is faster than the 50-54 record, which is faster than the 45-49 record, which in turn is faster than the 40-44 record. Almost the same thing is true on the women’s side. So much for aging gracefully!


Meanwhile, there were an impressive 29 PBs this week. Pretty impressive. Some that stood out to us: the three McGranahans (Sam, Nina, Chris) all got PBs this week. Jonathan Foley and his mom Jordan Foley both set PBs, and in Jordan’s case it was by a huge 2 minutes. Katie Hirsche improved by 4 minutes, and Sharon Bollers by 3 minutes. Emily Flamm took yet another big chunk from her PB, her 7th in a row. Andy Fellows took a big chunk from his PB on his 23rd parkrun. At the other end of the scale, Jian Kuang set a PB by just one second. Other PB setters this week were: Mark Neff, Yukun Fung, Frank Byskov, Cameron Nasseri, Solomon Ambaye, Suerken Matsuyama, Kirk Gordon, Josh Haverstick, Tsegaab Hailemichael, Xinzi He, John Ramsey, Jim Groves, Judy Mulusa, Chris Nichols, Susanna Ebisah, Lisa Jordan, John Giamalva, Judy Barnes, and Bill Bystricky.


I was doubly appreciative of the volunteer support this week, because I sprained my ankle while hiking with teens the day before, and so I was struggling to get around, while many of our parkrun core team were on travels. Colin Phillips, was parkrunning in the rain at Brabrand parkrun in Aarhus, Denmark. Pam Marcus was part of a new parkrun USA record of 256 parkrunners at Crissy Field parkrun in San Francisco. And Nick Huang was in Iceland, a long swim away from the nearest parkrun.

This week’s volunteers were Crystal Bergemann (tailwalker, with family), Steve Feld and JJ Su (timers), Dale Morey and Cha Munar (scanners), Anna Tinnemore (tokens), Lisa Wilson and Hump Plotts (marshals), Diana Gough and Susan Keller (photographers), Chris McGrahahan (results support). Jan Edwards, Bex Williams, and Josh Haverstick helped out with briefing and registering newcomers, and generally helping a busy event to run smoothly. Although Colin Phillips was on the other side of the Atlantic, he still kept our communications running smoothly. On top of all these, we thank the UMD Homecoming team for all of their help, including additional on-the-day helpers. Lisa Helfert took some amazing photos.


Last, but definitely not least among this week’s volunteers, is Testudo, who tried out a number of different roles: registering new parkrunners (fingers too big), run briefing (he doesn’t talk), run starter and selfie hero (perfect!).



Quick reminder of coming attractions at College Park parkrun.

  • November 4th: Walking Day. Inspired by the UMD Arts & Humanities Staff Council, who will be bringing their walking group to College Park parkrun.
  • November 11th: Tree Planting with PG Parks. We need lots of helpers (see above).
  • November 18th: Kid Takeover Day. Looking for some additional young volunteers. This is a parkrun not to be missed.
  • November 25th: post-Thanksgiving burnoff. Bring the family, run off some of that turkey.
  • January 1st: New Years Resolution parkrun PLUS a Baltimore - College Park double. Consider visiting Leakin Park parkrun in Baltimore for their early morning resolution run, then zip down to College Park for our late morning parkrun, co-hosted with Prince George’s Running Club, and followed by a celebration at The Board & Brew for all area parkrunners. Great way to start off 2018.

Whew. That was a lot to tell you about. If you made it this far, thank you!

Andrea Zukowski
Event co-Director