Thanksgiving is one of our favorite holidays. Yeah, the history is a bit complicated. But the core values are lovely. It’s all about getting together with friends and family, sharing food, and being appreciative. We love that somewhere along the way it also became associated with inclusive, non-competitive running events, with around 1 million Americans taking part in turkey trots to start the holiday.
On Thursday first timer Meg Ryan did a 20:xx 5K wearing an apron and a big turkey hat. She clearly gets how we roll!
Some cities have long-established turkey trot traditions. College Park and the Route 1 communities do not. So we are delighted that our Thanksgiving Day CP parkrun is now becoming that tradition. It’s especially good because it’s free, because thousands are already registered and can simply show up with their barcode, and because with an established year-round community, it really does fit the Thanksgiving vibe of getting together with lots of friends and a big family.
Big crowd to start the Thanksgiving holiday!
It was so much fun this year! After barely being able to get together at all last year, this year we saw our biggest ever single day turnout, with 303 finishers on Thursday. (We have 308 plastic finisher tokens, so we nearly ran out. Don’t worry, we had backup printouts on hand.) And we were back again on Saturday, with a more normal crowd on a day with icy cold winds.
The lack of bare legs in this picture from Saturday morning is telling. The wind was COLD.
Our photographers got some wonderful pictures on both days. Take a scroll through and enjoy! Or read on, and find out about some of the stories behind the pictures.
RESULTS: THURSDAY - SATURDAY
PHOTOS: THURSDAY - SATURDAY
Rebecca White's boys were out in force, and in style, on Thursday
We are very grateful to the City of College Park for their help in promoting the event to the community and in arranging photography help by the excellent Justin Derato. We are always very grateful to Prince George’s County Parks for giving us a free permit to hold this event.
Thanks to Justin Derato for some great pictures from Thursday's event (and to Andrea, Külli, Lisa, Colin, and Louise for many more from the weekend)
And we were thrilled that one of this week’s 100+ first timers was Darryll Pines, UMD President. We ran into him a few weeks ago at UMD basketball’s Midnight Mile event, and invited him to come along then. He came through! And he showed that he’s pretty fit for a university president … clearly in good enough shape to go for a run with our mayor.
CP parkrun is a place to meet so many different members of the UMD community ... including the president
Nice job on your Thanksgiving 5K, Darryll!
Saturday’s Run Director, Bud Verge, left this comment on our Facebook page, which seemed to resonate with many readers:
“I was asked today how I discovered parkrun. I said I was tired of paying race entry fees and getting crappy t-shirts. The more important question is why did I come back for the 2nd time? It’s because someone knew my name and I was welcomed in like I had been running parkruns for years!”
Yes. This is an important part of what we try to do every week. And it’s a part of what Bud tries to do, now that he’s a part of the crew leading the event. We can’t guarantee to learn all of the new names this week. There were just so many! But we’re working on it!
One of our regulars this week also shared a useful story. She first came to CP parkrun a few years ago. But at first she would mostly be there only on special days like Thanksgiving and New Years, due to other commitments on Saturday mornings. That changed during the pandemic. And now she’s a regular runner, walker, or volunteer with us on Saturdays. And more of her friends are joining us, too.
Both useful stories, for a week when we welcomed more first timers than ever.
Gongs - Milestones, First-timers, PBs
With 100+ first timers and 40+ PBs over the two days, we can barely do justice to them. Our apologies!
Milestones: We had a full set: a 100, a 50, at least 5 25s, and a 10.
#100 for Kalonji Collins
#50 for Louise Godley on Thursday. Then she was back in a volunteer vest on Saturday.
We love our new purple 25-timer sashes. Lisa Shiota and Gwynnie McElhenny got to wear them on Saturday. (And we also love the matching purple hat!)
Rebekah Esmaili did her 25th CP parkrun on Thursday, setting a PB for good measure. Then on Saturday she was back for more, setting yet another PB, and finishing as first female. Productive weekend!
#25 for Jacqui Galik on Thursday. Impressive, as Jacqui first joined us only after the restart this year. We think that Jacqui may be the only person we've seen skipping along the trail en route to a PB. Continuing the theme, Jacqui was back on Saturday, as a volunteer ... in the role of Dancing Finish Token Distributor.
#25 -- and a PB -- for Marina Goldgisser on Thursday
Eliza Kempton snuck off to Kensington for #25 last week, so we had a purple sash for her when she joined us on Thursday.
Great to see Dylan Sweet join us for #10 on Thursday. #9 had been our last live event before the pandemic. This week he paced his mom Tracy to a big PB.
First timers: On Thursday we welcomed at least 100 first timers. That’s more than ever before at CP parkrun. We did our best to talk with all the newcomers, but we’re sure that we didn’t catch everyone. Join us again some future weekend, and we’ll look forward to chatting further with you.
George Ly signed up to join us right before the pandemic hit. This week he joined us for the first time. He's already looking forward to the next time.
Joanne Waszczak joined us for the first time last week. On Thursday she was back with the whole family ... barkrunner included. We love it!
By Saturday, we were back to a more normal crop of first timers, so Andrea was able to welcome the newcomers using her normal outdoor voice.
On Saturday Carey White brought along her friends Emily and Mandi. Welcome!
Yemi Akinmoyalan joined us for the first time on Saturday. So a ring of the gong was in order.
We were excited that some of Thursday’s first timers were already second timers by Saturday!
Chris and family were first timers on Thursday, and already second timers on Saturday!
Hongli Wan was back 2 days after her first CP parkrun, and set a PB for good measure
Elias Fonseca and Virmarie Rivera did the Thanksgiving double. Hope you can join us again!
PBs: Thursday was perfect cool weather for running or walking. Saturday brought a cold wind that provided motivation to get it done. Either way, there were plenty of PBs.
Great to see Abba Milkii back with us for the first time since the shutdown, and smashing his PB for good measure.
Gwynnie McElhenny not only wore the purple 25 sash on Saturday. She also took 2 minutes from her PB, AND she paced her mom Kate to a big PB too, AND she was 3rd female finisher ... at age 8. Wow!
The McElhenny ladies were on fire on Saturday. PB for big sister Mariella, too. On Thursday Mariella had been a member of our fabulous finish line volunteer crew.
Another big PB for Andrea Solan on Saturday, who recently has been lopping a minute per week from her time, taking her now to 37:xx. Nice!
Whoa! 13-minute PB for Karren Colobong on Saturday. (Karren says it was cold so she needed to keep moving.)
Slow is good, too
One reason why we avoid referring to CP parkrun as a “race” is because the aim is really not about getting there first. Sometimes your personal goals are about getting around as fast as possible. Other times your personal goals are to simply enjoy the outdoors with friends and family.
We were happy to see some of our speedsters getting around in no hurry at all on Thursday.
Some weeks Alexandra Amidon is first female finisher. This week she was happy to simply take a walk with friends and family. Perfect!
No hurry this week for Wayne Dunbar. Much better to enjoy a Turkey Trot with Krista Riddley instead
We always ask at the start of every event whether anybody is visiting from far afield or from other parkruns. Almost every week this question is met with silence. Not so this week.
With 3 of the 7 local parkrun events holding special Thanksgiving events, we were delighted to welcome groups of visiting parkrunners from Baltimore and Annapolis Trail parkrun and from Roosevelt Island parkrun. We only wish we had 10 hours to hang out with everybody for coffee afterwards.
The Roosevelt Island crew
Jessica Gerbig is part of the B&A Trail parkrun crew. On Thursday she got to return to old haunts at CP, and to run with her big sister Jen Murphy, who turned 40 the day before. Happy birthday, Jen!
More of the B&A Trail parkrun crew. Welcome back to Alyssa, Tommy, and Keaton
We welcomed some long time members of this community who were back from college for the holiday.
Dave Heintzelman enjoyed being able to run with his daughter Alyssa, home from college for the holiday
Katie Hirsche was back from college for a few days. Her successful cross-country racing season was cut short by injury. So she signed up right away to join the volunteer crew on Thursday. She and Zoe Phillips were our experienced finish funnel directors for the big crowd. (Thanks to them, we didn't lose ANY finish tokens from #1 - #174.)
We also welcomed visitors from further afield. On Saturday, Stewart Mayhew brought along his brother Jonathan, visiting from Kansas. Jonathan already has ties to the community, as his daughter is in grad school at UMD currently.
Welcome Jonathan Mayhew!
On Thursday and Saturday we were visited by Michigan parkrunner Ali Khoyee, who has been a regular at both Livonia parkrun and at Lillie parkrun in Ann Arbor, MI.
Double helping of Maryland parkruns for Michigander Ali Khoyee
Finally, and unusually for us, we also welcomed a small number of parkrun tourists from the UK.
Eve Taylor and her husband Ian visited from Macclesfield parkrun in Cheshire, near Manchester. For Eve it was a special visit to the US, as it was her first opportunity in years to visit her brother in Virginia.
Eve Taylor got to test out our gong
Eve also brought along a gift of a new book about parkrun, by her friend Eileen Jones. The book is called How parkrun changed our lives. Our copy is signed by the author and by parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt. Thanks, Eve!
Thanks for the book, Eve! We're a couple of chapters in already.
David Duggan is volunteer coordinator at Bedfont Lakes parkrun, in the shadow of London’s Heathrow Airport. He’s an old hand at all volunteer roles, so he was happy to pitch in to help us set up, and to help as an extra barcode scanner.
David Duggan wasted no time in jumping in to help as a volunteer. That green shirt is one of the new V250 shirts. He didn't get that for nothing.
On Saturday Keith Bennett, from Leeds, UK, stopped by as part of a Thanksgiving tour in which he had driven from DC to central Florida and back. Keith is “collecting” visits to the older US parkruns. With his visits to Clermont, Fletcher’s Cove, and College Park this week, he now has covered all of the first 7 events that remain active.
Safe travels back to Yorkshire, Keith
Whether you’re joining us from down the street or from across the ocean, we’re always happy to see you.
You know it’s true. None of this would be possible without the many parkrunners who also take part as volunteers. This week we were feeling especially appreciative of their experience, good spirits, and initiative. The pictures tell the story.
Louise Godley figured that after getting boosted (yay!) a spot of tail walking and photography would be the right kind of pace. Good choice!
On Thursday Xinzi He helped to register new folks on site. She was a natural!
Who wouldn't want to jump in to join Rebecca's barcode scanning crew!
Even with Aileen Kroll, Jen Matis, and Zoe Phillips all working to welcome Thursday's many first timers, it was still hard to keep up.
Jake Foley and Madison Scaccia were part of a big tailwalking crew on Saturday. And they brought along a pair of tail waggers, too, who look quite ready for winter.
Thanks to Evan Hirsche for jumping in after his run to join Rebecca and Lori on barcode scanning on Saturday. (We didn't even try to put up the canopy on Saturday. The wind would have blown it right away.)
Try your hand at joining the volunteer crew some week. It gives a whole new perspective on the event and the community. It’s a scientifically proven way to help maintain healthy habits. Drop us a line at email@example.com. As a first step, be sure to update the “email options” in your parkrun.com profile so that you receive Andrea’s weekly update email.
Stat(s) of the Week
No need for niche numbers this week. Like Texas, everything was big.
- DAILY FINISHERS: 303 (Thursday) was the highest ever turnout for CP parkrun. (It was almost the highest ever total for a North American parkrun event, eclipsed only by 318 who took part in Jamaica Pond parkrun in Boston in April 2019, most of them Brits who were visiting for the Boston Marathon.)
- WEEKLY FINISHERS: 420 (Thursday + Saturday) was our busiest ever week.
- FIRST TIMERS: 101 (Thursday + Saturday) easily our most ever in a week. And it’s an undercount, due to quite a few unregistered first timers.
- WALKERS & RUN-WALKERS: 166 (121 on Thursday, 45 on Saturday). Thursday’s count of finishers after 40 minutes was certainly a record. We love that 40% of this week’s finishers came in the 40:00+ group.
- REGISTRATIONS: 131 in the past 2 weeks. In a normal week we would see 15-20 new registrations. These past 2 weeks have been our busiest ever for new sign-ups.
- PHOTOS: Between the two days our photographers took more than 3,000 pictures of you all. So many to choose from in cutting down to a couple of manageable sets for sharing. You can find all of our photo albums in Flickr, organized by week.
Thursday's crowd before the start. Andrea's in there giving the pre-event briefing. Can you spot her?
Ok, one niche number. By our calculations, 80 people took a double helping of CP parkrun this week, by taking part on both Thursday and Saturday, through some combination of running, walking, or volunteering.
Deb Bernard was one of 80 who joined both Thursday and Saturday, as walkers, runners, and/or volunteers. On Thursday Deb took it steady with her son. On Saturday she let it rip and set a big PB. Congrats!
Half year back: We restarted live events on May 29th of this year. So we have now been getting together again (more) normally for 6 months. Here are some of the top line figures from a half year back.
- FINISHERS: 4,045 finishes by 880 individuals (probably closer to 1000 due to unknowns). This is slightly higher than the corresponding period in 2019 or the last 6 months before the shutdown.
- VOLUNTEERS: 118 individuals volunteered 429 times to put on 28 events. The breadth of the volunteer crew is so valuable.
- SPEED DIVERSITY: 35% of finishers arrive after 40 minutes. That’s many more than 2-3 years ago. More and more people are comfortable joining us for a walk or a walk-run.
- GENDER DIVERSITY: 49.2% female, 50.8% male. Men used to outnumber women at CP parkrun almost every week. That’s no longer the case (and the small remaining difference is mostly due to the couple of visits by the boys from the DeMatha HS cross country team).
- RACE/ETHNICITY: Across the US, participation in running events is much less diverse than the country as a whole. In Northern Prince George’s County we should be able to do better. For a long time College Park parkrun was not remotely representative of the diverse surrounding community. This is one area where we lost ground during our pandemic virtual events. In 2021 we are seeing progress. Participation is now around 25% non-white. But there is still a long way to go. We want to serve the entire community.
Welcome to the Koroknay-Palicz family, who were among the 120 walkers and walk-runners at Thursday's event. They loved the atmosphere, and really appreciated the support from tailwalker Külli Crespin.
Global fun fact: This week around 1300 parkrun 5K events were held around the world. Two-thirds of them were in the UK, Australia, and South Africa. Although CP parkrun is unusually large by North American standards, it is generally tiny relative to those big three countries, where parkrun is hugely popular. But this week, unusually, participation in CP parkrun put us in the top 6 in the world by size (if we cheat by combining Thursday and Saturday) or in the top 30 (Thursday alone). This is unlikely to happen again. It was due to a combination of abysmal weather conditions in the UK that led hundreds of events to cancel, and a mix of pandemic-related restrictions and apprehension in Australia and South Africa.
You likely received an email from parkrun Global this week about scanning barcodes from mobile devices. Until recently it was a no-no. Now it’s officially fine.
This email may be a bit puzzling to CP locals, especially as it’s framed in terms of responding to volunteers being harassed over this in the past. The stories of conflict are real, but not in College Park. A simpler narrative would be that UK parkrun events shifted only in the past few months to using the phone-based scanning app that we’ve been using for a couple of years. Those apps are good at scanning from mobile devices. Easy!
But we would like to highlight a couple of things that risk being buried in this discussion.
ICE details. It is genuinely useful for parkrunners to have accessible ICE (“in case of emergency”) details when they take part in CP parkrun. In a paid running event your race bib number would be linked to an emergency contact. In our “just show up” model, we don’t have any of that. Medical emergencies are fortunately very rare. But they are sure to happen at some point. Our volunteers can respond to them better if everybody has readily accessible ICE information on them. The easiest way to carry these on you during CP parkrun is via a visibly attached barcode.
The leaves are almost all gone now. But the trail is still beautiful.
Keeping it free. Those barcode tags and wristbands that you see some parkrunners using are a valuable contributor to keeping our event free every week. We really don’t need any money locally in CP, thanks to the support of the parks department, the volunteer community, and occasional donations of useful gear. But there are key things on the back end that cost real money. It takes skilled people (and servers) to maintain the parkrun IT systems. We also get insurance that’s paid centrally.
Buying parkrun barcode gear or other merchandise helps support those very real shared costs. And the more these are supported by small payments from individual parkrunners, the less the organization is dependent on the interests of commercial sponsors.
Seasoned skipper Bud Verge had the results all processed and emails in your inboxes by 10:45am on Saturday. This wouldn't be possible without (i) an excellent volunteer crew backing him up, and (ii) robust IT systems that make it so much easier.
More than a number. Your barcode identifies you in the parkrun IT systems via a unique number. But we also like learning names. We also know that many of you appreciate that at CP parkrun you’re more than an anonymous person in the crowd. In the past, parkrun Global argued that the visibility of names on barcodes was one of the reasons for insisting on printed barcodes, because it allowed barcode scanners to put a name to a face. (The details do tend to be harder for humans to read on phones.)
That rationale rings a little hollow now with the policy change … but we agree that learning names is a great thing as part of a healthy, connected community. We suspect that there may be more effective ways than barcodes of advancing this laudable goal.
How you can help. Easy steps
- Carry ICE details with you during your 5K. A barcode is an easy solution.
- Buy barcodes and other merch that supports IT and insurance.
- Talk to new people at CP parkrun. Learn their names and their stories. Sometimes the simplest things make the most difference.
Andrea says this picture from Thursday is one of her favorites, as it captures the vibe as you round the final turn and enter the park at the end of CP parkrun.
We have just four more events left in 2021, on December 4th, 11th, 18th … and 25th. Saturdays line up with holidays this winter season, so that will make our calendar a little more interesting. The fall is more or less done. We may have some colder days ahead. But we have no plans to simply hole up indoors!
Dec 4 & 11: They’re just normal Saturdays. But there are sure to be some nice surprises. There always are. We already know that there will be some cool things to celebrate.
Case in point: many old timers will remember Carlos Chaverri-Morales, who we bid farewell to in mid 2019 when he moved back to Costa Rica after completing grad school at UMD. Well, he’s back in the area, and his plans for Saturday mornings are quite clear!
Dec 18: We hereby designate this as our Winter Solstice event. We plan to show that we won’t be brought down by the dark and cold. Think of hot cocoa and you have the general idea.
Dec 25: Christmas Day falls on a Saturday this year, so it’s a parkrun day. Christmas Day parkruns have become an established tradition in the UK. The Christmas Day edition of Bushy parkrun in London attracts upwards of 2,000 participants! But as far as we know Christmas Day running/walking events just are not a thing in the US.
We have never tried this before, so we have no idea how much interest there will be. But we are excited to offer an activity to start the day that is healthy, welcoming for all, and not at all about the accumulation of objects.
Jan 1: On the other hand, New Years running/walking events are definitely a thing. We always welcome a bigger crowd to start the new year. Importantly, lots of people are looking to form new healthy habits at the start of a new year, and we are all about supporting healthy habits.
Note that in previous years our New Years events started later and we offered the option of doing another local parkrun beforehand. Unfortunately, parkrun Global no longer allows this, due to problems created by the immense popularity of these new years doubles in the UK. Some venues saw participation surges on January 1st that undermined relations with landowners and local communities.
And what about omicron? Our hearts sank when we read of the new COVID variant that is currently raising the alarm around the world. Initial signs suggest that Omicron might spread significantly better than Delta. We worry that this could leave us with ongoing restrictions on normal life as we enter a third year of the pandemic.
It’s too early to know much about what the coming months will hold. (We found this summary useful.) It could have a big impact on the College Park community. Or we might be relatively spared. For the past few months we have been fortunate to be in one of the safest places in the United States, thanks to so many different parts of the community working well together. But we remain confident that we’ll be able to keep serving our mission of helping this community to keep moving and stay connected. Outdoor activity is incredibly safe. And in the event that there are new restrictions that apply to us, we know that we can fairly easily pivot to virtual mode again.
But for now -- see you next week!