A 12-year Unbroken Streak (Run Report #143)

Stewart here. Thanks so much, Andrea, for inviting me to help out as run director this week. What a great opportunity to contribute to an amazing community of volunteers, walkers, and runners! Colin asked me to share my experience with running and volunteering at parkrun since I first connected with parkrun last November, and also to mention a few things I like about parkrun. So here goes! If you just want to know about CP parkrun event 143, please skip the next few paragraphs and move right on to the pictures.

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By way of background, I was never into running. I had been very inactive for several decades (!) with no kind of fitness activities in my life beyond an extremely rare bike ride or short hike. Last year, six weeks ahead of my 51st birthday, I finally bit the bullet and started functional strength training to avoid further deterioration. Shortly after that, at the suggestion of my trainer Caitlin, I downloaded the C25K (Couch-to-5K) app to my phone, and started with week one, session one.

Thus came to an end my unbroken streak of over 12 years of consecutive days of not running. In C25K, you build up endurance by alternating walking and running, with the episodes of running getting gradually longer. In week one, the running goes for 60 seconds at a time. I was able to make it for 60 seconds, but was so relieved each time when the 60 seconds was up! Following the advice of my strength trainer, who is also a runner, I did the C25K program slower than designed, two sessions per week instead of the recommended three. But I stuck with it.

I ran my first 5K on Labor Day, 2018 in Boyds, Maryland. It was hot (91F), very humid, and the course had rolling hills. Finishing felt like a big accomplishment but it was hard! I stuck with the routine a bit longer and did another 5K in October 2018 (with runners dressed in Halloween costumes) and shaved nearly a minute off my time. Now running was starting to get fun, and began to feel really good. Finally! I looked online for other 5K runs to do and that is how I stumbled across parkrun. I live closer to the other parkrun locations in the DC area, but picked College Park in honor of my daughter, a UMD grad. My first parkrun was College Park #108, on November 10, 2018.

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I found parkrun right at the critical moment when my new interest in running was at an inflection point, and easily could have fizzled out. CP parkrun was the essential key that helped complete my transformation to a whole new way of life as a runner. Thanks to the great community that Andrea, Colin, and the group of wonderful volunteers and runners at CP parkrun has built up, it was not only easy to keep running, it became something to cherish. Now I have completed 26 parkruns across nine locations, and have also done a few races. On April 7, 2019, the one year anniversary of when I first got off the couch and began functional training, I did my first 10-miler at the Cherry Blossom race.

I first started volunteering at parkrun on weeks when I was tapering for a Sunday race, or else in roles that still allowed me to run, such as helping with results processing. Andrea suggested I should think about trying my hand as run director. A minor injury from the Baltimore 10-miler gave me a few weeks off from running, which I used to learn about at the other volunteer roles. Tailwalking was the best!

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TEN THINGS TO LOVE ABOUT COLLEGE PARK PARKRUN

1. Hump and Lisa, ultra-volunteers

Hump and Lisa volunteer EVERY WEEK as course marshals. It doesn’t feel quite like parkrun without giving Hump an energetic “thank you!” every week at the golf course at mile 0.3, posing for Lisa’s camera at the turnaround cone, then giving Hump another weary wave on the way back at 2.8 before the final kick to the finish.

Hump has been sick and hospitalized—we have missed him so much last week and this week. We got together for a group shot to send Hump our love and warmest wishes.

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2. The volunteers

I love that parkrun is run by volunteers, and that it works so well because people always step up to help! Thanks to a deep bench of fantastic volunteers, and in no small part thanks to Andrea’s tireless work as coordinator, it works *really well* at College Park.

Thanks so much to this week’s volunteers Danny, Lisa, Joel, Pete, Ellen, Anna, Jackie, Külli, Adrian, Victor, Lori, Colin, and Andrea.

A special shout out to Külli Crespin, who was awarded the “parkrunner of the month” award for June. When not setting a PB, Külli often volunteers as tailwalker. Today she accompanied first-timer Ric ... who also happens to be her husband. Many thanks to our friends at The Board and Brew for the gift card that comes with this award!

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Danny stood in for Hump as crossing marshal.

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Joel and Pete at the finish line.

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Thanks to Victor for coming from Woodbridge to help with photography.

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3. New Faces

If you enjoy meeting new people every week, come to parkrun. Andrea gave the first-timer’s briefing.

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Welcome to parkrun first-timers Christopher, Paolo, Sophia, Yohan, Sam, Andrea B., Nate, Kaythi, Ryan, and Ric. Nate and Kaythi were doing their first parkrun, but they had first found us a few weeks ago at the Trolley Trail Day run.

Welcome to CP first timers Michelle, Patrick, Adiam, Renee, Marilyn, and Erin.

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4. Milestones and shirts

Special Kudos to Sofia Veshi, who finished her 10th parkrun today and qualifies for the white junior milestone shirt!

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It is so inspiring to me to see parkrunners running in milestone shirts. By my count, our finishers today included 6 who have earned black shirts for completing 100 or more events, 14 others who have earned red shirts for 50 or more, and 6 who have earned purple shirts for volunteering at least 25 times!  A few more years and I expect to see a few of you sporting 250-shirts! (Gus Campbell and Lisa Wilson are two regulars who are more than halfway there already.)

A few unofficial milestones: Congratulations to Janet Tate who finished her 25th parkrun—halfway to a red shirt!

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Congratulations to Chris Laskowski and Kathleen Gustafson for completing 10 parkruns, and congratulations to Alyssa Hu, Felicia Widmann, Brad Blower, and Tom Charles for completing five events.

The apricot shirt is not a milestone shirt. Anyone who wants one can purchase online from this website. This helps to fund the milestone shirts, which are provided for free to runners and volunteers as they reach the milestones. The apricot shirt allows us to dress up in Halloween colors in June.

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5. Heroes

I am inspired by all the runners and walkers at College Park parkrun. You are my heroes!  To call out a few...

Our first finisher today was a man very close to my own age, and I find this incredibly inspiring. He finished ahead of the rest of the pack by more than two minutes, even after clocking his  slowest time at College Park since January (due to the heat, no doubt). Even more inspiring to me is everything else he does for parkrun, his tireless work every single week supporting and promoting CP parkrun, and so much other work he does behind the scenes for the parkrun USA community. Thank you Colin!

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Another one of my parkrun heroes is a bit younger. Xander the Great has finished 83 parkruns and has set seven PBs so far this year. He set a great example for us all with his fundraiser for Cystic Fibrosis. Xander, you are my hero!

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6. The course

After Hump’s crossing, you turn right into this tree-lined alley, my favorite spot on the course. Nice to have a bit of shade on a hot day.

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Today we had a special guest near this section of the course.  She did not bring her barcode so did not get a time...

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7. Cake

If someone is completing a milestone, there is always a chance someone might bring cake to celebrate. Who brings this cake? It could be anyone with initials from A to Z.

I’m not much of a baker, but this week the kind folks at Bread and Chocolate were happy to help. Yum!

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8. Visitors from exotic lands

It is always great to meet parkrunners from exotic parts of the world.  Such as Gloucestershire, UK. Adrian is our regular tourist at CP. Here he is with CP regular JJ Su.

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9. parkrunners

Almost forgot to mention, I also like the part where we run…  (or walk!)

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10. The Board and Brew

Thanks again to our good friends at The Board and Brew. My own regular order is sausage, egg, and swiss cheese on everything bagel.

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