Coming Together at CP parkrun (Run Report #157)

The University of Maryland, College Park (UMD) originally known as “Maryland Agricultural College,” was chartered in 1856 and held its first classes in 1859.  The city of College Park, Maryland was incorporated in 1945, but its neighborhoods—Berwyn, Old Town, Lakeland, Calvert Hills, and others—were developed starting in the 1880s, up and down the edge of the B&O Railroad line.

Long before roads, bridges, and buildings were here to obstruct our view, this region’s rain water flowed through our two local creeks, the Paint Branch and Little Paint Branch, beginning a winding route down to the Northeast Branch, to the Anacostia, to the Potomac, and finally into the Chesapeake Bay.

Every Saturday, parkrunners meet up at 9:00am on the Paint Branch Trail, close to the spot where the waters of the Paint Branch and the Little Paint Branch join forces in their journey to the sea. This area, it so happens, is also near where the residential and business neighborhoods in the northern part of College Park meet up to the edges of the University.

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Although parkrunners arriving by car might not notice it, they are actually crossing right over the Paint Branch as they come down the one-way bridge from Route 1.

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As parkrunners assemble at the starting line, the Paint Branch is out of sight behind the trees on the right.  But as we walk or run the course, we gradually get to see more and more water. We catch our first glimpse of the Paint Branch as we pass under the University Boulevard overpass.

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We can’t see the exact spot where the two branches converge because there’s a golf course in the way. But just past the golf course, about one mile into the parkrun, we cross two little bridges in quick succession—the first one crosses the Paint Branch, the second crosses the Little Paint Branch.

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Our view of the water gets better and better as we continue toward our turn-around pylon. The last segment of our outbound course follows close alongside the Little Paint Branch.

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Those who go to coffee or breakfast at the Board and Brew after parkrun can get there by following the trail south into UMD. There we have great views of the creek after the waters of the two branches have joined forces.

I was honored to serve as run director for event 157 at CP parkrun. I don’t have any full-time connection to the University or the City of College Park, but College Park is special for me because my daughter graduated from UMD, and a couple times over the years I have taught courses for UMD as an adjunct instructor. More recently, I have enjoyed Tuesday track night at UMD’s Kehoe Track with the Prince George’s Running Club.

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When I come to CP parkrun, I always look forward to seeing many familiar, friendly faces.  These include many who are affiliated with UMD—faculty, students, and staff, and also many who have no connection to the University but live in College Park and nearby communities, as well as regulars who come from farther afield.

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As I reflected on this week’s parkrun, I started thinking about how our course intertwines the Paint Branch and Little Paint Branch. It occurred to me that the joining of these two streams make a nice metaphor for how CP parkrun brings together people from the university and city communities.

This semester we have a group of students from UMD’s School of Public Health volunteering at CP parkrun.  This week, a big thank you to Brianna on Tokens, Hector and Luciano on setup and tail walking, and Matt as Hump protégé crossing marshal. We love to see you here, and are happy to see you come back.

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This week we were excited to welcome Sahana, city beat reporter for the Diamondback, the UMD student-run newspaper, along with photographer Joe. Sahana is writing a piece on CP parkrun, and this week had a chance to interview many regular participants and volunteers.  We hope her story raises awareness of CP parkrun in the campus community and attracts more students to participate. Perhaps one day we will look back at event 157 as the “watershed” moment in town-gown relations on the Paint Branch!

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A big CP parkrun welcome to first timers James and Christian, Abel, Mark, Isaiah, and Kuoyuan.  Kuoyuan is a senior at UMD studying software engineering. We hope to see you back!

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The much cooler weather this Saturday reminded us that autumn has arrived (fifty-five degrees as we walked to the Board and Brew!) and the advent of fall brought in a bumper crop of official milestones, unofficial milestones, and personal bests.

Big time kudos to Elmer, Bud, and Collette for making it to fifty!  (parkruns, that is, lest there be any confusion…) Elmer celebrated his 50th by bringing protein bars and water for everyone!  Thank you Elmer!

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We brought out the purple superhero cape for Neil, who volunteered for the 25th time!  Neil has completed 49 parkruns and very soon will be getting a new red shirt to go with the new purple one. Thanks for being a part of CP parkrun, Neil and Julie.

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Congratulations to four new members of our unofficial 25-timers club: “Speedster” Sam Phipps (first finisher 20 times!), Tomas Marambio, Rodney Green, and Michael Osman.

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Congratulations to our six new 10-timers: Xiao Ji, Kim Nickens, Lloyd Rawley, Noah Dowell, Matthew Dernoga, and Jason Petralia!

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We had thirty-one (!) returning participants setting PB times this week! Ice cream is on me, a different flavor for each one of you!

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This week’s parkrun was supported by 22 volunteers, representing the whole spectrum of the CP parkrun community.

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We have seen a bit of a surge in the volunteering spirit of late at CP, bringing us, so to speak, an “extra helping” of cheerful perfection to our well-oiled volunteer machine.

Token sorting this week was tackled by a crack team including a UMD professor of atmospheric science, a mayor of a nearby city, an accounting analyst, and a UMD economics PhD student who moonlights as a world-class competitor in Rubik’s cube. If those tokens are found to be out of order next week I’ll eat my new apricot UMD Terps hat.

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Speaking of extra helpings, Katie and Evan took some great photos this week.

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Happy trails!  See you next week on the Paint Branch.

-Stewart

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