Worth Waiting For (Run Report #158)

A few really cool things happened this past parkrunday, October 12th 2019.

  • We completed the third year of College Park parkrun, our 158th event
  • We welcomed surprisingly many visitors, and hosted the parkrun USA Ambassaddors conference
  • Evan Hirsche zoomed down the trail to capture some amazing pictures for our photo album
  • 3-year old Mary Clare Schneider completed her first 5k under her own steam (unofficial, as you need to be 4 to have your own barcode), and we all melted
  • We enjoyed lovely early Fall weather
  • Zoe Phillips was one of 21 first-timers at College Park parkrun

... Few things better illustrate the fact that there are barriers to physical activity and that a supportive community can overcome it than Zoe’s story. And for me and Andrea, few experiences have been more rewarding than seeing Zoe take part this week.


Really nobody has had a closer view of the development of College Park parkrun than Zoe. After all, Andrea and I are Zoe’s parents. And Zoe has volunteered many times before. CP parkrun is a safe place for Zoe. But between gender identity and mental and neurological challenges, organized sports has not seemed like the most inviting place.

But Zoe recently started running for health (and for school), and also started coming regularly to volunteer at CP parkrun. By volunteering regularly, Zoe got to know more people at the event, and spent time soaking up the welcoming vibe. This brought the confidence to take part as a runner.


At the finish, Zoe declared: “I have never been cheered by so many people in my whole life!” And was filled with a glow of satisfaction. Running again next week? Absolutely!

We are thrilled to welcome all first timers, but I must admit this one was rather special for us. And we are so grateful to you all for creating the atmosphere that made Zoe feel very welcome.




… and that’s not all. After 3 years of parkruns, we also welcomed for the first time our almost next door neighbors the Jackson family. They are like a second family to Zoe, and they have been following our Saturday morning activities from the very start. AND we also welcomed Kim Lopez, our lovely new across-the-street neighbor. It was like a block party!


And not forgetting that Marvin Russell and Judy Barnes, our up the street neighbors who we met only through parkrun, BOTH set new PBs on their 114th and 80th parkruns, respectively. That’s impressive! For Judy, who is a very fast walker, it was her first time finishing under 40 minutes. Andrea was running to keep up.

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Three Years In

The first College Park parkrun was on October 15th 2016, so this was the final event of Year 3, event #158.

The participation totals for Year 3 are the biggest that we have seen so far, and almost double the numbers from Year 1..

  • 54 events
  • 1,292 runners and walkers completed 6,737 5Ks
  • 173 people volunteered 811 times
  • 957 new members of the community got a parkrun barcode

In total, CP parkrunners have now together covered almost 50,000 miles, that’s twice around the earth. Over 2,500 different people have taken part as runners and walkers, and 325 have volunteered.


We are especially encouraged that College Park parkrun continues to grow in diversity. This year we welcomed many more walkers and walk-runners than last year. And we’re seeing more people from more backgrounds join us.

We are excited to see what Year 4 will bring!


parkrun USA Ambassadors Meeting

Among this week’s first-timers were two people who I was especially happy to welcome to the Paint Branch Trail. I first met Laura Cornelissen and Drew Messinger in a hotel lobby in Boston MA on a snowy day in early 2017. They wanted to chat about starting a parkrun in Boston. We had recently done something similar in College Park, so we had a lot to talk about.


One year later Laura presided over the launch of Jamaica Pond parkrun, the first parkrun in New England. I closely followed the process of getting the event started, as I was acting as the parkrun “ambassador” for the event. The Ambassadors are volunteers who help out with parkrun above the level of individual events.

In 2019 Laura and Drew got married in Worcester, UK, and their JP parkrun friends were there, taking in an extra parkrun, of course. And this week they were in town because they’re now helping out as parkrun USA ambassadors themselves, looking to support the further growth of parkrun communities in New England. Drew sped around our course, with Clark Ridge for company. And Laura took a more measured stroll, as she’s getting rather pregnant. So much to be happy about!

The ambassadors group (about 20 in number) fanned out across the various different DC-area parkruns. Most of them had visited College Park before, so they wanted to try out another one. But all met up at The Board and Brew afterwards. It was great to see a big crowd of locals and visitors chatting away.


It was especially good to see Rory Murphy back in TB&B. He was a regular at CP in his first year in the US, later moving to start Leakin Park parkrun in Baltimore, and now Delaware & Raritan Canal parkrun in New Jersey, with more on the way.


Then it was off to UMD for a weekend of interesting discussions with dedicated parkrun volunteers, looking closely at the continued growth of parkrun in the US and how to ensure safety, stability, and scalability as the growth continues. When we started meeting on the Paint Branch Trail in early 2016 the 5th US parkrun event had just started downtown at Fletcher’s Cove. Next weekend (10/26) Andrea will be away in Knoxville, TN supporting the launch of Third Creek Greenway parkrun, the 42nd US event. And there are many more in the works.




We don’t normally see many visitors at CP parkrun. It’s our special secret. But this week we had quite a few. In addition to the ambassadors …

Chris and Leonie McNeill visited us from Australia, where they normally do their parkrunning at Jells parkrun near Melbourne.


Closer to home, we were happy to welcome back Vivienne, Natalie, and Autumn Miller from Leakin Park parkrun. What brought them to town? Vivienne’s brother Euan is responsible for parkrun Canada and he was in town for the conference, and so it was a great chance for a meetup with his nieces.


Team Ross-Coomes, Stephanie, Ian, and Henry were with us all the way from Kensington parkrun. Henry first visited us when he was barely 2 weeks old, so it was good to see him back on the trail.


And Sharon Bollers brought along her mom Joy, from Guyana, for a nice walk on the trail. Wonderful!


And Imogen Davidson White took me by surprise by appearing unexpectedly. Imogen worked with me at UMD about ten years ago. She has been living and working in Prague for most of the time since then. But she was in town briefly, staying with an old friend who happens to be a parkrunner. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw her before the start.


And more …

3-year old Mary Clare completed the entire 5K under her own steam. Adorable!


Countless people set new PBs. Including Nathan Widman, who left almost all of the grownups in the dust, improving his time to 19:14. And Nathan’s dad Andrew, who set his 6th consecutive PB!

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We were super happy to welcome Sahana Jayaraman as a first-time parkrunner this week. Last week she was with us working on her article for The Diamondback. She enjoyed that so much that she wanted to come back and run with us. Perfect!


We had one milestone this week: Julian Gordon joined the 10 club. Nice job, Julian!


And we had a wonderful crew of volunteers … of course. Lisa Wilson, Hump Plotts, Xinzi He and Kerry Callaghan were out on the trail. At the finish Darrell Stanaford, Svetlana Stanaford, Sma McGranahan, Debbie Levenson, and Saul Goldberg kept things running smoothly, under the watchful eye of run director for the day Chris McGranahan. And Evan Hirsche took some fantastic photos along the trail, which you can enjoy in our photo album here.

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Thank you to all! We’re very much looking forward to this week’s 3rd birthday celebration at College Park parkrun #159. Rumors of cake (or pumpkin pie, or both) may be accurate.


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