Coming back for more (Run Report #173)

Were you one of our twenty-six “first timers” this week?  This special parkrun report is dedicated to you, our first timers. (Though the 2500+ community members who have previously done CP parkrun will find some news in here, too.)

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We’re happy you found us!  Welcome, welcome, welcome to the phenomenal community that is so much more than a free, weekly, timed 5K. Welcome to College Park parkrun!

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This Saturday perhaps you got a brief glimpse of why so many of us keep coming back, week after week. If history is any guide, many of you, like many of us, will be back for more. So here’s a little guide to help you feel at home at College Park parkrun.

If you showed up for the first-timer’s briefing, you already met Andrea.

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It was Andrea who first had the idea to bring parkrun to College Park, and it is thanks in no small part to her that we have an event here at all (not to diminish the hard work and dedication of many others!)  She is one of our two event directors, our volunteer coordinator every week, the heart of our community, and an all-around wonderful person.

(Our other event director Colin isn’t such a bad guy either)

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In fact, it was 4 years ago this weekend that Andrea and Colin went downtown to check out the inaugural Fletcher’s Cove parkrun, on the C&O Canal towpath. And the very next Saturday they started weekly meetups on the Paint Branch Trail in College Park, with coffee afterwards at The Board and Brew, that has continued pretty much every week since. This weekend over 700 parkrunners and parkwalkers took to the trail around the DMV region in the 7 different parkrun events. And we hope there will be more parkruns in the area soon. This week we were joined by Mark Allen and CP parkrun regular John Maneval, who are looking to start a new event on the B&A Trail in Glen Burnie, close to BWI airport. Drop us a line if you’re interested in being in the loop.

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When you start coming back week after week, you will be surprised how quickly the numbers add up. Before you know it, you will be doing your fifth parkrun, your tenth parkrun, your twenty-fifth, your fiftieth…  It’s starting to seem nearly every week someone is reaching a new milestone. This week we had two—Yancira Amaya became the 19th College Park parkrunner to finish 100 times, and Matt Kaplan became the 88th CP parkrunner to complete 50. And guess what? Andrea made cakes to celebrate!

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Andrea makes a wicked good cake!  But it’s not just cake that keeps us coming back for more.  There are so many reasons it’s hard to count them all. Let me give you just a few more…

You are welcome to bring a dog (on a leash), or push a stroller…

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CP parkrun can be a great family activity, and a terrific way to introduce family members to healthy outdoor activity. Children can get their own barcode at the age of 4. How wonderful it is to see youngsters who once rode in strollers get out and start to go under their own steam. This week was parkrun number 117 for Eddie and number 2 for Nico.

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And it was number 1 for both June and Leo. Both mom and dad took longer than (almost) ever before. But they could not have been prouder.

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It can be a great satisfaction to get a personal best (“PB”) time—if that’s something you’re seeking. This week, a host of returning parkrunners achieved a new PB. This is an especially noteworthy accomplishment if you are completing your 56th parkrun (congrats John Scott!), your 61st parkrun (congrats Jackie Hayes!) or your 73rd parkrun (congratulations Aileen Kroll!).

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However, it’s not all about going fast. Although parkrun has “run” in its name, don’t let that fool you—parkrun is for everyone!

Some start way up front and take off like the wind…

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This week Jerome, a ‘parkrun tourist’ visiting from Singapore led the field for most of the way, but was eventually caught by Sam Phipps. As he normally does, Sam then hung around the finish to cheer in every other finisher.

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Others prefer to start in the middle of the pack and may run or run/walk.  They get to enjoy the trail for a bit longer than speedsters like Sam…

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And CP parkrun always has a fabulous contingent of walkers…

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Every week one special volunteer gets to be the tailwalker. The tailwalker’s job is to finish last, and make sure everyone has finished safely. Sometimes the tailwalker doubles as a photographer as well. And sometimes the tailwalker has an entire posse. A big Thank You to this week’s tailwalker Christina McNamee-Mahafee.

Christina first joined us last Spring. At the time it maybe took a little courage to come along. People often wonder whether they will fit in, or whether they will be “too slow” (the answer is always “no”). We’re thrilled that Christina is now one of the people who is helping others to feel that they fit in.

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Now I’m letting you in on one of our best-kept secrets—another thing that keeps us coming back for more. Volunteering at parkrun is even more fun and rewarding than running or walking. Michelle and Joel were our volunteer timers this week.

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And there are other ways (besides tailwalking) to parkrun and volunteer in the same week. Katie and Tomas flew through the course then stepped in to help Lori with scanning.

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What’s the best way to know about volunteering at CP parkrun? Update your parkrun profile (see the link in your parkrun results email) to sign up to the CP parkrun email list. You’ll receive Andrea’s once weekly news and volunteering message, a dose of positivity in the middle of your week. And you will not be spammed.

Another great thing that keeps us coming back—running or walking in a group can just make you feel happy.  Especially when you see old friends (or new friends) smiling, giving words of encouragement on the trail, or cheering as you finish.  One great thing about our “out and back” course is you get to see everyone at least once.

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Finally, one of the highlights of the week is getting to know each other better afterwards over coffee or breakfast at The Board and Brew. It’s a few minutes walk down the trail, or a short drive down Baltimore Ave.

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Just one last note—we have been asked by the Park Police to not park in the grass on the side of Metzerott Road. We don’t want to see anybody’s free, friendly parkrun experience ruined by a parking ticket.

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As we grow bigger, parking will become increasingly scarce at Acredale Park. This week's 179 finishers is on the high side, but it won't be too long before 200/week is relatively normal. We love that! We just have to accommodate a little. Please allow enough time and be aware that there is ample free parking in a couple of nearby locations. UMD Lot 11b backs onto the trail, and is super convenient for the post parkrun coffee. And there’s also lots of parking at the bowling alley across Baltimore Avenue. And if you’re local enough that you can ride your bike to parkrun, so much the better!

If you want to see more pictures from this week or any other week's CP parkrun, you can find them in our photo albums in Flickr.

So long for now, first timers. We wish you the best and hope you will come back for more. We’re here every week.

Stewart Mayhew, Run Director

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