Introducing College Park Virtual parkrun

We love the big, warm community that has grown up around College Park parkrun since 2016. So it’s hard to believe that it’s nearly *two months* since we last came together on the Paint Branch Trail on a Saturday morning. The CP parkrun team is excited to invite you to join us for an experiment: College Park Virtual parkrun, on Saturday May 2nd.

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WHY?

Our mission is simple: to create a healthy community, through social support for physical activity. We all need this as much as ever right now.

It could be many more months before events like ours can go ahead again. The curve has been flattened, but we have a long way to go. Maryland’s plan for gradual return to normalcy lays out a sensible, multi-step process. Some outdoor exercise activities may be among the first to return, while large sporting events will be among the last to return. It’s unclear where CP parkrun fits in this. But we don’t expect to be back to normal anytime soon.

So we want to find safe ways to keep doing this, even though we can’t come together.

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THE BASICS

Saturday May 2nd and every Saturday until we return to 'normal'.

All day long until 8:00 PM: Run or walk; any location. 5K is a good distance, but do more or less if you prefer. Tell us about it, by no later than 8:00 PM. Support other participants. See “How to get involved” below.

9:00 AM: On-line briefing, for those who want to continue (or begin!) their parkrun habit at our standard Saturday morning time. Join by Zoom or Facebook Live. Say hi to other participants. [as of mid-July, currently not holding briefings, to allow participants and volunteers to get out early to beat the heat]

10:30 AM: Virtual coffee meetup. Come chat with old and new friends in a social Zoom meeting. Link below. [From 8/1 we plan to experiment with a socially distanced live coffee meetup at the pocket park directly behind The Board & Brew and Vigilante Coffee.]

Sundays
We’ll share a summary of what happened. Part results, part event report. The focus is on sharing stories about what we did and interesting things that happened along the way. The reports and results are all shared via the News page on our website.

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DO I NEED TO REGISTER?

Nope. At our regular parkruns you can “just show up”, bringing your free personal barcode. At our virtual CP parkrun it’s even easier. No barcode needed. And you don’t even need to show up, because it’s happening right where you are!

WHO IS IT FOR?

Runners and walkers of all ages, backgrounds, and preferred paces. Everybody!

Our community includes some speedy runners, and also many folks who are happy to complete a 5K walk. Some are looking to beat their fastest time. Others are happy to get outside with their dog. If 5K feels like a stretch, and you’re working up to running or walking that far, no problem!

Our canine parkrunners, AKA “barkrunners”, are an important part of our community. They can’t record their own result at a regular parkrun, but at CP Virtual parkrun, why not! Running or walking with your pup is encouraged. And if s/he wants to record a separate time, go for it (but please tell us that Fido is your dog rather than your child).

Our main goal is to support folks in the area around College Park and the DMV, who could otherwise make it to our regular parkrun events. But we’re also looking forward to welcoming some “virtual tourists” from far away, and some parkrun friends who are living far away right now.

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HOW TO GET INVOLVED

We have lots of electronic tools to help us support each other. It’s not like meeting up on the trail, but you work with what you’ve got. We are making a deliberate effort to not rely on any one social media channel. We want to accommodate different ways that community members prefer to use technology.

Join the 9am briefing. We’d love to say hi, hear about your plans, and meet old and new friends. Either of these will connect you:

Zoom: https://umd.zoom.us/j/99211032270 [good for voice & video interaction; please sign in with your name if prompted; we’re taking steps to avoid Zoombombing]

Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/collegeparkparkrun [please say hi in the comments!]

Join the social meetup - virtual coffee at 10:30am. Join community members for a chat while you refuel. It’s not The Board and Brew, but at least the seating is unlimited.

Zoom: https://umd.zoom.us/j/99211032270 [same as for the briefing]

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Tell us what you did. Support others in the community. You can provide evidence of your activity by sharing a screenshot from your watch or tracker app if you use one. But this is not required. Simply tell us, e.g., “Mary and Fido enjoyed a lovely 5K walk in their neighborhood. It took about an hour.” If you don’t care about your time, or don’t want it to be shared, no problem.

For this week’s experiment, any of the following should work:

Facebook: we’ll start a thread on the College Park parkrun Facebook page. Add a comment about your activity, like or comment on others’ activity.

Instagram: tag us in a post on your Instagram account, @collegeparkrun

Strava: we have a Strava “club”, https://www.strava.com/clubs/collegeparkparkrun. Join the club, record your activity, and mention CP virtual parkrun. Give kudos and comments on others’ activities.

NOTE: (i) the activity is only visible to us in the club activity feed if your Strava privacy settings allow it; (ii) frustratingly, the club activity feed shows only activities of type "run", though we love walking, too! Solutions are either to set the activity type to "run", or to drop us an email to confirm, or to add a comment on the Strava event post.

Email: drop us a line at collegepark@parkrun.com to tell us about what you did.

Voice: you can simply drop by the online coffee chat and tell us about it!

If you’re not on our CP parkrun email list, now is a great time to join the 1000+ who already joined. The easiest way to join the list is to open a past parkrun ‘results’ email and click on the orange “manage my profile” button. Under “email options”, select “opt-in” for College Park (and make sure to click the green “save” button). We will never spam you. You’ll get a once weekly warm and fuzzy email from our co-Event Director Andrea, updating you on what’s happening and sharing supportive thoughts.

PARKRUN MILESTONES

As this is not an official parkrun event, and makes no use of the barcodes and central databases that we normally rely on, participation in the virtual parkrun does not count towards parkrun milestones and shirts. Participation is entirely for good health and good karma. If this goes well and we repeat it, we may tally virtual participation. Or we may find that we're unable to manage a spreadsheet. We'll see!

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VOLUNTEERS

Our 181 previous in-person parkrun events have been put on by hundreds of wonderful volunteers from our community. It works well because so many different people pitch in. CP Virtual parkrun will be just the same, though some of the details will have changed, e.g., no finisher token sorting needed. Here are some volunteer roles:

Host. This is your virtual Run Director for the day.
Host support. This is the tech whiz who helps the host to make it look effortless.
Results processors. Collect information on who did what that Saturday. This will be more manual, less magic than at a regular in-person parkrun.
Reporters. Gathering and sharing the story of what happened that day.

Tail walkers. At our in-person events we offer an iron-clad “you will not finish last” guarantee, because we provide the final finisher. Our tailwalkers are THE BEST. So why not have virtual tail walkers? This one is a bit tricky, as it’s hard to bring up the rear when we’re all taking part in separate places at separate times. But by early evening we should have a good idea of who did what, so the tailwalker(s) can head out for a walk with a target time to (not) beat, and they can also take the honor of wrapping up the participation thread at 8pm. We have never tried this, but it could be fun!

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RULES AND SAFETY

We’re staying apart because we’re fighting a pandemic. We must not aid the spread of COVID-19, and we also want everybody to be safe and healthy in every other way. That’s why we have just a few rules.

Distancing etc. You must follow all local regulations wherever you are taking part. This includes keeping a safe distance from others. In your area it may include rules on wearing masks, or closed parks, or staying within a short radius of home.

CP parkrun course. **Please do not do your virtual CP parkrun on the regular CP parkrun course at 9am Saturday.** This is not a regular parkrun event, and we must not encourage larger gatherings. The CP parkrun course on the Paint Branch Trail is safe, measured, marked, and as beautiful as ever. We visit the trail every day, and it is almost always very quiet. Feel free to do your CP Virtual parkrun on the regular route, but please DO NOT go there at 9am on Saturday, and please do not make plans to congregate there. If you do visit the parkrun course some other time, maybe take a selfie with our virtual course marshal signs (Lisa and Hump are out there 24/7).

Safe route and safe timing. Find a safe route of your choosing, and do not take safety risks. Stop your watch at a stop light. Take a breather. CP parkrun is not a race, and CP Virtual parkrun is REALLY not a race. (Report your “moving time”, not your “elapsed time”. It’s all fine.)

Indoor routes? Want to do your run or walk on your treadmill? Totally fine!

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Children and vulnerable participants. Children should be in a safe setting with adult support. At our regular parkruns we require all under 11s to be with a responsible adult. For CP Virtual parkrun we ask that you follow AT LEAST the same standards, exercising good judgment. If you’re pounding the sidewalk, your 12-year old might need company. Alternatively, if your 10 year old is comfortable on the home treadmill, then a chaperone probably isn’t needed. If you’re in an at-risk group, especially if the weather is hot, take appropriate precautions. Tell somebody where you are going. Carry emergency contact information. If it’s hot, carry water

Distance. Any timed results that we report will be for 5K or 5K equivalent times. If you want to run more than 5K that’s perfectly fine. We’ll simply apply your average pace to a 5K distance. If you want to cover less distance that’s also fine. In that case we plan to list participation, but not a 5K equivalent time.

DISCLAIMER. This is not an official parkrun event. It is not coordinated with parkrun Global. It is a local initiative, inspired by parkrun and by the values of the College Park parkrun community. Running or walking close to your home is a private activity that you undertake on your own accord. Participation in College Park Virtual parkrun occurs when you share information about what you have done.

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THANK YOU!

As usual, none of this would be possible without a great community of supporters, both local and far away. Thank you! You are what makes this community thrive.

Thanks to the many CP parkrun community members who have been sharing updates and stories with us in recent weeks: via social media, via email, or just via random encounters on the local trails. And thanks to the 40 community members who joined our virtual coffee meetup on 4/11. You showed the value of coming together even while we’re apart.

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Thanks to the big group of CP parkrun volunteers who met up at very short notice to talk through ideas about how to preserve the warm, welcoming community in an online format.

Thanks to parkrun volunteers and teams in faraway places for inspiration and support on how to do this. Shane Sharkey at Melton Mowbray parkrun in the UK has been especially generous with his experience from their virtual parkruns. Check out their News page to see how they have been getting along. Kerstin Pepper at Perrigo parkrun in Redmond, WA led the way in organizing a US version of this model. Colin was fortunate to visit Perrigo in person in February, to check out their posh gazebo and (gasp!) heated bathrooms. And he joined their inaugural virtual parkrun on 4/25/20. Thanks to our friends at Jamaica Pond parkrun in Boston, MA whose crazy efforts in a recent Virtual 24-hour relay showed us how much fun can be had while running far apart. We’re bummed that we couldn’t visit the inaugural of their new sister event, Danehy Park parkrun in Cambridge, MA, that had been due to start on 3/21/20. We can’t wait to see it thrive. And thanks to Prince George’s Parks & Recreation and our municipalities for keeping our lovely parks and trails maintained and open during the pandemic, so that we can all continue to enjoy them, safely.

See you (virtually) soon!

Colin, Andrea, and the CP Virtual parkrun Team

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