Bringing us a little closer together (Virtual parkrun 1 Report)

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 met this week -- on Zoom, of course -- to brainstorm ideas to keep supporting our healthy community. From this came the plans for an experiment: College Park Virtual parkrun. We would try this on Saturday May 2nd, and see how it goes.

Well, one thing certainly could NOT have gone better: it was a BEAUTIFUL DAY for a parkrun! It was one of those days when you’re just itching to get outside.

Also, we were blown away by the number of people who wanted to get involved, and who shared their experiences with us. Around 130 took part. Not bad for something that had been announced less than 48 hours earlier.

It’s not all about the times, but here’s our first attempt at a RESULTS TABLE.

A couple of things that we're excited about in those results:

  • Our highest proportion of walkers yet. It really was about getting active outdoors. No hurry.
  • But the fastest time was a world class run by a member of our local parkrun community.
  • So many people taking part from so many places!


Early Birds

Some people got an early start to today’s parkrun.

Steve Hendrix, a regular CP parkrunner whose work for the Washington Post has him living in Israel these days, ran at 9am in Jerusalem, i.e., 2am US EDT. Andrea shared this great message from Steve at the 9am briefing:

“Thanks for the virtual 5K parkrun friends!

I did it right: stood around listening to myself make announcements and then set out right at 9 am (local, 2am for you), even shouted “Morning Hump!” out and back at a confused woman sitting on a bench.

Also, I forgot my barcode. So a very authentic experience!

I miss parkrun. Be well and run safe wherever you run.”


Tara & Xander Mease set out at 6:30am for their regular 10K run -- remember that a 5K parkrun is 7-year old Xander’s *easy* day -- and were fired up to work on collecting the day’s results.


Tara’s mom, Janet Tate, got her run in early, before the online briefing. Then while many of us headed out for our exercise, Janet got some much needed sleep. She’s working night shifts as a nurse, and we salute her and other healthcare workers and other essential workers in our community for helping to keep us safe.

Carlos Chaverri-Morales, set out early at 7am. But that was after the online briefing. That’s because Carlos, who completed nearly 50 parkruns in College Park, has been back living in Costa Rica since last summer. For him, the virtual format is a great way to stay connected to his College Park friends.

Stewart Mayhew also set out early. He followed our request to not start the regular parkrun route at 9am. So he snuck in a near PB run at 8:30am, and was back in time to join the online briefing.

Gus Campbell set out from his home in Halethorpe, near BWI Airport. With a parkrun starting right by his door, he was able to get an 8am start time. This is going to be especially valuable once the summer heat picks up.


9:00 AM Zoom and Facebook Live On-line briefings

About 25 people zoomed in for chit chat in our virtual park at 8:50am. Then around 14 more joined when we also went live on Facebook at 9:00am. By the end of the day over 300 had viewed the briefing video on Facebook. So that may already be a record for a CP parkrun briefing.

Andrea held the briefing from her front stoop. No bullhorn needed for this one, so a bit more intimate than usual. The parkrun flag stood proudly in her front yard. Andrea gave announcements, thanked the virtual volunteers, reminded us to stay safe, to follow social distancing rules, and to join us for the coffee chat at 10:30am. (Meanwhile, Colin was elsewhere in the house, sweating bullets as he tried to get the tech to work. Maybe a bullhorn is easier.)


It was great to see some visitors from near and far at the briefing. We had friends visiting from NC, TN, and CT in the US, and from Costa Rica and Germany internationally. Andrea was thrilled to see Meredith Hale, co-Event Director at Third Creek Greenway parkrun in Knoxville, TN. Andrea helped TCG parkrun to get off the ground in 2019. Joining from Germany  was Chris Roth, our April parkrunner of the month, was “visiting” from his hometown of Ravensburg, Germany. Also joining from Germany was Kazuko Yatsushiro, an old friend of Colin & Andrea who is part of the team behind Hasenheide parkrun in Berlin.

Seeing so many people either getting ready to run or reporting that they already completed their run was great motivation to get out there and run! Or walk!


9:10 Virtual Run/Walk Time!

For those parkrunners who were in College Park at parkrun o’clock, there was a good chance of passing other parkrunners on your virtual parkrun.

Andrea dashed off right after completing the briefing. (One benefit of the virtual format is that the day’s run director can get out for a run too.) Andrea ran her fastest 5K in a while. AND she ran into Dave and Alyssa Heintzelman, at a safe distance of course. Joanne Heintzelmann was out there too, somewhere. Kudos to the whole family for getting out.


Colin’s run took him from home to just beyond Hump’s Crossing. En route he saw parkrunners Judy Mulusa, Wendy Young (in the middle of her 10 mile long run), and Külli Crespin and Teresa Perdomo. Külli and Teresa were so happy to get together after not seeing each other since March that they each covered 14 miles of local trails, running into other parkrunners including Elizabeth Cooper and Rebecca and Joe White.


Neha Joshi and Yogarshi Yvas ran along the Trolley Trail for the first time, enjoying the beautiful birds along the way.


Lori Dominick walked 3.1 miles in the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. She caught a glimpse of one of the eagles nesting nearby, but did not get a photo.

Jen Matis was looking for places to be as socially isolated as possible, and came up with the good idea of using the parking lots around the FDA and other buildings on River Road. Success!


You didn’t need to be in College Park to run into other CP parkrunners. Andrea Solan did her virtual parkrun in Ellicott City, where she ran into Kathy Gustafson, who was dressed for the occasion in her CP parkrun apricot shirt. They enjoyed a (socially distanced) chat in the parking lot. Nice!


Darrell Stanaford, joining from north of Baltimore, reported that it was a “beautiful morning - virtually perfect!”. Darrell is an old friend of CP parkrun, helping us to get started, and leading parkrun USA through a period of rapid growth in 2017-2019.

10:30 am Coffee Chat

It’s not The Board and Brew, but the Zoom coffee chat at least had unlimited seating. It was great to catch up with some parkrunners remotely.

We’re trying to keep supporting local businesses, such as B&B, during the shutdown. You can buy gift cards here.

Speed Demons

We don’t normally make a big deal about the fastest finishers at CP parkrun. But this week we want to make a fuss.

The fastest (not first) finisher at CP Virtual parkrun #1 was Cindy Conant. She completed her 5K in 19:53. She has been hoping to crack 20 minutes again for some time.

CP (non-virtual) parkrun has seen a female first finisher just once before.

Cindy is 59 years old.

The “age-grading” for her 5K time is 94.9%. That’s a record for CP parkrun. By our calculation, only 2 people have ever achieved a higher age-grading at a parkrun USA event.


“What about Sam Phipps”, we hear you ask. What of our perennial first finisher? Well, Sam’s virtual parkrun was part of a 10-mile run on the shore. With his time adjusted to the 5K distance, Cindy left Sam in the (virtual) dust today!

Kalonji Collins set an impressive PB. His time of 24:48 is almost TWO MINUTES faster than his PB for the non-virtual parkrun. And he did this running at home on his treadmill!

Age is just a number

By our calculations, today’s participants ranged from 1 to 85 in age.

The youngest participant who used his own two legs may have been James Schneider, youngest member of Team Schneider, who got their family walk in early. James was seen pushing his own stroller, though we suspect that he might not have kept this up the whole way. Another member of Team Schneider who is growing up fast is Mary Clare, who turns 4 this week and will finally be able to get an official parkrun barcode. “No more fake barcode!”, said Mary Clare’s mom Erin.

The oldest participant that we’re aware of is Lois Zukowski, Andrea’s mom, who is 85. She didn’t plan to take part, but she was inspired by watching Andrea’s briefing online and so she set out for a walk from her home in Harrison Twp, MI. “I just kept going. I’m not sure how far it was, but it might have been 3 miles.” That’s good enough for us, Lois!



Since you don’t need a parkrun barcode for CP Virtual parkrun, you don’t need to be a human. Good news for our barkrunners, who can get the recognition that they deserve. We heard from a few of our barkrunner friends this week, and they’re included in the results where their names are known. Sorry if we missed you this week!

Angela Gentile wrote: “Shackleton didn't know that there would be announcements at 8:50 and he slept in and did his park run a little bit later but he would definitely join in on announcements another week and try not to bark.”


He must have put in a good effort, as he was later found napping it off.


Meanwhile, a long lost barkrunner friend. Scout is back! Scout is one of the original barkrunners of CP parkrun, having completed around 50 parkruns. But we haven’t seen her since last summer when her human Ken Leonard went to Ghana to teach for a year. Well, the pandemic has brought Ken back (though still teaching remotely in Ghana), so Scout has her running buddy back. So she got to visit Lisa at the turnaround for the first time in a while. Well, kind of.


We found barkrunner Sophie taking a run with the fam on the trails near her home in Chevy Chase. Dad Evan was doing his virtual parkrun as part of a 13-miler. Not sure whether Sophie got to go along for the full ride.


Choose your time, or place

9am not working for you? Nowhere near College Park? For CP Virtual parkrun that’s not a problem. Spreading ourselves out in time and space is the point.

Elizabeth Cooper went out later in the day, and is working on getting back to where she was in August. You got this, Elizabeth!


Valerie Silensky had an adventure in her first (not a) parkrun since February, and her first 5K in weeks. 70-something degrees, 4 miles through 4 towns and one trail, one mayor met, and courtesy of said mayor, 1 local history lesson. (The serendipitous result of getting extremely lost in North Brentwood on the way back!)

A few people took part in CP Virtual parkrun on other parkrun courses. Clever!

Carly Mills ran on the old Kensington parkrun course.

Steve and Cindy Feld, former regular runners and volunteers at CP parkrun, did their virtual parkrun on the Third Fork Creek Trail, the venue for Durham, NC parkrun.

Brian Smith incorporated the Anacostia parkrun course into his run.

Eden Gray, Sam Mora, and barkrunner Foxy did their parkwalk on the course of Sippo Lake parkrun in Canton, OH. They took a little extra time, “We had to sniff things out quite a bit along the way!” Understandable.

Shane Sharkey (and infant daughter Eleanor) were special guest “virtual tourists”. Shane is Event Director at Melton Mowbray parkrun in Leicestershire, UK, where they held their 7th virtual parkrun this weekend, with 200+ participants. We took a lot of cues from the model that Shane developed for virtual parkruns, and he was very generous with his advice. Thank you!

Nick Huang, part of the original CP parkrun team, took part in Windsor, CT, where he now lives. He shared via email: “I went on a run early in the morning, before the briefing. Momentarily thought about climbing over a locked, waist-height fence to run on the track at Jessica's school, since no one was around... and thought better of it.”

Rory Murphy, one of our earliest regulars, took part from his current home in Morris Plains, NJ. And he wasn’t the only regular from Delaware and Raritan Canal parkrun who took part. Team Maeder -- that’s Suzanne, Robert, and kids Leo, Zoe, and Lux (age 2) took part from the “middle of nowhere”, NJ. Robert and the kids did a mile-and-a-half walk, while Suzanne did “something more complicated”. Suzanne’s a UMD alum and was Tara Mease’s college roommate, so she has bona fide ties to CP parkrun. Great stuff, Team Maeder!


A virtual parkrun needs volunteers just as much as a regular virtual parkrun. But the roles are a little bit different, and we’re still figuring stuff out. Thanks to all who helped this week!

Andrea and Colin shared the “virtual run director” role. The virtual format calls for a little more tech coordination than usual.

Tara Mease and Anna Tinnemore shared the results processor role. This part is definitely more demanding in the virtual setting -- most results came in through one of three different channels: email, Facebook, or our Strava club. It helps us appreciate the magic of normal results processing.

Lori Dominick and Colin Phillips took on the gathering of stories and pictures. The fun part about the virtual format is that people tell their own stories and send their own pictures, so it’s very much a team effort.

Rebecca and Joe White took on the role of official tailwalkers, but many others stepped up during the day to offer their services retrospectively as tailwalkers. All good! The main aim is to ensure that walking is definitely A Thing at CP Virtual parkrun, and that people don’t feel that they’re gate-crashing an event for speedy runners. It looks like this worked out nicely!

Speaking of walkers, one thing that we don’t really need in the virtual format is course marshals. So what are Lisa and Hump to do? They took walks with their pups on the trail close to home … which happens to be the Paint Branch Trail. Lisa walked the regular course -- we presume she visited the virtual Lisa at the turnaround. And Hump headed in the opposite direction, notching a walk of nearly a mile and a half. Nice!

And big thanks are due to the team of regular CP parkrun volunteers who came together at short notice a few days ago to figure out the details on CP Virtual parkrun. Still a work in progress, but much better off for the team effort.


Future Weeks?

With the success of this week’s experiment, there’s a good chance that we’ll do this again.

For information on how we roll, and how to join the live online meetups, see our blog:

To follow along, there are a few ways to ensure that you’re in the loop:

  1. Sign up to our email list, like 1000+ others. Andrea’s once weekly email will tell you all the essentials. Sign in via your profile, following instructions in the blog above.
  2. Join our Strava club, which has 200+ members. You can link a free Strava account to your fitness tracker for automatic uploading. Great way to see how your friends are staying active through the week.
  3. Follow our Facebook page, which has 1200+ followers.

Stay safe out there, everybody!

Lori & Colin

sweets_startline_webDylan and Bill found the parkrun flag on their block!