parkrunning Across America (Virtual parkrun Report 4)

Memorial Day weekend is when we’re often thinking about plans for summer travel, and College Park is going into its quieter summer phase. This year - not so much. Travel isn’t happening. College Park has been a bit of a ghost town, with UMD and many businesses closed. And you could be forgiven for forgetting that it’s a holiday weekend. So what better time for some virtual tourism. Hence our “parkrun across America” challenge.

We covered 1,355 miles together in our first three CP virtual parkruns. If we started at Crissy Field parkrun by the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, that would put us a little to the east of the Front Range of the Rockies in Colorado. Great progress, but still a long way from home. So we wondered whether the community could rise to the challenge of completing the distance to College Park by the end of May. Two Saturdays, about 1,450 miles to cover. A big ask. Could we do it? It was going to take more miles, and more parkrunners.


Not a lot of travel this summer. Fortunately, there are beautiful places to go close to home.

Well, we’re making really good progress, covering a little under half the distance home to College Park. As results poured in over the course of the day we followed our progress …

9:00 AM: 100km done, North Platte, NE. Home of the world’s largest railyard, apparently

12:30 PM: 400km done, Lincoln, NE. Go Cornhuskers! Home of the University of Nebraska, our Big 10 rival. They may be better in football, but we have the edge in Quidditch.

3:00 PM: 700km done, Des Moines, IA.

4:00 PM: 800km done, Grinnell, IA. Home of Grinnell College (at least one of this week’s virtual parkrunners is a Grinnell alum - Go Pioneers!).

7:00 PM: 1000km done. Crossing the Mississippi from Davenport, IA into Illinois.


This week's journey!

By the time the virtual parkrun finished at 8:00pm, you had covered 1,155km, around 720 miles. Remarkably, this makes for a perfect spot to “camp”, as it’s almost right on top of Ottawa, IL, home of Heritage Harbor parkrun. HH parkrun follows a course around the perimeter of a pretty harbor, just off the Illinois River. They were due to celebrate their 3rd birthday in mid June. As far as we know, only a handful of CP parkrunners have visited HH parkrun. The Ridge family visited in August 2018, and Stewart Mayhew joined them for a rather snowy parkrun in January 2020. HH’s most famous parkrunner is a man by the name of Juan Leg. You really should read his story: Letting go of my crutch.

One reason why HH parkrun is a perfect spot for our virtual camp: their post-parkrun coffee spot is a bar and grill with a lovely veranda that’s RIGHT by their start/finish area. What’s not to like!


Clark and Violet and family visited Heritage Harbor parkrun in Summer 2018


The weather was a bit colder when Stewart Mayhew visited in January 2020

Vital Statistics

It was by far our busiest week of virtual parkrunning yet.

  • 179 participants
  • 720 miles / 1,155 km covered
  • 54 first-timers
  • 10 barkrunners
  • Ages: -1 week to 85 years



Neil, Julie, Trista, and Dottie did a walk on Kent Island


Malik and Colin passed each other on the trail


How times change! It’s really interesting to look back at what was happening on this same weekend in the past few years.

In 2016 on this weekend we were not yet an official parkrun event. We had been holding super low-key meetups at Acredale Park since January. This weekend was super wet, and we had a grand total of five pre-parkrunners: Kim, Nick, Chris, Sam, and Colin. Sam had a broken arm, so he came with a carefully wrapped cast on his arm.


In 2017 on this weekend, things were a little different. We hosted a visit by Paul Sinton-Hewitt, who founded parkrun near his home in London for a handful of friends back in 2004. We had a big record turnout of 180 finishers, with so many first-timers and visitors from near and far.



Yes, that's Colin wearing a GoPro on his head while stalking parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt. 

That day also saw the official naming of Hump’s Crossing. Hump had been volunteering with us almost every week for our first 7 months. So we surprised him with a sign, delivered by mayor Patrick Wojahn as he zoomed by at the start of the event.


First-timers from that day included Meridith and Abigail Phillips, who took part this week. Twice, in Meridith’s case!


First-timers from that day also included Pam Marcus, who went on to found Kensington parkrun. And Greg Gorman, who is now Pam’s co-event director at Kensington. And Tom and Genevieve Hornik, who now help to lead Leakin Park parkrun. And there was a send-off award for Cathryn Burby, who was about to relocate to Seattle, where she helped to launch Renton parkrun, the start of a cluster of events in the Seattle area.



Pam and Greg had no idea what they were getting themselves into


Tom and Genevieve were looking forward to having a parkrun closer to home in West Baltimore


Cathryn was about to move to Seattle, where she co-leads Renton parkrun. This Saturday her mom Joan joined us from CT for her 4th CPVp, and shared that it was Cathryn's birthday. Happy birthday, Cathryn!

And that day’s volunteer crew included Joyce Adams, who went on to become event director at Roosevelt Island parkrun. And Iwao Ogihara, who helped to launch parkrun in Japan.


Elite volunteer crew!

On this weekend in 2018 a crew met up early for a rather muddy effort to clean up trash from the stream. And we welcomed Laurel-native Julie Messina, who was one of the pioneers of parkrun in the US, starting Durham NC parkrun way back in 2013.



Laurel, MD native Julie Messina is about to celebrate the 7th birthday of Durham, NC parkrun. She was one of the first to bring parkrun to the US, years ahead of most other events.

And on this weekend in 2019 it was a spectacular day to celebrate Carlos Gough’s 50th parkrun … with cake, of course … and to give a sendoff to Ben and Meghan Gieske as they headed off to new adventures in Indiana.



Toddling and waddling, and strolling

Virtual parkruns are all about getting active with your two legs (or four), at whatever pace works for you. And however far works for you, too.

Fiona Lemon rode in the stroller while mom Michelle and dad Luther did their virtual parkruns. This inspired her to get out of the stroller and do a half mile herself. Perfect!


When your parents inspire you to get running!

Rachel Unger again got out for a parkwaddle, together with husband Jeff and barkrunner Scooter. This time their route took them to the vets, for Scooter to get a check up ahead of the arrival of his new sibling. Rachel is now *39-weeks* pregnant! We’re on the edge of our seats. Good luck, Rachel and family!


Rachel's parkwaddle at 39 weeks pregnant

Jenn Augsburger took a parkstroll, combined with a bit of birding. She said, “Can you tell which was the mile when I stopped to take ALL the pictures?”


It’s all downhill from here!

No big surprise that Clark Ridge was this week’s fastest finisher, in a speedy 17:59. But Clark confessed that his 5K was on a bit of a downhill route.

Well, it turns out that Clark’s little down slope was nothing. Our virtual parkrun format allows for a lot of creativity in route selection. Simon Wraight, joining us from Concord, NH, ran faster than in ALL of his previous 111 official parkruns, with a 19:06 time. That may have been related to finding a route with a 400-foot drop over the 3 miles. Simon mentioned that his family made a cheering station for him outside their house, at the halfway point. (Fun fact; Simon first joined us at CP parkrun on, yes, this weekend in 2017.)



But Simon’s downhill course was nothing on the one that Cindy Cohen found, running in Sandpoint, ID. Cindy’s zig-zag route took her down a mountain path, and netted her fastest parkrun time in two years. The drop over the 5K: 900 feet!


Unfair? Cheating? Heck no! CPVp is not a race, and we just love the creativity!

Extra credit

Although we only report 5K equivalent paces in our results table, the clever spreadsheets that Tara Mease set up for our virtual parkruns keep track of all your distances. And we’re using those to track our parkrun Across America challenge. So hats off to some of the many folks who put in some extra miles of walking or running to help us along the way.

Tara and Xander did an early morning *8*-miler to get things going. Nice running, guys!


Josh Weiss ran 7 miles. Then when his wife Lara Pagano decided to do a 5K virtual parkrun (*after* a 1-hour bike ride), he tagged along to add some more miles.

Misha Bernard and Maia Swisdak got in an early evening birding walk to add some miles. And Andrea Zukowski added some dusk birding miles to combine with her morning 5K run.

Meridith Phillips headed out for an early evening walk with daughter Abigail, to go with her morning run. Then, upon learning that we were within sight of the Mississippi on our virtual quest, she offered to head out for a THIRD time to add some miles!


David Lai may have put in the longest pull of the day, covering 16 miles on a bit of a warm day.


David's long run also covered the hoped-for course of the new Glen Burnie parkrun


We love welcoming newcomers to CP Virtual parkrun. And there were SO MANY this week, over 50 at last count.

Jane Kushner Hopkins shared that her walk was the furthest she had walked this year. Nice!

Sarah Cunanan joined her first CPVp, and was excited to learn that our 4pm update had us in Grinnell, IA. Sarah is a proud Grinnell College grad.


Go Pioneers! Grinnell College in Iowa. Looks pretty!

Sharyn Gordon and her grandson Julian got out for a walk together and added, “Thanks for keeping us moving forward!”

Dominique Lisiero put in a few miles pushing the stroller, which must be extra challenging on the hills.

Luke Reuter of University Park, aged 9, took part for the first time, covering about a mile. His dad Jeremy shared that Luke is making it a little further each time. Fantastic!

And Andrea Z. did a LOT of recruiting this week, via Facebook, via email, and seemingly via any random person she passed in the street. (Ok, we’re exaggerating slightly, but only slightly.) Crystal Bergemann, Vera and Bob Wiest, Sarah Treado, Kate Kennedy, Bill Bystricky (and barkrunner Seneca), Shevaun Lewis (and barkrunner Jasper), Laurie Goodfriend, Jeff Lidz, Liina Pylkkänen, and Pam Diamond were among the many who she ensnared.

This is one thing we’ve learned from the virtual parkruns so far. The best way of supporting each other to stay active is through all of our friends and family encouraging one another.


Virtual Tourists

We really miss meeting up with people on the trail on Saturday mornings. We really do. But one thing that we’re going to miss when things return to normal is the way that we’re connecting now with friends in far away places.

This week we had participants from FIVE continents. The fastest female time came from Michelle Barnes, running near home in Newcastle, Australia. Michelle and family visited us in College Park on a rainy morning in January, on one of the days when we had to use our multi-lap route due to trail flooding. Michelle’s 20:25 time was faster than she has ever run in a parkrun, so two thumbs up for that!


The Barnes family when they visited us in January 2020

Susan Crammond joined from Greystones, IRELAND, where she also bested her fastest ever parkrun time. Susan was a part of the Fletcher’s Cove parkrun team in DC and often visited Kensington parkrun before moving back to Ireland last year. Guess which day was the one time she came to CP in person? Yup, this weekend 3 years ago, like so many others.


Stefano Gazzano has never been to College Park, but he’s now a regular at CPVp. We’re enjoying his post-lockdown journey. This week he was in Capodimonte, an ancient Etruscan village by Lake Bolsena. So beautiful! And it’s the closest to actual European tourism that we’re likely to get this summer.


We’ve enjoyed welcoming faraway friends to our live briefings and coffee chats. This week Robin Phillips (Colin’s brother) joined Andrea’s briefing from Bristol, UK. And Lois Zukowski (Andrea’s mom) joined the coffee chat as she set out on her walk in Michigan. So we got to introduce family to parkrun friends.


Can you spot the brothers in this picture?


Kazuko Yatsushiro has completed EVERY CPVp so far from her home in Berlin. This week she recruited her daughters Mika and Lina to join her for a 5K. And she shared an important detail of their route. On the College Park parkrun route the attraction at the halfway point is visiting Lisa. Turns out that the halfway point of Kazuko, Lina, and Mika’s route just happens to be at an ice cream shop. Now we’re talking!

We were thrilled to welcome virtual parkrunners this week from so many different US parkruns.

Janet Grudzien John is a regular at Jamaica Pond parkrun in Boston. She joined us from a windswept beach near her home in Newport, RI.


Kristin Sturgill and Kerline Lorantin are two of the key people behind Mountain Goat Trail parkrun, in tiny Sewanee, TN. Two years ago Andrea was visiting them for their launch, and we had a sign at CP to welcome them to the parkrun USA family. So they should have been celebrating their birthday right now. If you’re ever in that part of the world, you really should visit them. Small, but perfectly formed.


Karen Crane and Maleta Ann Robinson of Mansfield parkrun in central Ohio got in on the action this week. Our virtual parkrun across America will pass very close to Mansfield next week. Karen and her husband Steve have visited CP a few times … including on this weekend in 2017, like so many others.

And many more besides. By our estimate, we had friends from about a dozen US parkruns join us this week.

Grumpy Unicorn

This one deserves a section all of its own. Vivienne and Autumn Miller did a virtual parkrun together in Ellicott City. Their route looks a bit complicated, until you realize that it’s pure genius Strava art. We especially like the clever use of a small rotary to draw the eye. They call it “Grumpy Unicorn”. So fitting!



Nice work, Vivienne and Autumn!

Virtual Volunteers

We couldn’t do these virtual parkruns without virtual volunteers.

The parkrun Across America challenge would not be possible without the spreadsheet wizardry of Tara Mease, who has made it easy to keep track of who has done what how many times and where. The big Google Sheet that she has been developing week by week would be a thing of beauty for some of you, and an abomination for others. We kind of like it. :)

Trace Huard joined the results team as a virtual volunteer this week, and enjoyed learning about how the sausage is made.

Rebecca White and Lori Dominick were our unofficial tailwalking crew this week. They got to cheer a few parkrunners who they saw along the trail. And they joined the mid-morning coffee chat live from the trail. So we got to enjoy views of our favorite trail as we enjoyed coffee and company from our living rooms and basements.

Andrea and Colin did the Stuff That They Do. And they’re loving seeing the community come together while we’re all apart. Andrea said, “It’s starting to feel like Saturday again!”


Colin passed the tailwalkers TWICE on his virtual parkrun

One more thing

Our friends at the College Park City University Partnership are surveying the community about plans for future improvements to our favorite trail, especially the section between Acredale Park and The Board and Brew. It’s called the Paint Branch Riverwalk Project. Please take a couple of minutes to fill out their survey. Thank you!


Next week …

Our mission is simple. We’re virtually camped at Heritage Harbor parkrun in Ottawa, IL. And it’s around 800 miles to get back home to College Park. Can we do it? It’ll be a stretch, but with your help we can get there.


Our target for next week! Can you help?

See you then!

CP Virtual parkrun Crew


25km contributed by Team Schneider. Joshua did an extra 5K to cover for James


Valerie Silensky found this boundary stone on the DC line


Warm run for Patrick Wojahn


Nick Huang, one of the founding team of CP parkrun, took part from his home in Windsor, CT


A deer nursing a fawn, seen on John Ramsey's virtual parkrun




Kalonji visited Hump on his virtual parkrun


And it's Memorial Day weekend. Thank you to all those who this day is about. Including all those who are on the front lines of helping us through the current health crisis