A new journey (Virtual Report 7)

This week, as usual, our plans for a short-and-sweet virtual parkrun report were overtaken by events. We had spectacular Saturday weather, which inspired you to go out and do so many cool things. We were on the fence about starting a new virtual “tour”, and then events out in the world made it clear that if we care about inclusion in the present then it’s time to learn about the history of inclusion in our country’s history. And an announcement of a new initiative from parkrun HQ got us thinking about what we’ve learned from the first 7 weeks of CPVp.



Julie, Neil, Dottie, and barkrunner Trista hiked at Gunpowder Falls State Park

Facts and Figures

  • 181 virtual parkrunners
  • 825 miles covered
  • 24 first-timers
  • 18 new HIGH FIVES earned (now over 100 in the 5-club!)
  • 11 barkrunners
  • 6 virtual volunteers


Mary Langan and Captain Jack joined us from NJ, part of this week's crew from Roosevelt Island parkrun

Where Things Stand

We are now 7 weeks into our CP virtual parkrun experiment. It’s not like meeting up at the park on a Saturday morning. But many things have worked well, and we’re surprised that average participation has been over 150 people per week, already with over 100 5-timers. But what we have been most pleased about is the way that the virtual events have helped people to feel a little bit more connected despite our isolation, a little bit more motivated to get active. Social support for healthy activity is what we are all about.

You might have seen communications from parkrun HQ (in the UK) this week about their new “(not)parkrun” initiative, which is basically a virtual parkrun on a global scale, starting this week. And so you might be wondering if this replaces our CP virtual parkruns or changes how they operate. The simple answer is: no, it doesn’t make a difference. We’ll keep doing what we have been doing with CPVp. We encourage you to take part in both (not)parkrun and CPVp if you would like to.

Some things are similar between the two initiatives. Both involve parkrunners and parkwalkers getting active at a time and place of their choosing and reporting via an honor system, leading to creation of a weekly results table. Also, both are not official parkrun events, and don’t contribute to tallies for milestone shirts. And, of course, they’re free, inclusive, and swag free and prize free.

Other things are a bit different.

(not)parkrun is automated, robust, scalable, and integrated into the central parkrun IT that supports nearly 7 million registrants worldwide. It’s all about recording times for a 5K distance (any day of the week) and displaying the times in a results table. We anticipate that there may be separate results tables for individual events each week and an aggregated national table.

This is all good. It allows all 2,000 parkrun events worldwide to offer some kind of virtual parkrun experience. And it can happen without any effort from local volunteer crews, who may have all manner of other things to contend with in their lives right now.

CPVp is different because we’re all about social support. Yes, we collect times and distances, but we’re interested in so much more than that. We’re interested in sharing stories, we’re interested in giving support (via Facebook, Strava, email, or whatever). We’re interested in the chit-chat that we get from Zoom meetups or random encounters on local trails. We’re interested in how you’re supporting friends and family in getting active, even if you’re far apart from each other. And we’re as interested as ever in ensuring that everybody feels that they belong, whatever their age, pace, or background. This all takes more time and coordination than simply having folks submit times to a database. And for that reason we also need a volunteer crew each week to keep things going. And volunteering isn’t just a chore. It’s a fun way to connect with others while doing something positive for your community. That’s also what has made it work so well. It helps us to keep going as a community, and may even help some new folks to join the community.


5K walk to coffee. We're cool with that. Especially when it's Vigilante Coffee. Neha and Yogarshi have their priorities right.

You won’t be surprised to learn that we have also been doing research on different models, both for virtual parkrun and for other virtual events. It’s fairly clear that the social aspect is even more important in virtual events than in in person events. That’s why CPVp participation has been at or higher than participation in our regular in person events. (Well, and there’s also our policy on virtual barkrunners. Because why not!)

So, CPVp will keep going for the foreseeable future, as long as there’s interest in participation and willing volunteers. Everybody is free to ALSO submit times to (not)parkrun. And you can certainly submit the same information to both initiatives. But if you want adorable or inspiring pictures of kittens or kids or centenarians or nature, here is where you will continue to find it.

Thanks to Shane Sharkey of Melton Mowbray parkrun in the UK whose pioneering work helped us to get CPVp off the ground, and whose thoughts about the different approaches to virtual events align very closely with ours. We basically took Shane’s model and "College Parkified" it.


Coffee time! It's not The Board and Brew, but it's great to see friends from near and far

Fast and Slow

Last week we celebrated the old and the young. This week we have some great stories from opposite ends of the speed spectrum.

On the speedy end, this week’s fastest finisher, both genders, was Katie Hirsche, who ran a 5K time trial at Blair HS track in 18:18. That’s fast! How fast? Well, it’s almost half a minute faster than the existing women’s record for CP parkrun. And Katie just completed 11th grade of high school. We look forward to the time when we can all cheer Katie as she zooms past on the trail en route to a real course record. Better yet, after the time trial Katie headed out for a few miles of easy running on the trails with the family, including barkrunner Sophie.


After laying down a new female course record, Katie did some trail running with the family

At the other end of the speed scale, this week’s unofficial tail walkers were Team Schneider, who incorporated some trail enrichment into their walk on the Trolley Trail. Pre-K and elementary schoolers Mary Clare and Samantha painted some rocks with uplifting messages and placed them strategically along the trail. That’s why the 5K took them 1h42, but so worth it. We already heard from other parkrunners that they noticed the rocks and wondered who put them there. So now you know!


Look out for decorated rocks along the Trolley Trail

Some others put down some notable times this week.

Lori Dominick has been coming back from injury, and managed a hilly 5K in Greenbelt in under an hour for the first time in a while. Big kudos for Lori!

Alyssa Heintzelman was seen sprinting to the finish of the regular CP parkrun course. This was because she was pushing for her first sub-30 time in a while. Nice! (And Alyssa reports that the kitten she rescued in CPVp #5 is doing nicely in its new home.)

Trace Huard has also been coming back from injury, and celebrated being back into the 24-something range for 5K. And Keaton Ellis was very happy to complete his first sub-21 time in a while.


Nice job, Lori. This comeback is ON!

The Tour

We launched a new community distance challenge this week, following on the successful parkrun Across America in May. Inspired by recent events, we started a civil rights history tour, following a route of at least 1900 miles from Topeka, KS through OK, AR, MS, AL, GA, SC, NC, VA to end in Washington, DC. This should take about 3 weekends.

We were inspired by learning about the US Civil Rights Trail. And we were also inspired by realizing that there are important historical events in the news that we are unaware of. Learning about history won’t directly solve society’s current problems. But it’s a start in understanding the current moment.


This week's route: Topeka, KS to Jackson, MS

Here are some of the places that we virtually visited this week, and some of the things we read along the way.

Topeka, KS. Focus of the landmark 1954 US Supreme Court case, Brown vs. Board of Education, which ruled school segregation unconstitutional. The chief lawyer in the case was Thurgood Marshall. [history.com, Wikipedia]

Tulsa, OK. Tulsa has been in the news a lot recently. Because of events planned for this week, and events that happened 99 years ago. See: Tulsa race massacre of 1921. [Wikipedia, Washington Post 6/13/20, bonus: What is Juneteenth?]

Little Rock, AR. The Brown vs. Board of Education ruling did not go over well in Little Rock. That’s where the Little Rock Nine come in. There’s a memorial to these brave high schoolers at the Arkansas State Capitol. [National Museum of African American History]

Sumner, MS. Recent events have created many reminders of the murder of 14-year old Emmitt Till, and the men who were acquitted for his murder in a courtroom in Sumner, MS. [Civil Rights Trail description]

Jackson, MS. This is our final destination this week. Home of Medgar Evers, Tougaloo College, and the site of the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. [Civil Rights Trail]

We are learning a lot about the history of the struggle for inclusion on this virtual tour. We encourage you to do some digging yourself.


The Little Rock Nine Memorial at the Arkansas State Capitol

Go Far

Some of you went the extra mile this week as we tried to collect miles for our virtual tour. We did not expect that some would go an extra 20 miles, or even more!

David Lai combined his CPVp with an unofficial “Juneteenth Marathon” in Washington DC, covering 27.2 miles along a rather interesting looking route. Juneteenth is coming up this Friday (6/19), and it has extra significance this year. It has been in the news a lot this past week. Why is this marathon one mile longer than a regular marathon? That’s tied into the history of Juneteenth - things that you don’t get to celebrate as soon as you should. And fittingly David’s marathon ended at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in Southeast DC.


David's route for the Juneteenth Marathon. Very cool!


Finish at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site in SE DC. Very appropriate.

Malik Al-Jame took part in the half marathon version of the same event. Nice job, Malik!


Juneteenth half marathon for Malik

In Bloomfield Village, MI Tim Keer decided that a marathon was not enough. So he decided on a whim to extend his 25-miler to a 50K (31 miles), contributing 5K to the Lillie Virtual parkrun in Ann Arbor, and 28 miles to CPVp. But our favorite part of this is that for the last couple of miles he was joined by his daughter Emma, on a bike, who he had not seen in person for over 3 months. That’s a pretty nice reward for completing your first ultramarathon.


Emma Keer accompanies dad Tim as he wraps up an impromptu ultramarathon around his neighborhood

And even further afield, we got 17 miles from Linda Phillips, in Bristol, UK. Linda has never been to College Park, but she has been following us from afar since we began. She’s Colin and Andrea’s sister-in-law. We hope we can welcome her to the trail in person some day.

High Fives and Bells

It’s all about taking part, in whatever way you prefer. So a shout out to this week’s 18 new 5 timers. Welcome to the High Five Club.

John Maneval, Cotter Rosenberg, Simon Wraight, Kurt Wilson, Stefano Gazzano, Dale Morey, Louise Godley, Jason Yarwood, Robert Bernhard, Judith Barnes, Enrique Jograj Jr., Julie Russell, Deborah Levenson, Eden Gray, Laurie Fisher, Lucy Younes, Misha Bernard, Jeremy Reuter.

This week’s new 5-timers include old and new friends, near and far. Stefano Gazzano is located outside Rome, Italy, where the lockdown was far more strict than ours. We have enjoyed reading his reports of his return to outdoor life. Laurie Fisher and Lucy Younes have been meeting up on the Paint Branch Trail weekly to exercise together. If it hadn’t been for the shutdown, we would have been celebrating their 50th official parkruns right around now.


Eden Gray joined the High Five club using a not-exactly-parkrun-compliant course in Columbus, OH. But for virtual parkrun - no problem!

And welcome to the 24 who joined us for the first time this week. We hope you’ll join us again!

Ariana Lecouras, Jonathan Morgan, Dominic White, Amanda Photenhauer, Carey White, Anne L'Ecuyer, Jonathan Garcia, Freya (barkrunner), Jessica Hsieh, Ariel Ayres, James Cantwell, Jeri Gallant Keer, Whistler (barkrunner), Elizabeth Sheridan, Eve Fingerett, Heather Sisan, Larissa Olson, Linda Phillips, Captain Jack (barkrunner), Deb Tinnemore, Marianne Poon, Mary Langan, Michael Bevers, Rod Tinnemore.

This week’s first-timers include Deb and Rod Tinnemore, Anna’s parents, who took part from Raleigh, NC. Hope you can visit us in person when that’s a thing. It’s good to hear from Marianne Poon again. We were thrilled to see that Louise Godley talked her partner Anne L’Ecuyer into joining us for the first time. And we’re really happy to see Jim Cantwell getting back into the game.


Welcome to first time virtual parkrunner Heather Sisan


You weren’t asking for nutrition advice, were you? Good thing. We’ll just leave here these inspired refueling options that parkrunners found in the absence of our regular post-parkrun coffee spots.

Bud Verge ran the Paint Branch Trail in College Park, then went for donuts. We hope he shared them! (Good luck with the knee procedure this week, Bud.)


Don't try this at home, folks. At least, not without inviting us to help.

In Newport, RI Janet Grudzien John noticed that the beach snack shop was exactly 5K from her front door. So, perfect way to combine a virtual parkrun (or two) with a lobster roll. We’re salivating!


It's not Lisa's turnaround spot, but that's a pretty appealing midpoint for a virtual parkrun, in Newport, RI

Virtual Volunteers

At a regular parkrun the volunteers are quite visible in their bright yellow vests, recording times, tailwalking, marshaling, giving high fives, and more. The rotating cast of volunteers (over 300!) is a key to the success of the community.

In our virtual parkrun format, the volunteer crew is even more important, but they’re less visible. They are what keeps the social support and inclusion of the event going. They track down activities, stories, and pictures from across multiple channels -- so that you don’t need to be on Facebook or Strava to take part. They help to provide support and encouragement to participants. They make it possible to keep track of things like distances covered, so that we can create community challenges. And they help to generate the reports that help us to feel together despite being apart.

A special shout out this week to first-time virtual volunteer Nick Huang. Nick was one of the initial core team members of CP parkrun back in 2016. One year ago this week we bid him farewell as he wrapped up his PhD at UMD and moved to Connecticut to get married and start a new job. We have really missed Nick, so it has been great that in the virtual parkrun format we have been able to connect with Nick again! This week he did an gentle 5K with his wife Jessica and barkrunner Freya on a trail in Simsbury, CT.


Virtual volunteer Nick Huang did his virtual 5K with his wife Jessica in Simsbury, CT

Also welcome this week to new virtual volunteer John Scott, who helped to collect pictures and stories. John has completed over 50 CP parkruns, and often comes with his adult son Isaac. We miss them both! For Isaac, the supportive community provides safe and welcoming human support. This kind of support is very hard to recreate in the virtual format. One more reason why we can’t wait to be back together again.



We're looking forward to welcoming John, Isaac, and Michelle back to the trail in person ... on some Saturday in the future

The rest of the volunteer crew was rounded out by virtual regulars Tara Mease, Joyce Adams, Andrea Zukowski, and Colin Phillips.

We cannot overstate how valuable it has been to have Tara as the results tsarina for CPVp. Thanks to Tara, we can instantly answer questions like: “It’s 3pm on Saturday - how many miles have we covered together so far today?” Or “How many new High Five club members do we have this week?”

Joyce is coordinating the Roosevelt Island parkrun community-within-a-virtual-community. This piece is working well. It allows the balance between being part of something broader while maintaining local social connections and support.

Looking ahead

We’ll be back next week for CPVp #8. We’ll look forward to hearing more of your stories, and we’ll continue learning as part of our civil rights history tour.

This week sees the next steps in the reopening of life as we knew it in Prince George’s County, with more businesses able to open starting Monday 6/15, though with many protective measures in place. We need to remain vigilant, and always remember that our own actions bear on the health and safety of those more vulnerable than us.

We’ll keep our eyes out for the possible return of outdoor fitness classes, such as our popular Yoga in the Parks partnership with Prince George’s Parks that we have held in past years. And we hope that it won’t be too much longer before we can start supporting The Board and Brew in person again.

Stay safe everybody! Keep wearing those masks! And we’ll see you soon.

CPVp Team


Happy Birthday Valerie! And happy Pride Month!


Valerie's route took in a well-timed break for this jazz quartet


That looks like a nice breathable mask, Zebi


Good to see Rory for our virtual parkruns, joining us from Morris Plains, NJ. It has been a hard month for him, so we're glad to see him smiling. 


The weather was great in MOST places. In Berlin, Germany, Kazuko got caught in a thunderstorm.


Jen Matis combined her CPVp with the virtual Run for Love in support of LGBTQ causes


Barkrunner Eli sat out Ellen's 5K, but lucked out with a stroll around Riversdale Mansion later in the day. Lucky pup!


Not the Paint Branch Trail! Another steep downhill virtual parkrun for Cindy Cohen in northern Idaho.


Sunny virtual parkrun for Ashfaq Hasan