A more perfect union (Virtual Report 8)

The title of this week’s report, “A more perfect union” is taken from the US Constitution. It’s also the title of an important 2008 speech by a young senator from Illinois, addressing issues that are very much with us today. The question of whether we want to be a more inclusive society, or one that is more divided, was all around us this June 19th (a.k.a., Juneteenth) and 20th.

We are just a little running and walking event in a suburban college town. For us, being an inclusive community mostly involves simple stuff like volunteering, and supporting one another in getting active, whatever our age, speed, gender or gender identity or ethnicity. But this week we kept seeing connections from our little community to the broader history happening around us.

Louise Godley and Anne L’Ecuyer squeezed in their virtual parkruns between thunderstorms and … getting married! We are thrilled for these two. And we are also mindful of the fact that this would not have been possible until very recently. Congratulations, Louise and Anne!


A rather excellent union! Congratulations, Louise and Anne!

We were reading about history from the 1960s as part of our virtual civil rights history tour. But when we mentioned the Selma-Montgomery voting rights marches of 1965, regular parkrunner Clare Imholtz said, “I was there!” She was a college freshman and took a bus to Alabama on her own because it seemed like the right thing to do. Things that are distant historical events for many of us are very real personal experience for others.

Many of you sent us pictures of you going about your activities while masked up. Thank you! While masking isn’t required outdoors in Maryland (it *is* required indoors in stores etc.), widespread mask wearing sends a strong message that we care for each other and that we will work together to protect the vulnerable among us.

So what all happened in CP Virtual parkrun #8?


Yes, this! Heather Sisan found this on her run in Kensington, MD

Facts and Figures

  • 185 virtual parkrunners
  • 770 miles covered
  • 20 first-timers
  • 19 new HIGH FIVES earned
  • 10 barkrunners
  • 6 virtual volunteers


After 8 weeks, 394 individuals have participated 1,325 times, covering 5,280 miles in College Park Virtual parkrun. 122 individuals have taken part at least 5 times.


Colin ran into John, wearing his black 100 shirt that he earned exactly one year ago

Fear the Turtle(s) ... and maybe bears

Paul Wester learned what the University of Maryland Athletics tagline “Fear the Turtle” really means when he came across a turtle the size of his torso while on his run. He paused long enough to get a picture of it, but luckily it was facing the other way so he didn’t have to worry too much about how much damage those jaws could do!


Fear the turtle!

Turtles were a common sighting this weekend, with Dave and Alyssa Heintzelman reporting that they rescued one during their virtual parkrun. We’re not sure if it’s the same one as Paul’s, but we would be impressed if they had managed to move the one pictured above!

Mary Menendez from Roosevelt Island parkrun counted 31 turtles, along with the many ducks and fish, in the canal. Mary also had a close encounter with a deer who had no respect for social distancing guidelines.

But turtles were not the only thing worth fearing: Joan Heffernan, joining us from Connecticut, was on alert for a mama bear and 3 cubs that have been roaming her area. Fortunately all she saw were just a couple of runners and a bunny.


Joan was happy to NOT encounter these neighbors on her outing this week in Suffield, CT

Creative courses

A few parkrunners got creative with their courses this week. Team Schneider did 2K of their 5K through Luray Caverns, the largest caverns in the Eastern US. This may be the first known case of parkspelunking.


We love the masks AND the stalactites!

Stewart Mayhew ‘drew’ some Strava art in his neighborhood, as part of his recovery from a speedy run in College Park.


That's one way of celebrating a new parkrun PB!

Zebi Brown didn’t let the storms stop her from joining the fun. Instead she did laps between her TV and her stove, and she managed to keep going until she reached 3K. Impressive!

Civil Rights History Tour Progress

We continued our virtual civil rights history tour. Last week we covered 800 miles from Topeka, KS to Jackson, MS, including a stop in Tulsa, OK, which was prominent in the news this weekend. This week we covered 725 miles from Jackson, MS to eastern South Carolina. Here are some of the sites passed along the way.


Our virtual civil rights history tour progress this week

Jackson, MS. Medgar Evers, who led efforts to integrate the University of Mississippi, was assassinated in 1963 at his home in Jackson, on the same day that President John F. Kennedy delivered his most well known civil rights speech. [Civil Rights Trail]

Selma, AL. The story of the Selma to Montgomery marches for voting rights in 1965 is well known, but less well known is the levels of segregation, violence, and disenfranchisement in Selma that led up to this. In 1964 African Americans made up around half of the population of Selma, but only 1% of voters. [Wikipedia]. Today the population of Selma is 80% African American. That’s about the same as the African American or Hispanic population of Prince George’s County, Maryland.

Montgomery, AL. Montgomery was the site of Rosa Parks’ famous arrest for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white person. It also features prominently in the less well known story of the Freedom Riders, who faced shocking violence as they rode buses in pursuit of integration. [Civil Rights Trail]

We learned that Clare Imholtz was actually in the Selma-Montgomery march in 1965. As a freshman in college, Clare hopped on a bus with a bunch of strangers and joined the march on its way into Montgomery!

Atlanta, GA. Atlanta was the home of Martin Luther King. It has also long been represented by Rep. John Lewis, whose role in civil rights history extends from 1960 to the present. Look out for a forthcoming movie about Lewis’ life, due to be released on July 3rd. [Good Trouble - trailer]

Orangeburg, SC & Summerton, SC. These towns in eastern South Carolina are less well known, but played important roles. Orangeburg is home to South Carolina State University, and it was the center of SC’s desegregation movement in the 1950s and 1960s, including the site of the Orangeburg Massacre of February 1968. [Civil Rights Trail].

Summerton is a small town of just 1,000 that was the site of the first school desegregation case that culminated in the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education Supreme Court Case of 1954. Have things improved? Well, yes and no. Today Summerton is roughly 40% white, 60% black. But the local public high school is 95% black. Most white kids attend a local private school. [Discovery Channel video]

Next week we head north across SC, NC, VA towards our finish in Washington DC.


Start of the Selma-Montgomery march, March 1965. By the time they reached Montgomery the crowd had grown to over 25,000.

High Fives and PB Bells

This week we congratulate another 19 new members of our virtual High Five club, folks who have participated in 5 CPVps. For this great honor they appear in the weekly results table with a high five emoji next to their name. Yeah, it’s not much, but it’s what our budget can handle.

Tomas Marambio, Chris Anderson, Luther Lemon, Dominique Lisiero, Cory Kind, Lara Pagano, Derry Jarvis, Yogarshi Vyas, Rachel Lukens, Cameron McPhee, Eli (barkrunner), Ellen Oberholtzer, Jessica Gerbig, Amanda Mercer, Derek Symer, Anna Weber, Foxy (barkrunner), Luke Reuter, Samuel Mora

For Cory Kind, a Roosevelt Island parkrun regular, it’s a goodbye of sorts, as she’s moving to a new city. Cory is the only person we know of who has ever run to CP parkrun … from Virginia. But one of the nice features of the virtual format is that it really doesn’t matter where you are. So we hope to keep hearing from Cory!

Luke Rueter earns a virtual high five this week. Luke, age 9, has been heading out with dad Jeremy each week, gradually building up distance. This week they did 2.5 miles, and we hear they may be ready to tackle the full 5K next week. Go Luke!


Go Luke! He's running a little further each week with dad Jeremy.

Derek Symer completed his 5th CPVp taking a walk with his wife Allison in Kitty Hawk, NC. Kitty Hawk is the place where the Wright brothers famously flew the first controlled, powered aircraft in 1903. Less known is that 6 years later, Wilbur Wright founded the College Park Airport to teach the first military aviators. Today, College Park Airport is the oldest continuously operating airport in the world and boasts a Smithsonian Affiliate museum. (Well worth a visit.)

Jessica Gerbig earned her high five club badge running in the downpour together with husband Rob, dad Gus, and daughter Cora. They looked bedraggled but happy.


We also welcomed 20 first-time CPVPers this weekend. So we ring the virtual PB bell for:

Isaac Scott, Martin Kearns, John Scott, Elliott Hamilton, Tony San, Amy Weaver, Steve Beresford, Samantha Looney, Gwyneth McElhenny, Kate McElhenny, Mariella McElhenny, Robert von Haase, Judy Mulusa, Chris Lovell, Joanne Smith, Lizzie (barkrunner), Michaela Lovell, Nishinoya Yuu, Rebekah Esmaili, Willow (barkrunner).

Welcome to Team McElhenny (Kate, Mariella, and Gwyneth), who joined us virtually for the first time. It seems like forever ago that we had our last in person event on March 7th, where they brought cake for everybody to celebrate Mariella’s 10-parkrun milestone. Poor Gwyneth is stuck on 8 official runs - so for her next CPVp we’ll be sure to have virtual cake for her.


March 7th, 2020, celebrating Mariella McElhenny's 10 parkrun milestone. That was our last time together. It seems so long ago.

We were super happy to see Isaac Scott join us for his first virtual parkrun. He ran with dad John at their local track.


Also great to see Judy Mulusa join us for her first CPVp. Judy was just a few parkruns short of earning a 50 shirt before the shutdown. We’re going to be especially happy to celebrate those new milestones once we get going in person again.


Last summer. Judy Mulusa in a sprint finish with Yancira Amaya

We’re enjoying welcoming more parkrunners to CPVp from the lovely communities at Roosevelt Island parkrun and parkruns in Ohio. This week’s first-timers included Islanders Martin Kearns, Tony San, Steve Beresford, and Chris and Michaela Lovell. Chris and Michaela were contenders for the most scenic location, doing their parkhike from Sugarloaf Mountain, VA. (Yeah, apparently Virginia has one, too.) And we welcomed first-timers Samantha Looney and Robert von Haase from Mansfield, OH parkrun.


View from Chris and Michaela Lovell's parkhike at Sugarloaf Mountain, VA

A shout out to Nishinoya Yuu, who got moving in Ocean City, MD, part of Zoe Phillips’ virtual parkrun crew, who have been getting in miles for us in locations around N America each week. We love how this crew that mostly came together around shared online interests is now hitting the trails together, virtually.

A virtual PB bell is in order for Stewart Mayhew, who somehow smashed his PB on the CP parkrun course in this week’s swampy weather. When Stewart first joined us in late 2018 he was a new runner, finishing with a time of 28-something. This week: 21:34. Wow. Stewart has been putting in the miles, and it shows.

Dagny S set a PB, too. Not for speed, but for distance. He completed his longest run ever: 15 miles covering the WHOLE length of the Paint Branch Trail, from Lake Artemesia to Beltsville.


One year ago

Jen Matis is working up to new distance targets too. This week we found her running on her treadmill *during* the pre-parkrun briefing. #multitasking


Andrea's giving the pre-parkrun briefing, and Jen's already underway on her treadmill!

Meanwhile, 100+ time parkrunner Eddie Matus had been running exclusively on his treadmill in recent months, but he got to run outside for the first time this weekend. He hit the Paint Branch Trail and was quickly rewarded with seeing a few familiar parkrun friends.

Virtual Volunteers

Our regular virtual volunteer crew (Tara Mease - results, Joyce Adams for Roosevelt Island, Colin and Andrea for lots of stuff) was joined by two new virtual volunteers. Thank you!! We couldn’t do this without a team working together behind the scenes each week, collecting and sharing the cool things that you get up to.

Alex Dystant joined the results crew for this week. Her role was to pull activity reports from Strava that get added to our ever growing spreadsheet of CPVp activities, where we keep track not only of times and distances, but also notes on cool things that you tell us about. Alex is among our speedier parkrunners, and we look forward to watching her zoom past on the trail in the future.


Alex Dystant with parkrun friends, Thanksgiving 2019

Hannah Russell stepped up to help in putting this report together. Hannah first joined us in our earliest events in late 2016, but we haven’t seen her in over a year, as she has been working in Australia … where she also got to visit Kelvin Grove parkrun in Brisbane and Studley parkrun in Melbourne. Recently returned to University Park, MD she’s looking for work. So if you know of anybody who could use a super talented UMD graduate in engineering and environmental science, we can put you in touch with Hannah. [ed. - to clarify, Hannah didn’t write this part!]


April 2019: Hannah admires Tara, Xander, and her mom Judy doing parkrun warmups

Looking Ahead

We would LOVE to be able to get together again on Saturday mornings, in person. But we see little prospect of this happening anytime soon, alas.

One piece of encouraging news: we heard from our friends at The Board and Brew that they are working on plans for reopening. We don’t know when that will be, but you will definitely hear from us when that happens.

Maryland is showing encouraging progress in limiting the spread of COVID-19. New cases, hospitalizations, and deaths are all now around a third of their peak in April and May. But there’s still a long way to go. And much of the US is now headed in the opposite direction. In New Zealand social distancing restrictions have largely been lifted and parkrun events in New Zealand will resume on July 4th. We think it unlikely that the US will be in that situation before the end of 2020.

So we’ll keep looking for ways to keep supporting our healthy community while we’re apart. And we love hearing your ideas for how we can do this.

Our virtual parkrun approach focuses on the social aspect of parkrun. That’s why we’re continuing to focus on gathering and sharing stories and pictures via email, social media, and whatever else works, rather than shifting to the new (not)parkrun system launched this week by parkrun HQ.

Our approach takes time and effort, but we can now see the difference that it makes. Worldwide, participation in (not)parkrun in the first week was 5%-10% of typical weekly totals. Meanwhile, participation in local virtual parkruns with more social support is dramatically higher. We’ve been following and learning from communities in Melton Mowbray and Swindon in the UK, and in the US in Redmond, WA, Ann Arbor, MI, and Leakin Park, MD. Many of these are seeing 50%-100% of typical weekly participation.

The stories and the support that you share makes this SO much more rewarding than a set of 5K times. Unsurprisingly, as a community we get out what we put in. We are so glad that you are a part of this.

Until next week!

Your CPVp Team


Keri and Amanda enjoyed a walk-run together


Sophie never misses a chance to splash in Rock Creek


Smart Shackleton heard the thunder and bailed. So Angela ran by herself this week


Pete and Caitlin, running in Canton OH, did not realize they had a snake for company as they were taking this photo


"I haven't tried to jog in months and you would have thought I was doing a 50k but I pulled out all the tricks in the books (counting tenths of a mile, counting minutes, counting songs) and thought about running the Roosevelt Island course and all the people cheering me on and I didn't stop. I was super slow but I finished and I'm looking forward to the next one." Great job, Mary and Captain Jack!


Welcome to first-time virtual parkrunners Joanne and Lizzie


Eli combined art appreciation with his barkrun this weekend in Riverdale Park


Foxy chased bunnies for a mile before letting Eden head off to do her virtual parkrun


Catherine and Pete looking good in their red 50 shirts. 6 mile run, then blueberry scones at Shortcake Bakery in Hyattsville, then yoga. Perfect!