Good things all around us (Virtual Report 15)

Things aren’t normal right now. But this weekend we had a few more encouraging signs.

  • The Saturday morning weather was milder. Some even described it as ‘pleasant’. It was certainly nice for sitting still outside with friends.
  • Our friends at The Board and Brew report that their reopening has gone well enough that they will now be open 7 days a week. We’re certainly glad to have them back.
  • parkrun Global published a revised operational model for how they can hold events in places where limited social distancing measures remain in place. This doesn’t mean that we’re about to return, but it provides more clarity. More on what this means below.

And the other great news, of course, is that so many people in this community got active and supported each other from near or far. Here are just a few of the highlights.



Socially-distanced meet up behind The Board & Brew / Vigilante Coffee. Plenty of space to catch up with friends and support local businesses without getting too close.

Facts and Figures

  • 152 virtual parkrunners
  • 720 miles covered
  • 9 first-timers
  • 9 new TEN TIMER TURTLE badges earned
  • 7 new HIGH FIVES earned
  • 6 barkrunners
  • 8 virtual volunteers



We are fortunate to have such nice shaded trails to run and walk on


Heather Sisan shared a picture of the trivia board that she has placed outside her house. Heather: “My dad made the frame and we've been having fun posting a new question every day - mostly science and nature topics, sometimes history or art. Lately I've been doing fun facts about running - fastest time for a mile, how far an ultramarathon is, etc. I've heard from several neighbors that they enjoy it. Anything to pass the time in a pandemic!”

Well, we happen to know the length of the Appalachian Trail, as we ran it virtually the past 3 weekends. But you’ll have to look up the length of the PCT to answer Heather’s question. (Note that the precise distance of a 5K in miles is ~3.107 miles. But for CPVp we're pretty chill, so we adjust 'close enough' distances to a 5K.)


Heather's trivia board. Can we get partial credit for knowing the length of the AT?

Külli Crespin found a rather stunning backdrop for her CPVp in Estonia, where it was unusually hot as she and her friend Mehis Mega geocached around Castle Alatskivi.


Castle Alatskivi, Estonia. Pretty!

Our virtual parkrunners in Connecticut were harder hit by Tropical Storm Isaias than we were in Maryland, with huge numbers of homes losing power. Joan Heffernan has been out of power all week, but she somehow still managed a 5K PB. Nice going, Joan!

Nick Huang, also in CT, got power back just in time for the weekend. So he and his wife Jessica celebrated by going for a hike to a local farm. Nick: “The Tulmeadow Farm has a long history: it's apparently been in continuous operation since 1768. But the main attraction for us was the award-winning ice cream they sell at the farm store. Sadly, I completely misread the opening hours and we got there too early!” It sounds like this is a hike that will need to be repeated.


Don't they know that it's never too early for ice-cream!

Cork Kind, Adam Gann and barkrunner Walker got in a long run around the University of Michigan Arboretum in Ann Arbor, MI. This was their wedding anniversary, and the arboretum was where they got married. Awww. (Cory pointed out that they were more casually dressed this time around.)


Happy anniversary, Cory and Adam!

Pratyush Tiwary did a run around St Inigoes, MD, a small village on the far southern tip of Maryland, near the mouth of the Patuxent River. Wikipedia says: “It is a part of the site of the first colonial settlement in Maryland (along with neighboring St. Mary's City) and is also therefore part of the fourth colonial settlement in North America.” We had no idea!


Thanks for the history lesson, Pratyush!


We had three generations of Rosenbergs run with us virtually from Iowa! Brian, Dave, and Peter all ran in 27:17, with Dave earning his ten timer turtle badge this week. And these three were just half of the SIX Rosenbergs who took part in CPVp this week, across four locations.


Three generations of Rosenbergs among this week's 6 Rosenbergs in CPVp

Malik Al-Jame and nephew Isaiah Dycks both hit PB’s this week! Isaiah has been making great progress, setting PBs the last five weeks in a row. They ran into a bunch of regulars including Bud, Colin, Trace Huard, and many more... Malik’s brother in law Jeremiah Dycks and sister Danielle Dycks along with his niece biked down the trail to join them.


Isaiah's 5th consecutive PB. From 52 minutes to 27 minutes in a month. Wow!

Team Schneider: Joshua, Erin, Mary Clare and Samantha clocked 1:13:23 on the Trolley Trail, while being super stylish.


Did you know that it's tutu day on Aug 22nd? Samantha is ready. Are you?


Lots of fun nature pictures and stories this week.

Louise Godley has been enjoying running down the middle of Sligo Creek Parkway now that the road is closed to vehicles every weekend. On the walk back, she and Anne L’Ecuyer also found some delightful sunflowers in Takoma Park and spotted an adult deer and three fawns munching their way through someone’s garden.


Louise stopped to smell the roses, er, sunflowers on her run

The wildlife always seems to find its way to Dave and Alyssa Heintzelman’s virtual parkruns. This week it was all about the turtles.

Lisa Wilson scoped out the beaver dam built near College Park Woods that pushes the water behind the dam up into her backyard.

Tara & Xander Mease slowed down their run through woods to take in the symphony of birdsong that they could hear.

Stefano Gazzano found a baby blackbird with a broken wing at the end of his run. He took the bird to a veterinary center and it is now being treated thanks to the LIPU - Italian League for the Protection of the Birds. He sent us a picture of the bird that he rescued, but we’ll instead show you a picture of the view as he ran along the water near home in Civitavecchia, Italy. (In the background you can see a line of cruise ships. Civitavecchia is the main cruise port for Rome.)


Civitavecchia shoreline. Nice place for a morning run.


We start this week’s milestones with a shout out to our 9 first-timers, as starting is the biggest step of all.

Luke Evans, Diana Claros, Sophia Kasdan, Chevy (barkrunner), Will Makowski, Chris Lowe, Kristen Limarzi, Steven Borunda, Mehis Mega

A big virtual high five to Sophia Kasdan who is joining us to help get active again. Welcome Sophia! She was joined by Lorelai, who we think may be a very young person, maybe a parkstroller.

Will Makowski also joined us with a very young human for company, as he joined his friends Rachel Unger and Jeff Brown and baby Felix for their first full 5K walk on the Paint Branch Trail since Felix was born a couple of months ago.

Kristen Limarzi and Steven Borunda are regular parkrunners who we spotted on the trail Saturday morning. It’s always great to see familiar faces out there!


Great to see Steven on the trail this week

Luke Evans may have contributed more miles than anybody this week with his 22 miler. Luke is a UMD grad student and he and his mentor Pratyush Tiwary are training for a marathon this summer. We heard that a few other parkrunners have similar plans. The basic routine is that you struggle through a lot of miles during the DC summer, and then when it cools down you feel like a superhero.

Welcome also to Mehis Mega, Chris Lowe, and barkrunner Chevy, all of whom joined us by way of joining with regular parkrunners, whether in Estonia, or Rhode Island, or sniffing around near Hump’s Crossing for beavers.


Valerie and Chris did their longest run or walk in months while visiting Newport, RI

This week 9 more people earned turtle badges in their CPVp results.

Evan Hirsche, Zak Mellen, Eddie Matus, Dave Rosenberg, Janet Grudzien John, Adam Gann, Anna Weber, Frithjov Iversen, Samantha Ager

Andrea captured Eddie in the middle of his 10th CPVp on the Paint Branch Trail.


Turtle badge for Eddie!

Anna Weber, Firthjov Iversen, and Adam Gann are all from the Roosevelt Island parkrun community, and we love hearing about their adventures, local and far away. This week Anna sent a picture of this cool red-legged buprestis beetle seen on Roosevelt Island. We are mighty impressed that Anna was able to identify this species!


Can you see those red legs?

And we congratulate 7 more people with High Five badges in the results sheet.

Andres Mbouh, Isaiah Dycks, Jason Barthelemy, Scooter (barkrunner), Tony San, Jon Mease, Marianne Poon

Andres Mbouh has been putting down some speedy times in his evening runs in Bowie. We imagine that he’ll be flying once the weather cools down a bit.

We’re happy to hear regularly from Marianne Poon, who was talked into joining us last year by her piano student, Stewart Mayhew.

Virtual Volunteers

We had a veteran crew of virtual volunteers this week. In addition to the week-to-week team that keeps the systems humming along (Colin Phillips, Andrea Zukowski, Tara Mease, Joyce Adams, Anna Tinnemore), and Hannah Russell, who has become a key contributor to these weekly reports, we had a great group of rotating volunteers this week.

Trace Huard and Katie Hirsche did a lot of the results curation, monitoring different channels and keeping track of who did what.


Trace en route to equaling his all time parkrun PB. In this humidity!

And Lisa Wilson had the unplanned role of beaver coordinator. After the rains from Tropical Storm Isaias at the start of the week, various sections of trail were flooded, including a section by Hump’s Crossing that we will refer to as “Hump’s Lake”. The pond was overflowing, and not draining as it should. Lisa, who is a handy engineer herself, took on the role of coordinating with MNCPPC to find out what was going on and how it could be fixed. It turns out that it comes down to a decades long battle of engineering wits between humans and beavers. And guess which species has the upper hand.


Hump's Lake

Looking Ahead

Locally, the COVID-19 situation in Prince George’s County and in Maryland has been similar for the past few weeks. In College Park, the big change will come later this month when the population swells with the return of many UMD students, though in much smaller numbers than in the usual late August surge. Campus dorms are currently projected to be at roughly 40-50% capacity.

The most significant development for parkrun plans this week is the release of parkrun Global’s COVID-19 framework, together with an accompanying discussion on parkrun’s official podcast, Free, Weekly, Timed. This week's podcast is worth a listen, as it adds useful context. Together, these give us a clearer idea of what lies ahead. But it’s useful to clarify what these do and do not mean.

If we are to return to our regular face-to-face events, then we need buy-in from a few key groups. (i) Local authorities and landowners. We offer free events thanks to the Prince George’s County Parks & Recreation Department. They are great partners. Without their approval, we can’t go ahead. (ii) Global parkrun authorities. The infrastructure that allows us to put on simple, free, safe events every week is shared among 2,000 events worldwide. They manage the IT and the insurance and the registration and more. Without their approval, we can’t go ahead. (iii) Local community participants, volunteers, and event leaders. If the community is not ready, if volunteers won’t feel safe, if too many people feel excluded, then we have a problem. Without community buy-in, we can’t go ahead. Each of these pieces must align.

The new parkrun “framework” is just one piece of the puzzle. It is a set of modified guidelines for how parkrun events could operate in a setting where social distancing measures and a low-level of community spread of COVID-19 remain. This is a significant shift, as back in April parkrun had said that there could be no return while any social distancing measures remain. Recall that back in April many of us assumed that we’d be locked down for a while and then normal life would resume. How innocent we were! Even ignoring how badly the virus has been handled in the US, most of the world is in a “new normal”, and we have no idea how long this will last. Countless other events and institutions are creating new models for how to balance normal operations with mitigation of risk. This is what parkrun is also doing now.

But it is important to be clear that the new framework answers the “how” question, not the “when” question. It says how events could adjust in order to reduce risk. It doesn’t say when all of the different pieces will be in place for them to get the green light.

The adjustments are almost all focused on reducing physical contact and close physical proximity to a minimum. They increase the use of apps to reduce physical sharing of equipment. We already do most of that at College Park parkrun. They recommend spreading people out before the start to reduce crowding. We have ample space for that at Acredale Park (and we can find a better megaphone). They recommend a ratio of barcode scanners to finishers (about 1 to 50) that is roughly what we do already.

Some of the proposed changes may appear to remove some of the warm, community aspect of parkrun. There’s a request to suspend high fives for now (and presumably hugs -- this is less of a worry for the Brits, we presume). There are notes about curtailing celebrations, post-event gatherings in the park, and token sorting and results processing at post-event meetups. These are all things that we love. So we were initially disappointed. But two things made us feel better about this.

First, we have to understand all of these guidelines in context. If the alternative to mitigating risk is simply canceling, then the choice is clear. And we are sure that we can all find ways to preserve the warm vibe of our community event. Also, we have the ability to spread ourselves out safely before and after an event, in a way that an 800-person event in a small English park might not be able to.

Second, the success of CPVp over the past 3 months has helped us to learn a huge amount about how virtual vs. in person events support a healthy community. College Park parkrun may be one of the only parkrun events worldwide (out of 2,000) that has seen higher participation since going virtual than before. That is a testament to the strength of this community. But we have also seen that there has been a shift in participation. We have a strong following of regulars, and we love the diversity in age, gender, speed, and location. But we see fewer newcomers, fewer people who do not already have a personal connection to the community, and less ethnic and socioeconomic diversity than in our in person events. We will be able to serve more people in our community if we are able to bring people together in person, even with modified operations.

Ok, but when is any of this going to happen? The simple answer is that we just don’t know. But it is unlikely to be anytime soon. We anticipate that the COVID-19 parkrun framework will be used only in countries where the remaining community spread of the virus is low, and many other aspects of society, such as schools, are operating more-or-less normally. It is highly unlikely that US parkruns would return before parkruns in mainland Europe, the UK, or Canada. So we do not expect to see any practical changes in our week-to-week activities in the remainder of 2020.

So for the time being we forge ahead with CPVp, looking to help people stay active and connected, and looking forward to welcoming new people to the community. And we are SO grateful to all of you for the things that you do to help us keep going.

Until next time!

Your CPVp Team


Kalonji got in an early run on the regular course


Whistler was pretty happy that Tim opted for a 5K walk this week


Eli continued his art tour around Hyattsville and Riverdale Park with Ellen. It's almost like this one was designed to frame him.


10th CPVp for Janet this week, again enjoying a long walk with dad Mark in Michigan


Jen's foot has recovered enough for her to walk 5k again. Husband Travis snuck in his CPVp at 4:30am, so Jen found this Testudo to pose with instead.


Look who we found roaming the trail with her camera this week!


High water on the Potomac, but the Roosevelt Island boardwalk is still looking inviting. This was from Rosemary Schwartzbard's run to the Lincoln Memorial and Reflecting Pool.


Michelle got in some extra miles this week, enjoying the short respite from the heat


Matt K. at Hump's Crossing


Malik set a parkrun PB of his own (21:50) before joining nephew Isaiah for his PB


Laurie and Lucy on their run. This week they ran 6.6 miles on Lucy's 66th birthday.



The connector trail to College Park Woods is nearly finished


Fun talking with parkrunners at the socially distanced meetup. Ellen biked up from Riverdale Park to join us, and parkrunners Elizabeth and Janel stumbled across our gathering while en route to the UMD pool, which reopened just days ago.