Baby it’s cold outside! (Virtual Report 35)

“Cold today! I don’t usually run below 40 degrees, but I’m trying to keep up with the virtual parkrun crowd! You are motivating!”

Mary Anderson captures this week’s vibe perfectly. The cold was a bit daunting, and the blankets (or the warm car) were pretty hard to leave. But you were motivated to get outside. And we heard from so many of you that it felt great once you got moving.

That’s how it’s going to be, folks. For the next 10-12 weeks the name of the game is keeping warm, keeping moving, keeping safe, and keeping our spirits up.

So, without further ado, let’s see what everybody got up to this week at College Park Virtual parkrun #35.



Janel celebrated her birthday (Friday) with a pandemic-PB. Those Beforetimes runs are just a distant memory.

Facts and Figures

  • 151 virtual parkrunners
  • 645 miles covered
  • 1 first-timer
  • 7 new HIGH FIVE badges earned
  • 0 new TEN TIMER TURTLE badges earned (!)
  • 3 new 25-TIMER badges earned
  • 8 barkrunners
  • 7 virtual volunteers

Stat(s) of the week: After just 7.5 months the combined distance of your runs and walks totals 25,300 miles, that’s more than the circumference of the Earth.

In the old style CP parkruns it took us 97 events to circle the globe, and then another 63 events to do it a second time. During the pandemic we have done it in just 35 events. That’s partly because there are more of us taking part each week, and partly because we are recording whatever distance you cover each Saturday, which is an average of 6.9 km per activity.



Elmer is always happy to see friends along the trail

Baby, It’s Cold Outside

So you wanted a White Christmas? Well, we came close. It was definitely cold outside in College Park, with snow and ice on the bridges. Marylanders to the north or west of College Park were more likely to have actual snow after the big midweek storm. Folks further north or west had a lot more snow.

Cindy Cohen is still virtually parkrunning in the mountains of northern Idaho. But instead of careening down steep downhill routes, this week she was snowshoeing in a winter wonderland.


College Park Virtual snowshoe in Idaho

In Connecticut, Joan Heffernan reported morning temps in the single digits. Not that this was going to stand in the way of her completing her 35th CPVp.


Joan celebrated her new age category with a coooold run

Jen Matis was apprehensive about getting up on such a chilly morning, but once she hit the trails she found that it was perfect running weather.


Jen declared the weather perfect for running ... once you warmed up

Snow talk

Heather Sisan was appreciating the snowy woods along her route in Kensington, and that got her thinking about words for snow, inspired by a claim in a BBC story that Scots have 421 words for snow. Knowing that we have a few language nerds on the CPVp team (an understatement!), she asked for our thoughts.

… Well, it’s a bit of a contentious point among linguists. The proliferation of snow terms has long captured public imagination. You can find rankings of the languages with the most snow terms. Linguists often bristle at the exoticization of people who live in different environments, and also like to point out that it’s not so easy to say what counts as a “different word” in some languages. We recommend a fun essay on this topic: The great Eskimo vocabulary hoax (by linguist Geoff Pullum). And the Wikipedia article on Eskimo words for snow.

For most of us English speakers, we have few words for the icy precipitation that fall to the ground in winter: snow, sleet, freezing rain, and so on. Other languages sometimes make finer distinctions. One example is Éljagangur (Icelandic for intermittent snowstorms) that parkrun report assistant writer Hannah experienced when visiting Reykjavik in late 2015. She and a friend had hoped to drive the Golden Circle and then see the Northern Lights, but instead found themselves on a bus tour concerned about how the driver knew where to go when the only thing they could see out of the front windshield was a field of white. Luckily the snow slowed when they got to the tour destinations and they were able to see Þingvellir, Gullfoss Waterfall, and Geysir, the geyser after which all other geysers are named.

Of course, for those of us in the Washington DC area the only term needed in a typical winter is the “wintry mix” that causes 2-hour school delays. At least, in non pandemic times it did.

Thanks for the prompt, Heather!

Blue Christmas

This year’s holidays are not at all normal. Much less travel, much less gathering (thank you!). But there was circumstantial evidence of the season all around.

Team Schneider again set out after dark to check out the local holiday decorations. It looks like they found some!


Elves on a shelf

Stewart Mayhew was sporting a running-themed holiday sweater.


Emma Keer’s Hanukkah sweater is rumored to include jingle bells. Classy! Anyway, big congratulations to CPVp regular Emma on graduating from the U of Michigan this week … in addition to being the creative genius behind Ann Arbor’s virtual parkrun (see below for news about their special Solstice event), as well as the mastermind of the parkrun USA Instagram account -- it’s worth following!


Congrats to new grad Emma

Carly Maas headed home for the holidays to Greensboro, NC, as did her brother Daniel. So this week they got to run their CPVp together, and mom, dad, and barkrunner Shannon got in on the fun, too.


Carly and her brother Daniel were both back home after a strange semester

Ellen Oberholtzer and barkrunner Eli visited a Yule Goat in their neighborhood. “But what is a Yule Goat?” we hear you ask. Good question!

A Scandinavian tradition that may have been inspired by Thor’s chariot-pulling goats Tanngrisnir (“Gap-tooth”) and Tanngnjóstr (“Tooth-grinder”), the Yule Goat is today mostly celebrated by people placing small straw goats in their tree or hiding them in the houses of friends during the holidays. Along with giving his goat companions rather rude names, Thor also slaughtered and ate them at night, with the understanding that they would be reborn the next morning. It was pagan tradition to re-enact this ritual with a human clothed in goat skins- although the human was only “symbolically” killed and allowed to return to life with the sunrise. Christians did not appreciate the tradition, declaring the Yule Goat a demon. Over the years the Goat became a more benevolent being and today towns in Scandinavia build large straw goats each year. The largest of these is in Gävle, Sweden, where stories of the annual shenanigans surrounding the goat usually fall under the category of “this is why we can’t have nice things.”


Eli with the Yule Goat

Meanwhile, somebody else who is home for the holidays is Tomas Marambio, who ran this week’s fastest CPVp time of 19:47 … in Santiago, Chile, where it’s probably a little warmer than in College Park.

Tomas was just a few seconds ahead of Katie Hirsche, who did her CPVp as part of a 4.2 mile time trial on Beach Drive as part of the RunWashington DMV Distance Derby, a virtual competition for the pandemic in which runners compete on local Strava segments.


Katie speeding down Beach Drive

Santa was out and about this weekend; he was spotted by Rach and John Cousen on their run around the village of Asfordby, UK. We looked up the Strava trace of their route, and couldn’t help noticing that the next village over is called Frisby on the Wreake. Where do the Brits come up with these names! It turns out that the name is unrelated to disc-throwing. It comes from old Germanic, from times when Vikings settled the eastern part of England, creating lots of place names ending in -by. It means Frisian settlement on the winding river. And of course it shouldn’t be confused with another town called Frisby, 8 miles away near Billesdon. You’re welcome!


We're not sure if this Santa, seen by Shane Sharkey in Melton Mowbray, is the same one seen by Rach and John Cousen in the nearby village of Asfordby

Milestones and More

This week there were zero first-timers at CPVp. Not so surprising, given the cold.

But we did have a first-time visitor to the Paint Branch Trail. Derek Symer knows the trail like the back of his hand. His daughter Lilly is an increasingly seasoned campaigner. (We’re looking forward to seeing her earn a parkrun 10 shirt once that’s a thing again.) This week they persuaded mom to come check out the trail with them. Welcome Allison Aubrey!


Looking good, Lilly!


Welcome Allison!

This week we awarded SEVEN new High Five badges for 5-timers: Kristin Poinar, Elizabeth Sheridan, Rach and John Cousen, Brian Maas, barkrunner Shannon, Amanda Photenhauer.

This week’s 5-timers stand out for being all from our community of distributed College Park parkrunners. Kristen Poinar was local for a while and would run with us on Saturdays, but nowadays she’s a professor in Buffalo, NY. Check out her TED Talk about what’s hidden below the Greenland Ice Sheet (4.5 million views!!!!). Elizabeth Sheridan is a Roosevelt Island parkrunner who is the most seasoned US parkrun tourist. Rach and John Cousen are regulars at our virtual sister event, Melton Mowbray parkrun. Brian Maas and barkrunner Shannon are part of Team Maas, who joined us via Carly Maas. And Amanda is part of the Lillie parkrun, Ann Arbor community, who often gets to enjoy her Saturday mornings with Emma Keer (see picture above for proof!).

We had no new 10-timers this week. Hard to believe!

We had THREE new 25-timers: Joanne Smith, Michael Phipps, and Cory Kind.

Joanne is a local runner, Prince George’s Running Club regular, and mom of barkrunner Lizzie. Joanne is yet to join us for one of our old-style events, but we’re looking forward to welcoming her (and Lizzie, of course) when we’re able to do that again.

Michael is a regular at Mansfield, OH parkrun, where he was close to earning a 50 shirt before the pandemic struck. Let’s hope that he can reach that well-deserved milestone in 2021. Mansfield, OH parkrun is a truly wonderful community event. It was the next US parkrun event to start after College Park, in January 2017. They have built a wonderful community in a small town in north central Ohio, especially welcoming to walkers and beginning runners. It is a model of grassroots public health efforts, and it has inspired other events in Ohio, in Canton and Cleveland.


Michael is the 99th CPVper to earn a 25-timer badge

Cory was a regular at Roosevelt Island parkrun in DC before the pandemic. She is probably the only person to have ever run to College Park parkrun from another state, visiting us from Arlington, VA on foot one week. Nowadays she (and her husband and her barkrunner) are based in Detroit, MI. We love hearing from them most Saturdays.

In honor of our having run the circumference of the earth, Josh Weiss ran a circle-centric distance this week. Josh: “Since it was around the world day I made my workout in an equation. Workout was 2PiR with R=2km hard and Pi km recovery 2x. Then added 2.25km as a Warmup and Cooldown to make the total distance PiR^2.” That’s 12.57 km. Apologies for the geometry class flashbacks!

Virtual Volunteers

We are grateful to our virtual volunteers, who consist of a small core of regulars who keep things humming along almost every week, and a rotating cast of folks who pitch in for one week at a time. This week’s crew:

Katie Hirsche: results (Strava)
Tara Mease: results czar
Ellen Oberholtzer: results and cheerleading (Facebook)
Colin Phillips: propagandist and data analyst
Hannah Russell: report researcher
Anna Tinnemore: results (form)
Andrea Zukowski: email, photography

Can you help out with CPVp in the coming weeks? We’ll have 3 events in the space of 8 days from Dec 26th to Jan 2nd, so all help is welcome. In addition to the roles above, it can be very useful to have photo collectors and online cheerleaders. Drop us a line at if you can help.


Back on the injured list. Colin had to walk most of the route this week -- more time to enjoy saying hello to friends that he passed along the trail.


It was a quieter week for the barkrunners this week. It’s probably related to the cold, but maybe the humans were more reluctant than the pups.

Shackleton loved his run on the snow in his dashing Christmas sweater.


We love Shackleton's sweater. He loves running on the snow.

Eli was off exploring, as ever. In addition to the Yule Goat (see above), he stopped by to visit friends at the CPVp coffee meetup at the Discovery District Park.

Pakora went for a walk with Pratyush and Megan, and was thrilled to make a new friend at the College Park dog park. Oh to be a creature that isn’t susceptible to COVID-19!


Pakora made a new friend

Looking Ahead

There’s an interesting piece by Timothy Egan in the NYTimes this weekend: The next 3 months are going to be pure hell. Ok, so the title is a little bit scary. Egan compares the coming winter to the winter of 1805-6 for Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. They had completed their epic journey of discovery across the US and reached the Pacific Ocean in November 1805. But before they could make the journey back east they had to hunker down through a dark wet Oregon winter, with no guarantee that they or their crew would survive.

We’re in a similar position as a nation at the end of 2020. With two vaccines now approved, and many other causes for optimism in the Washington DC region, we can look forward to a better 2021. But it’s going to be a little while before that actually happens. It will be months before enough people are vaccinated to seriously slow the spread of the virus. Many will continue to get sick or worse. Many more will continue to struggle with isolation.


Free outdoor concert in College Park Woods on Meridith Phillips' CPVp. Things like this are going to help us through the next couple of months.

For many of our local businesses the winter is going to be even harder. Restaurants and cafes are not only closed to indoor dining at a time when outdoor dining is less popular. The local population normally thins in December-January in between semesters, but it has thinned even further this year due to the pandemic.

So, if you get a chance, do consider ordering out from a local eatery that you’d like to see thriving after the pandemic. And order through their in-house service rather than the big commercial apps that charge big fees. Here are the places that we have depended on for CP parkrun coffee over the past 5 years.

The Board and Brew has been our mainstay for much of the past 5 years. They take pickup orders and they have a number of COVID specials for 2 or 4 people that include a bonus game rental - call them on 240-542-4613 to order.

Vigilante Coffee has been a supporter of CP parkrun for a few years, regularly contributing gift cards for our volunteers. They have been very popular for our pandemic picnics. Their College Park location is open for pickup for drinks or snacks.

The Hall CP is adjacent to our current winter-friendly(-ish) meetup spot at the Discovery District Park They are open only afternoons/evenings in the coming weeks, but they have online ordering, and they have heaters on their outdoor patio.

The Bagel Place is a College Park institution that has been around for 30+ years. They are struggling to keep their team afloat right now, and started a GoFundMe that is approaching half of its target with an amazing 800 contributors so far.

Bagels ‘n Grinds is located close to the Discovery District Park, in The Hotel at UMD. We loved sitting by their fireplace after our Thanksgiving CP parkrun last year, and look forward to being able to do that again when indoor cafes are A Thing once more.

It’s going to be a hard few months for so many people, businesses, and organizations that are just trying to survive right now.


Seen along Robin Phillips' run in Bristol, UK. A city-wide advent calendar, with new seasonal song lyrics appearing on streets or on buildings every day.

Fortunately, one thing that is not struggling to survive is our CPVp community. This far into the pandemic, we are not worried about making it through the next few months. We’re not expecting much change in how we operate before next summer. So we’re going to do our best to have fun and stay active in the meantime.

With that in mind, here are the virtual parkrunning opportunities for the holiday season. Note the extra dates.

Monday December 21st. Our friends at Lillie parkrun, Ann Arbor are holding an extra virtual parkrun to mark the winter solstice, which somehow seems extra meaningful in 2020. Nothing special going on for CPVp, but head on over to their Facebook page if you’d like to join their community on the darkest day of the year.

Friday December 25th. Our friends at Melton Mowbray parkrun in the UK -- they have kind of become our pandemic pals -- are holding a Christmas Day virtual parkrun. It’s standard in the UK for events to hold an extra parkrun on Dec 25th. This is their equivalent of our Thanksgiving special event. The action takes place on their Facebook page. Note that in order to report your activity by 8pm UK time you need to report by 3pm US Eastern.


More from the Bristol city-wide advent calendar

December 26th: Meanwhile, back in College Park we’ll be holding CPVp #36 on Saturday 12/26, “Boxing Day”. It is still very much appropriate to wear Santa hats, ugly sweaters, elf suits, or whatever else takes your fancy.

On Dec 26th we will also be marking a milestone of sorts for this community, as it will be our 250th event in College Park, completing 5 years of meeting up every Saturday on the Paint Branch Trail. This includes the 33 meetups that we held before the official launch under the parkrun umbrella, the 181 regular CP parkrun events, and 36 pandemic events. We’re looking forward to sharing some of our favorite memories from the past 5 years, and we’re looking forward to hearing about your favorite memories.

January 1st & 2nd: Our New Year’s Day parkrun is traditionally our largest of the year. We have no intention of letting the pandemic stand in the way of celebrating the start of 2021. Safely, of course. Also, January 2nd is a Saturday. So we’ll have consecutive CPVp days, to give you an extra opportunity to work towards 50 CPVps. As we did at Thanksgiving, we’ll compile separate sets of results for the two days, but a single super-sized report.

So we have much to look forward to in the next 2 weeks, even if the holidays are far from normal in 2020.

Until next time!

Your CPVp Team


Barkrunner Nathan sends his regards from Civitavecchia, Italy to his friends in College Park


David and Malik ended up running an unplanned half marathon around District Heights



John M and John M enjoying the Paint Branch Trail


Gloria first got in a run with Tuffi, then went for a walk with Scruffi


Arctic Foxy in Canton, OH