2020 in Review (Virtual Report 36)

This week’s College Park Virtual parkrun was notable in a few ways:

  • In College Park it may have been our coldest Saturday of 2020 (we tested this scientifically by looking at the hats and gloves in our photo albums from last winter)
  • It was the final Saturday of 2020 (we thought it might never come!)
  • It was our 250th event at College Park parkrun, counting all formats (that one crept up on us)

So we’re taking a different approach to this week’s report. We’re ditching our usual Looking Ahead column and some of our other regular features in favor of some Looking Back at how we got here. What happened over the past 5 years, and what happened in 2020. Did any of our predictions or hopes for 2020 come true?

Don’t worry, we do also have some of your pictures and stories from this weekend. Scroll down for those. And you’ll find this week’s results table there, too. Don’t forget that we have TWO CPVps in the coming week. CPVp #37 is our New Year’s Resolution event on Friday 1/1. CPVp #38 is the following day.

This one is a bit long. Sorry! But you gave us a lot of good material.

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Cool swag for Shackleton this week. Check out that kerchief!

250 Events

It seems like just yesterday.

Planting a seed. At Christmas 2015 the Washington Post published a story about the impending launch of Fletcher’s Cove parkrun in Washington DC. The story somehow reached Robin Phillips in Bristol, UK, who passed it along to his brother Colin and sister-in-law Andrea Zukowski. Andrea decided pretty much right away that she wanted to start a similar event in College Park.

Andrea had started running at the beginning of 2014, at age 49. On family visits to the UK Robin had introduced her to a few parkrun events. Andrea was really taken by the low-key, community aspect, and wished that there was something similar closer to home. Seeing what was happening at Fletcher’s Cove she said, “If they can do it, so can I!”

Andrea and Colin attended the Fletcher’s Cove launch. Andrea emailed a list of friends to invite them to the Paint Branch Trail for a run on Saturday 1/16/16. About a dozen came along. Most joined for coffee afterwards at The Board and Brew.

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1/16/16 -- Pioneers

The plan was to explore different possible 5K routes. But really the Paint Branch Trail route was so good that we never tried anywhere else. Well, aside from Week 2, when Snowmageddon blocked all local trails, so a group met up to run around University Park (see Virtual Report 34).

Through most of 2016 the Saturday meetups continued at Acredale Park, as Andrea worked on the steps to turn the meetups into an official parkrun event. Prince George’s County Parks was taken aback at first when they were asked for a free permit to hold a 5K event 52 weeks of the year, but they have become wonderful partners. Getting insurance required first incorporating as a company. Raising seed funding required knocking on a lot of doors, and it created many valuable community connections. That’s why there were 33 ultra low-key events before College Park parkrun launched officially.

The proto-parkruns were very small. Average attendance was around 8, and never more than 13. One hot August day Andrea and Colin went to the park and nobody else showed up. But those events laid a lot of groundwork. They created a routine. They created the seed of a community. And they built an initial team of volunteers.

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Memorial Day Weekend 2016. 4 showed up in the rain.

Taking root. The first year of official parkrun events was all about turning a startup idea into an established part of the local community.

By the time Andrea picked up the megaphone to welcome a crowd to College Park parkrun #55 in late October 2017 that transition had happened.

There was a big crowd of over 150 … plus Testudo … thanks to teaming up with UMD’s Homecoming. By that point, anybody looking to put on an inclusive 5K event in College Park was likely to talk with Andrea first. Two years earlier it would have been inconceivable for Andrea to be a local authority on anything related to running.

On that same day Clark Ridge became the first College Park parkrunner to earn a red 50-timer shirt. By that point he was one of many regulars, of all ages and speeds. In that first year nearly a thousand people took part at least once, and more and more of them were coming back for more.

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By the time of the Homecoming event it had become easy to recruit a solid volunteer crew each week. The CP parkrun team had doubled in size. By then our regular course marshal spots were established -- on Memorial Day weekend we had surprised Hump Plotts with a delivery of a “Hump’s Crossing” sign to him, as CP mayor Patrick Wojahn and parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt sped past during the event.

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May 25th 2017. We surprised Hump with a sign.

When Andrea welcomed the crowd to CP parkrun #55 she had also been through a summer when she was diagnosed with kidney cancer, underwent surgery, and was back to walking the trail with new friends just one week later.

After 33 proto-events and 55 official events, College Park parkrun was working. And this was starting to draw attention and shift some of the local energy.

Scaling. On the same day in late 2017 when Testudo visited, we were also recruiting people to fill out surveys for a project with UMD’s School of Public Health. They were helping us to understand the ‘special sauce’ behind what was working in College Park, with the aim of replicating it and improving upon it.

The rapid establishment of College Park parkrun was notable from a public health perspective because of the strong grassroots energy, including the broad volunteer base. It was interesting from a parkrun perspective, too. The free, weekly 5Ks were a roaring success in a few countries, but no previous event had taken root so fast in North America. College Park parkrun had also been featured in a Wall St Journal article in Summer 2017.

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At the end of 2015 when we started planning College Park parkrun, there were just 4 parkrun events in the continent, and the jury was out on whether events could thrive in the US. By the October 2017 there were 24 events, and it was clearer that they could thrive, but were by no means guaranteed to do so.

In College Park parkrun we already had a welcoming community, but it was not as diverse as the surrounding community. It was whiter, faster, more middle-aged, and also more male. We wanted to know why some people were more likely to show up, or more likely to come back regularly. Over 2018-2019 we worked to make the community more diverse and more inclusive on all of those dimensions.

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Community partnerships definitely made a difference. We worked with Prince George’s County Parks to adopt the trail, and we organized trail cleanup events. We partnered with UMD on their Good Neighbor Day events. We partnered with the College Park City-University Partnership on their Trolley Trail Day. Groups like the Fit for Christ Boot Camp allowed us to reach new groups, as did partnering with the Prince George’s Running Club.

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Good Neighbor Day

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Volunteer takeover day with Prince George's Running Club

More and more people got involved, and by the end of 2019 the crowd size that had been an extreme outlier in late 2017 was now just a normal Saturday.

New US events were starting up, too, often influenced by our experience in College Park. Kensington parkrun started in March 2018, just a few miles around the Beltway, led by a group of College Park and Fletcher’s Cove regulars. Jamaica Pond parkrun in Boston started the following week. This event, and the ones that started in Ann Arbor, MI and Tucson, AZ later in the year, all followed a similar startup model to College Park.

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Yoga in the Park with Prince George's County Parks

Colin and Andrea spent a lot of time in 2018 and 2019 working on how to replicate the College Park experience in other US communities, working together with a team of kindred spirits from around the country. They drew on a lot of data, from communities around the country, to understand what works. More and more other communities were thriving, though it was still anything but inevitable. A great deal had been learned about what works in US settings, and that knowledge is available should others want to use it.

By the end of 2019 Colin and Andrea had left this phase behind, and returned to a focus on the needs of the College Park parkrun community. This shift proved to be timely, given what 2020 had in store.

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We regularly hosted the girls of Seton HS XC team

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Hundreds of community members have volunteered at CP parkrun 

2020 in Review

2020 turned out to be hard in so many ways. Between the pandemic, politics, social upheaval, and environmental disasters, there was plenty to be worried about. A huge amount was lost, including by many in our community.

2020 also had bright spots. All around us we saw creativity and openness to change.

For the College Park parkrun community 2020 was very different than we had expected. Yet some things worked out the same or better than we had predicted. And we learned a huge amount along the way.

We began January with our traditional New Year’s Resolution event, teaming up with other local events to allow double parkruns. We saw a record crowd of nearly 300 in College Park, and Pam Marcus pulled off the cool trick of leading the show as run director in both Kensington and College Park.

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A unique double for Pam Marcus - Run Director at two events on January 1st

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Nearly 300 at Acredale Park on New Year's Day 2020

Pam noticed that we took a shine to the Kensington sandwich board that she lent us for NYD, so she got us one of our own. Thanks Pam!

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We take those rules seriously!

February seemed like just a normal month. We welcomed unusually large winter crowds. There were achievements to celebrate, new people to meet, and special days to mark.

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February: Violet Ridge turns 11 and earns her "parkrun liberation"

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February 22nd - Tutu Day

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Valentine's parkrun

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Welcoming new parkrunners

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Colin showed up to a work gig in Philly, and found that he was across the street from the NEW Board and Brew. Things looked so promising for our favorite local coffee shop.

Also in February, Rebecca White shared this wonderful story with us about her personal journey: Karaoke, a 5K, and the Grand Canyon. Well worth a read.

Everything changed dramatically in March. On March 7th we were starting to pay more attention to the spread of the novel coronavirus. So we made some safety-minded tweaks to our normal operations. We retired the PB bell, we encouraged elbow bumps, and we quarantined the finisher tokens. We figured: if we can control the things that we touch, then we’ve got this!

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March 7th - this is going to be easy, right?

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March 7th - Team McElhenny celebrated Mariella's 10-parkrun milestone.

Just a few days later everything shut down. We spent one morning in urgent calls among DMV parkrun teams about whether to cancel the March 14th events. This all became moot a couple of hours later when the governor closed down events across the state. A couple of hours after that the UMD campus was emptying out and College Park was turning into a ghost town.

We figured this might last for a few weeks.

Already by the next Saturday we were looking for ways to stay connected.

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Seen in The Board and Brew

Since we couldn’t come together in person, we created makeshift Hump and Lisa signs that we set up at their regular marshal spots along the trail, so that anybody could visit them any time of the week.

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Lisa is there for you 24/7

By April folks were getting restless. And creative.

One month after regular events had closed, we held a virtual coffee meetup. About 40 people showed up.

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Reconnecting

We noticed that lots of virtual running events were popping up. Most were virtualized versions of established races. These replaced the buzz of a regular event with, well, nothing. For example, CP parkrunner Jackie Hayes did the Virtual Cherry Blossom 10 Miler … wearing a mask … entirely on her front porch. Impressive! But also very isolated.

At the same time we noticed new types of events that focused on connecting people, often across long distances. These were surprisingly fun. One that impressed us was the Quarantine Backyard Ultra, which at its climax had Arlington’s Mike Wardian competing in his neighborhood against Radek Brunner, who was running on a treadmill in the Czech Republic. Another was a virtual 24-hour relay that our friends at Jamaica Pond parkrun in Boston took part in. These events showed creative ways of helping people to feel less isolated.

So we started testing the waters for keeping the College Park parkrun community moving. We started encouraging folks to share stories about their Saturday morning activities on a Facebook thread. We researched what other parkrun communities around the world were doing. We did not want to stick our necks out too far. A handful of events in the UK were exploring ways of operating virtual parkruns. Melton Mowbray parkrun was one of the most interesting, and we noticed that the folks at Perrigo parkrun in Seattle started following their lead in late April. Colin joined Perrigo from afar to get a feel for what it was like to do a “virtual parkrun”.

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Fiona Sisan sharing the optimism of spring

We gathered a ‘brain trust’ of  CP parkrun volunteers for an online discussion of options, and received strong encouragement to do an experiment with College Park Virtual parkrun.

May was our first month of virtual parkrunning. At first we were nervous, in just the same way as when we started in person events. We had no idea who would “show up”, or whether the tech would work.

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May 2nd - ready to start College Park Virtual parkrun

We were surprised right away by how many people joined us -- after just 48 hours notice -- and even more so by the cool pictures and stories, by the many far flung locations, and by how well people embraced the notion that this really wasn’t a race. (More below on what helped with that.)

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We were thrilled that old friends could now join us, such as the Gieskes in South Bend, IN

We awoke on our first morning to a charming message from Steve Hendrix, currently reporting from Israel as the Washington Post’s Jerusalem bureau chief, on how he recreated the College Park experience.

“I did it right: stood around listening to myself make announcements and then set out right at 9 am (local, 2am for you), even shouted “Morning Hump!” out and back at a confused woman sitting on a bench.”

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Steve Hendrix may have been the very first CP Virtual parkrunner

We loved hearing from Rachel Unger on her increasingly impressive “parkwaddle” outings as her due date approached.

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Rachel's parkwaddle had a purpose - Vigilante coffee!

Rescuing kittens had never been a part of CP parkrun before. But this happened on the Paint Branch Trail one day in May. Twice.

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Double kitten rescue!

We noticed that we were collectively covering a lot of distance each Saturday. So we tried a virtual challenge of running and walking the distance across America by the end of May, with regular updates on our progress. We made it, and with distance to spare! On Memorial Day weekend you recruited friends and family to add to the total of 1000+ miles.

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Leg 5 of our Virtual parkrun Across America

One of our favorite stories from May was the community support for Mary Clare Schneider. Mary Clare had been attending CP parkrun for years. Sometimes in a stroller. Sometimes walking the whole way. Sometimes as a volunteer. But she couldn’t scan her own parkrun barcode like big sister Samantha, because she wasn’t yet 4 years old. Then, just as her 4th birthday was approaching, the pandemic hit.

With help from many community members, mom Erin Schneider hatched a plan. She arranged Zoom calls for parkrunners to record applause tracks. Andrea made a certificate and snuck out to do some chalking on the trail. Lisa and Hump made cameo appearances at their marshal spots. And there was cake, too. It all added up to a special day for Mary Clare.

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By the time June came around it looked like -- maybe -- we were starting to get the pandemic under control. But other crises were surging, as protests surged around the country following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

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Early June scene from Valerie Silensky's virtual parkrun in Hyattsville

With civil rights in the news every day, we chose civil rights history as our second virtual tour, covering three weekends in June, following a 2,300 mile journey of discovery, and learning a lot along the way.

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Paul Wester's virtual parkrun took him to Frederick Douglass Plaza on the UMD campus

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More civil rights: Anne and Louise squeezed in a virtual parkrun ahead of getting married

Week after week, we also marveled at the creativity of the routes that parkrunners were choosing, from a ski mountain in Idaho to caves in Virginia. We invited you to run or walk anywhere, and you took that to heart.

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Yes, you can do your CPVp anywhere. Luray Caverns, for example.

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Nice Strava calligraphy by Stewart Mayhew

July brought heat to the mid-Atlantic, as usual. With less ability to physically escape we fled to the hills virtually, doing a virtual Appalachian Trail tour over 3 Saturdays. A few parkrunners managed to incorporate the real AT into their CPVps.

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There's Stewart again - now on the Appalachian Trail in Maryland

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Dave and Alyssa covered the W Virginia section of the Appalachian Trail

This year was the first time that July 4th coincided with a parkrunday in College Park. The pandemic wasn’t going to stand in the way of celebrating that.

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Sharlene Deskins was ready for July 4th

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Patrick Wojahn combined his July 4th CPVp with the College Park Porchfest

Lisa Wilson showed that virtual parkruns were for anybody, anywhere. One day the age range of our participants spanned over 100 years.

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Anywhere. One day Lisa walked 5K via many laps of the Lewes - Cape May ferry

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Anybody - James Wilson, age 102, became a regular CP Virtual parkrunner

In August the reopening of The Board and Brew and preparations for a very different fall semester in College Park inspired us to make some changes.

The evidence was increasingly clear that outdoor activity was much safer than indoor activity. The folks at parkrun HQ even commissioned a scientific report on this. It was equally clear that people craved non-electronic communication. Local businesses needed our support. We also saw a risk of a community like College Park becoming more siloed as thousands of students returned to town but might see other adults mostly through Zoom windows.

We started to visit the regular CP parkrun course on Saturdays. There were no coordinated gatherings, no crowds. But those who showed up were sure to see a friendly face or two. And possibly a friendly photographer.

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Malik enjoyed running his own CPVp and then meeting up with nephew Isaiah for more

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Just act normal for the photographer. Derek and Lilly enjoying fall weather.

We started leaving messages of encouragement in chalk on the trail. And soon found that others responded. So we started leaving a box of chalk at Acredale Park and waited to see what would appear on the trail.

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Call ...

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... and response

We started weekly social-but-distanced meetups in the pocket park by the Paint Branch Stream, right behind The Board and Brew and Vigilante Coffee. Easy to spread out, chat with friends, and enjoy treats from local businesses.

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Plenty of space to spread out

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And delicious treats from Vigilante and The Board and Brew

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Rain? No problem. We can move inside the parking structure.

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August 22nd was Tutu Day again

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Team Rosenberg joins us regularly from around the country, including this group in Mechanicsburg, PA

By September we were feeling whiplash. There were reasons for optimism -- about the pandemic, about the state of the country, and even about the return of live parkrun events. Plus we were starting to enjoy glorious early fall weather.

But this kept being mixed with setbacks, of all kinds.

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You never know who you might meet on the trail on a Saturday morning

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This tourist attraction didn't exist at the start of 2020

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Team Kelley enjoying September weather

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One morning in September, the trail was a tribute to RBG

In College Park, the population swelled, with 20,000+ students on or around the UMD campus. The town was no longer the ghost town that it had been for much of 2020. But locals were on edge. Coronavirus case counts were climbing locally. UMD’s new president was seen standing outside student bars at night handing out face masks. Were things about to get really bad in College Park?

… No, they did not. It needs to be said really clearly that students, UMD, and city and county officials worked together really well. Students were overwhelmingly safe and considerate. And the community fared much better than many had feared.

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Outdoor meetups helped us to meet newcomers to College Park, such as new grad student Carly, who had messaged us at the start of the semester to ask about local running routes

In October the community was making the most of the fall weather for getting outside.

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We swear that we had nothing to do with this graffiti

Local trails turned out to be a popular spot for virtual marathons, half-marathons, and ten milers. It turns out that virtual events aren’t so lonely when you have friends and family to support you. They felt very different than in the spring.

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Colin's virtual London Marathon was live streamed to the BBC by his pace crew of parkrunners. He ran 8 laps of the CP parkrun course, with so much support along the trail.

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Jackie Hayes ran her first TWO marathons, virtually, on the CP parkrun course

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Stewart warming up for his (virtual) marathon debut with a virtual parkrun

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Nina and Chris McGranahan preparing for a (virtual) half marathon together

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In late October a group of parkrunners made a field trip to PG Parks' Jug Bay 10k. Instead of a live event, the parks department set up a course for use at any time during October.

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 Mayor Patrick Wojahn recovered from his virtual Marine Corps Marathon by dressing up as a clown for virtual Halloween

Other things were happening in the world, and they could be combined with CPVp.

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Anne L'Ecuyer at the turnaround point on her CPVp on October 17th

On October 17th we celebrated our 4th birthday. With the help of socially distanced cupcakes.

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Throughout the pandemic, the Sisan family has updated a trivia board in their front yard in Kensington, MD each day. On October 17th it featured our birthday.

While some were going long or slow, others were going very fast. A masked pace crew came out to help Katie Hirsche lower the female course record for the CP parkrun course. If it wasn’t for the pandemic, Katie would have been enjoying a very successful high school XC season. She has been a stalwart volunteer for CP Virtual parkrun. Clark Ridge’s pacing effort was all the more impressive, as he had been enjoying a sleepless October looking after newborn son Milo.

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Katie and her masked guard en route to a course record (the first of two!)

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Andres brought friends to the trail. And his mom. Perfect!

Halloween did not disappoint. Among the more surprising things that we heard this year, in a year of many, many surprises, was when we arrived at Acredale Park to be told, “There’s a kangaroo at the turnaround spot”. Tiffany Englander was marshaling for a group that was doing a 5K time trial. So why not dress in a kangaroo onesie!

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"There's a kangaroo at the turnaround."

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Thanksgiving - Paul Wester's family celebrates his streak of running 365 days in a row

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Thanksgiving - sisters Carly and Erin running the National Mall together

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Thanksgiving 2020 - Mike and Bonnie McClellan have now completed more CP parkrun 5Ks than their combined age (163)

November started with a spectacular Saturday as a crew of parkrunners worked on trail maintenance as part of UMD’s Good Neighbor Day. On November 7th there was a festive atmosphere all around, and many people had a little extra spring in their step during their virtual parkrun.

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Beautiful weather for Good Neighbor Day 2020

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Everybody had an extra spring in their step on November 7th

On Thanksgiving weekend we challenged families to do our virtual Turkey Trot, even if they couldn’t come together in person. And they did. The Ridge family brought out as many as 18 on a day when we saw the biggest CPVp crowd yet, with 250 participants, checking in from around the world.

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Thanksgiving - Team Ridge turned out 18 parkrunners, and a banana creme pie

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Thanksgiving - Team Hernandez was out in force

On Thanksgiving Saturday we found a mysterious greeting from Fletcher’s Cove parkrun on the trail, and later found that it was left by Sol and Terri Snedeker as they completed all five DC parkrun courses in one day.

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Some runs had a much smaller footprint. Occasionally we would hear from folks who had found a way to get in their virtual parkrun despite being confined indoors, whether due to quarantine, weather, or work. Some were treadmill parkruns. No big surprise there. Others were more inventive. Such as when Frank Snyder, quarantined in a retirement home, measured the distance from his piano to his bed, and proceeded to run a 98-lap out and back course in his apartment. Frank is yet to miss a CPVp.

By December the cooler temperatures brought weather that was better for keeping moving than for standing still.

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The weather also tested the fortitude of our social-but-distant meetup crew, as the pleasant shade next to the Paint Branch stream turned into a freezing wind tunnel. But we weren’t willing to go into hibernation. Nor did we want to abandon the local businesses who desperately need our help, especially with the re-closing of indoor dining and the thinning of the student population. So we moved to a winter spot in the Discovery District Park, directly behind The Hotel at UMD, next to The Hall CP. It’s a spot with ample seating, good distancing options, good parking, and no shade. Which is exactly what works at this time of year.

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The Discovery District Park is just the ticket for our winter social-but-distanced coffee meetups. Plenty of space and sunshine.

2020 in Numbers

This year’s numbers are both surprising and strangely predictable.

  • 47 events (11 “classic”, 36 virtual)
  • 1,000 individuals completed 7,630 runs or walks
  • 50,000 km covered
  • Around 75 people volunteered 400+ times.

The surprising part is that participation in our events actually grew during the pandemic. This is crazy. We explored some of the reasons for this in Virtual Report 34.

The predictable part is that participation was almost exactly what our projections suggested at the start of the year, simply based on following year-to-year trends at College Park parkrun.

With the shift to virtual events, 2020 was a mixed story in terms of diversity goals.

Speed diversity is dramatically better than before. Nowadays around 50% of participants either complete a 5K in over 40 minutes or choose not to share a time. Walkers fit right in at CP Virtual parkrun. In fact, they’re more likely to be the folks sharing the cool stories.

Gender diversity is also improved. It used to be that more women than men would register for CP parkrun, but more men would show up every week. That’s because men were slightly more likely to come regularly. That’s no longer true. Regular participants are almost exactly evenly split between men and women, and in a typical week we hear from more women than men.

Other kinds of diversity have lagged a bit. Right now the community is probably less diverse in terms of racial or socioeconomic background. We hear from fewer people whose primary language is not English. We see fewer young people aged 10-25. These are not surprising, given how we connect these days. But they will need attention in 2021.

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November saw the opening of the new College Park Woods Connector Trail 

What Worked?

Our focus for CP Virtual parkrun has been squarely on social support and inclusion. These are all the more important in a time of social isolation. We took a few steps. Some proved more sustainable than others.

Some people want to cover 5K or more, some don’t. Some want to compare their times to others, some don’t. Some want to test their own fitness. Others are happiest to get outside with a friend or family member. Some want a routine. Others appreciate the flexibility to fit around the rest of life. Giving people freedom in how far, how fast, where and when to get active has been a real hit.

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Joan Heffernan was one of the virtual parkrunners who was able to join us every week, despite being in Connecticut. She blew through her goal of running a full 5K by the time she turned 70 in December. She has never missed a CPVp. Her daughter got her this CPVp shirt as a 70th birthday gift.

Reaching people via multiple channels has been a success. We knew that social media like Facebook work for only one segment of the community. The growth of our Strava community surprised us. The College Park parkrun “club” on Strava now has 350 members. Lots of parkrunners support each other’s activity through the week via the app. Some people like to email us every week to tell us what they have been up to. Others prefer to use our online form. Many people stay up to date via Andrea’s weekly email. Others don’t realize that those emails exist (sign up, it’s worth it) Some are just happy to say "Hi!" along the trail on a Saturday morning.

Live online gatherings were more of a mixed bag. From May to July we held 9am pre-event briefings and/or virtual coffee meetups on Saturdays. They were good for a while, but were harder to sustain. Our friends at Melton Mowbray parkrun approach their weekly live briefings in a different way, with a different surprise guest each week. They have been quite successful. In fact, Colin got to be their guest briefer one weekend. On Halloween he gave a parkrun briefing in the dark, from his back patio, via Facebook Live.

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5am on Halloween: Possibly the first ever parkrun briefing given in the dark. 

Live human interaction, within what is safely possible nowadays, has made a big difference for many people. Early in the pandemic we made a point of avoiding the Paint Branch Trail on Saturday mornings, to discourage 9am gatherings. But in recent months it has worked well for people to just show up at a time of their choosing. Trail flybys, chalk messages, distanced chats in the park or over outdoor coffee all can do things that electronic communication struggles to match.

An unqualified success has been the elevation of barkrunners in our virtual parkruns. Our four-legged family members have been an important part of what has kept us sane and active this year.

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Pakora is one of our regular virtual barkrunners

Most of all, what has worked well in 2020 is that there is so much more grassroots sharing and storytelling than in the past. That is what has sustained the community.

Behind the Scenes

College Park parkrun has always been a 100% volunteer operation. But volunteering has taken on a different role in 2020. Instead of people in bright yellow vests in the park, the “virtual volunteers” are mostly hidden from view. But they are as important as ever.

Many people have rotated through our weekly results processing roles over the course of the year. But we need to give special recognition to the team that has been helping out almost every week.

Tara Mease built and maintains the back end that allows us to keep track of who has done what. It is hard to keep track when people are checking in via many different channels. But Tara has made it so much easier to manage. Anna Tinnemore has added key components to that. Katie Hirsche has become our Strava guru, and also became our top Strava cheerleader.

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Tara and Xander found themselves on the trail

Hannah Russell has helped to keep the weekly reports on time and interesting with her writing and background research, supporting Colin’s Saturday night scribblings. The weekly reports have played a much bigger role in 2020 than in previous years, as they’re the main way that people learn what happened, in a place that (almost) everybody can reach. Since the start of the pandemic they amount to around 100,000 words and 1,000 photos shared. In addition to her email efforts, Andrea Zukowski is the Pete Souza of College Park Virtual parkrun, with her photography helping us to feel a little more connected. And if you’re enjoying the parkrun volunteers whose images cheer you along the Paint Branch Trail this winter, then you have Zoe Phillips to thank for the artwork.

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If you're on the Paint Branch Trail on a Saturday you'll likely see Andrea (and camera)

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Lori loved meeting her sign on the trail

Ok, so what happened in CPVp #36

We thought you’d never ask!

We’ll keep it brief, though. You’re probably most of the way through your coffee at this point. In CPVp #36, we had:

  • 146 participants
  • 615 miles covered
  • 3 first-timers
  • 6 milestone badges earned
  • 13 barkrunners
  • 6 virtual volunteers

THIS WEEK"S RESULTS TABLE IS HERE

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It was cold. Probably the coldest Saturday of the year, with temps in the mid 20s at 9am. There were cool ice formations all along the Paint Branch Trail.

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There were a couple of icy patches, too, that needed extra caution.

A few extra people did their CPVp on a treadmill this week. Understandable.

The cold wasn’t going to stand in the way of our social-but-distanced meetup at the Discovery District Park. This week’s big breakthrough: bring blankets! This could be the innovation that gets us through the winter.

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Don't leave your blanket at home!

Thanks to everyone who is continuing to support our local businesses. Neha Joshi chose some excellent seasonal fueling for her virtual parkwalk with the family, taking along an eggnog latte to keep warm.

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Some of you were appreciating the gifts that Santa (or your spouse) had brought you, to keep moving through the winter. Two thumbs up for those of you who received new nighttime gear.

Some of you were channeling Santa.

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Many enjoyed getting out for a post-Christmas jaunt together.

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Team Maas in Greensboro, NC

For Mary Hicks it was also a birthday celebration walk, joined in Rockford, IL by her daughter Amy (mayor Patrick’s cousin).

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Happy Birthday Mary (and welcome, Amy!)

This week’s virtual parkrun milestone honor roll:

25-timers: Evan Hirsche, Hannah Russell, Heather Sisan
10-timer: Megan Newcombe
5-timers: Mark Shroder, Michelle Phillips

This week's volunteer crew consisted of the regular team (see above) plus Nick Huang on results, checking in from Simsbury, CT. Thanks, Nick!

Possibly the happiest campers of all this week were the barkrunners, who didn’t seem to mind the cold, and who ALWAYS enjoy the company.

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First-time barkrunner Rigby

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Pakora's first 5K ... in Shenandoah National Park

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Belle and Tuffi were parkrunning in Rehoboth Beach, DE. Maybe they were hoping to run into Dr Jill Biden to recruit her to CPVp.

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This week Eli was learning about the early history of Salisbury, MD

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Surprise visitors - Foxy, Sam, and Eden stopped by our coffee meetup. Wonderful!

Thanks to everybody who got moving outside this chilly December 26th. Next year December 25th will be on a Saturday. Maybe by then we’ll all be vaccinated and we can come together for a Christmas morning run or walk in College Park.

See you all in 2021 -- remember that we have TWO CPVps on January 1st-2nd.

Your CPVp team

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Thanks for a year like no other, everybody