Let them eat cake! (Virtual Report 39)

We started off 2021 with such optimism! This week has certainly put that positivity to the test.

As if the most deadly week so far of the pandemic in the US was not enough, on Wednesday we saw a violent mob break into the US Capitol, incited by the sitting president. This was just a few miles from where most of you live. Some of you were under a curfew order on Wednesday evening, in order to protect you from rioters. We’re feeling shaken. Probably many of you are, too.

There is so much more to be said about this week. Who knows what the next couple of weeks might bring. But on Saturday it felt really, really good to get outside, to get moving, and to see some smiling faces, whether online or along the trails. We are impressed that so many of you took part this week, despite the cold temperatures.



Clare, Joanne, and Lizzie enjoying the Paint Branch Trail

Facts and Figures

  • 180 virtual parkrunners
  • 775 miles covered
  • 2 first-timers
  • 3 new HIGH FIVE badges earned
  • 4 new TEN TIMER TURTLE badges earned
  • 2 new 25-TIMER badges earned
  • 14 barkrunners
  • 8 virtual volunteers

Stat(s) of the week: Exactly 5 years ago, the first Fletcher’s Cove parkrun was held, along the C&O Canal towpath in Washington DC. It was the first event of its kind in the DMV, and it directly led to the start of College Park parkrun.

Among the 166 finishers at that event were Andrea Zukowski and Colin Phillips, who started gathering friends at the Paint Branch Trail starting the very next week.

Finishers also included Simon Wraight, who nowadays joins us every week from New Hampshire. And Dan Owen, who later became the event director at Fletcher’s Cove parkrun. And Cathryn Burby, whose mom Joan Heffernan now joins us every week from Connecticut.

Finishers also included Maria Cecil, Evan Hirsche, and 12-year old Katie Hirsche, who finished in a time of 31:30. As of this weekend, the family has completed 217 College Park parkruns, 77 CP Virtual parkruns (plus 16 by barkrunner Sophie). And Katie has volunteered 50 times (25 “classic” events and 25 virtual) and is our course record holder.


January 9th 2016, Fletcher's Cove parkrun launch

Oh, and one more finisher, who has been visible in the news this week. She doesn’t appear in the official results from the day, but DC Mayor Muriel Bowser was also among that first group. We appreciated her support then, and we have definitely been appreciating her support for the DMV community this week.



Muriel Bowser has had a busy week

Let them eat cake (donuts)!

You may be reminded of the words of an ill-fated monarch. Really not sure what made us think of that right now. But no, we’re talking about actual donuts.

Erin Munsell has the distinction of doing this week’s longest virtual parkrun at 17+ miles along Beach Drive through Rock Creek Park. When we saw this we immediately figured that Erin must be getting ready for a virtual marathon. But it turned out that she ran into Jen Murphy and Eliza Kempton part way through her run, and was talked into joining them for a run to DC for donuts. Brian Murphy shared pictorial evidence.

Kudos to Erin for such dedication to quality fueling. We also think it’s super cool to see that Erin can now just decide on a whim to do a 17-miler. Some of you may recall that when Erin first joined us in 2017 or so, it was her very first 5K. By the start of the pandemic she had completed her 98th parkrun. (We cannot wait to bestow the black sash on her later this year. Together with Judy Barnes, also currently stalled at 98.) She has come a long way!



Yes, anywhere

Some of you were discovering cool new places to run or walk this week.

Neha Joshi and Yogarshi Vyas headed over to Greenbelt National Park to run the Perimeter Trail for the first time, and decided that it was the most fun workout they had done in ages.


Andres Mbouh did a long run from Georgetown to Bethesda (and back) on the Capital Crescent Trail. That’s the right way to do it, as you get to enjoy the smooth downhill on the return journey.


Andres at the tunnel on the Capital Crescent Trail

Meridith Phillips mostly had ocean foam for company on her beach run in Nags Head, NC.


Wait, that's not Meridith, and that's not the Atlantic Ocean -- that's her sister Adrien, by a creek in Columbia, MD

Most “interesting” route of the week may go to Marianne Poon, who ran laps of the parking garage in her building to stay warmer. Marianne narrowly edged out John Maneval, who appears to have been conducting a detailed survey of the parking lot at the Navy Stadium in Annapolis.


Interesting choice of route, John!

Cindy Cohen was back in the mountains in Sandpoint, ID. The first half of her 5K climbed 560 feet in 1.6 miles. In the snow. Which prompts the question: is this the steepest first half of a parkrun that we know of?


That looks steep!

Answer: yes, probably. But it’s very close. Cindy’s route climbed 350 feet per mile for the first mile and a half. By comparison, the regular route of Marsh-Billings-Rockefeller parkrun in Woodstock, VT climbs 360 feet in the first 1.1 miles, for a rate of 330 feet per mile.

We highly recommend a visit to MBR parkrun if you’re ever in Vermont. And as it happens, Derek Symer is there right now, hibernating in neighboring village of Queechee, from where he checked in for his virtual parkrun this week. We’re not sure if the regular MBR route is open in the winter months, though, as it is sometimes groomed as the local XC ski trail.

Milestones and More

This week we welcomed TWO first-timers. Xinzi He has been a regular CP parkrunner and volunteer, but this was her first virtual run. Lesley Mayhew was walking the trail for the first time, as far as we know, helping to ensure that husband Stewart behaved himself. Stewart fell on ice and fractured his arm a couple of weeks ago, and so he is grounded from running for a few weeks, but was still enjoying the trail. Speedy recovery, Stewart!


One year ago

THREE new 5-timers earned a high five badge: John Rigg, barkrunner Belle, and Christina McNamee-Mahaffey. John represents District 3 on College Park City Council. Yet more evidence that we have healthy leadership in College Park. And Christina celebrated her 5th CPVp by joining the virtual volunteer crew for the first time.

We awarded FOUR new ten-timer turtle badges: Maria Cecil, Andrea Maas, Kat M, and Pam Marcus.

Maria was part of the crew who attended the first ever parkrun in DC 5 years ago this weekend. Pam first joined us on our big Memorial Day weekend event in 2017 when parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt joined us. Pam went on to become founder of Kensington parkrun, and she’s looking forward to picking up on the momentum that she had built before the pandemic. And Andrea is a parkrunner who has never been able to join us in person. But we hope that once we’re back in person she’ll be able to make the journey up from Greensboro, NC to visit us (and Carly, of course).

Finally, we had TWO new 25-timers this week in Janet Grudzien John and Peter Rosenberg. Janet helps to keep us salivating over her oceanside pictures. Back in the spring she was joining us from Newport, RI, but these days she’s based in Honolulu, HI, making her easily the westernmost CP virtual parkrunner. And a special shout out this week to Peter Rosenberg, who set a new PB of 24:59, running with dad Brian and mom Jessica in Mechanicsburg, PA. Peter is 9 (or so) years old, and he’s clearly gaining in speed.


Janet wasn't feeling the cold like those of us in the DMV

One additional mention this week for Dale Morey, who has been quietly gaining fitness. He came out to the Paint Branch Trail this week and ran the regular 5K course exactly one second faster than his PB for CP parkrun. Nice job, Dale!

Virtual Volunteers

A shout out to this week’s 8 virtual volunteers, who helped to keep the show on the road.

Angela Gentile: picture collector
Katie Hirsche: results (Strava)
Andrea Maas: cheerleading
Christina McNamee-Mahafey: results (Facebook)
Tara Mease: results czar
Colin Phillips: propaganda, facts, figures, and words
Anna Tinnemore: results (form)
Andrea Zukowski: email and photography

Special kudos to two new virtual volunteers this week. Christina McNamee-Mahaffey helped with results, and Andrea Maas (a.k.a. Carly’s mom) joined us from Greensboro, NC for some virtual cheerleading. Also, it was Andrea’s 10th CPVp, so she earns a cute ten-timer turtle badge in our weekly results sheet.

Can you help out with CPVp in the coming weeks? Drop us a line at collegepark@parkrun.com if you can help.


Christina and barkrunner Lucy on the Paint Branch Trail, one year ago


It was a good day for the barkrunners. Actually, EVERY Saturday is a good day for the barkrunners, as they love getting moving outdoors with their humans.

We’ll just go with picture captions this time ...


Congrats to Scruffi on his first 5K. Not bad for a 13-year old dog.


Anna Weber stopped along her route to say hello to "my favorite neighbor"


Barkrunner Seneca enjoying the snow in West Virginia (with Anne Baum)


Belle and Tuffi on their run with Gloria in Rehoboth. They could be good sled dogs.


Um, barkrunners don't fit so well on a treadmill. (h/t Teresa Perdomo)


So now do we get to swim?


Shackleton joined the social-but-distanced-unless-you're-a-barkrunner coffee hangout


Eli checked out some graffiti. How do you expect us to Google that, Eli?

Looking Back

This weekend 3 years ago in 2018 was probably the coldest ever day for College Park parkrun. The northern US was in the grip of a polar vortex, and morning temps were around 5-10 degrees.

There were just 42 finishers on that day, One of our concerns on that day was to help keep volunteers warm. So we drove the CP parkrun minivan up to the start, and had volunteers take turns thawing out inside.


Our coldest Saturday ever, January 2018

Looking Ahead

We have two thoughts this week that connect to the broader forces in the news this week.

First, on the coronavirus, it’s going to be a long time before we can come together again, notwithstanding optimistic predictions about a spring return in the UK in this week’s parkrun podcast, and suggestions about the US and Canada having promising vaccination programs.

Maryland took significant steps to speed vaccine delivery in the past week. The peak of 15,000 doses/day is almost 50% higher than the best days one week earlier. But, to put this in perspective, the state would need to be delivering 30,000 doses/day right away, in order to get the job done by the end of 2021. Or 50,000 doses/day, in order to get the job done by late summer. And that’s if the targets are reached right away, and if they are met 7 days per week (they are not).

We have a long way to go.


Barkrunner Shackleton captures the sentiment

Second, the breakdown of society. If you’re like us you’ve probably felt frustrated and despondent at some point recently. It can seem overwhelming. And for some of us, physically threatening.

It’s far beyond the scope of our little run/walk report to tackle what ails American society. But we can point to one thing that keeps coming up in discussions of what has gone wrong: the changing media landscape. People connect differently, they communicate differently than they used to. Even before the pandemic, we regularly heard about the demise of local newspapers, the rise of nationalized and global social media, and the sorting of people into ever tighter bubbles of like-minded people.

The pandemic has made this only worse. It’s great that we can connect with family and close friends far away. But we’re less aware than ever of those around us.

One of the things that we have loved about the growth of the College Park parkrun community is how it has helped bring together people who would have never met otherwise. We’re always looking to be more inclusive. But we are happy with the progress that we have made over the past 5 years.


We’re also very happy with the way that we have been able to keep supporting one another during the pandemic, via our new virtual community. We love that this has removed some barriers to participation. We are thrilled that the community now includes friends and family who are far away from our geographic base.

But there has also been a loss. Despite the large numbers every week, we are well aware that we’re not reaching everybody who we could serve through the in-person events. We’re less beneficial to children and teens, we’re missing some parts of the local population, we see fewer first-timers than before. And it is easy for us to recede into our communications bubbles. It’s good that we can be flexible, reaching some people via Facebook, Strava, or email. But these different channels bring greater fragmentation.

We long for when we can just talk to real humans in a park again. And we’re going to want to talk a lot.

Things will get better. We’re sure of it. And we will appreciate what we have even more for having missed it for a long while.

Until next time!

Your CPVp Team



Elmer Hernandez checked in from Orlando, FL this week




John Ramsey was so well wrapped we barely recognized him. ... Just kidding. Once you've done 100 parkruns, we recognize your gait.


Street art on Cory Kind's run in Detroit


Colin managed to run-walk the whole 5K without getting more injured this week. Win!



Welcome back from NC, Carly!