A Fresh Start (Virtual Report 41)

It was a cold start to the weekend. Not the lowest temperatures that we have seen this winter, but temperatures around freezing combined with stiff breezes to make it feel much colder than it actually was.

A “fresh start” would be a slightly euphemistic way of describing how it felt to get outside yesterday. That’s also a good euphemism for what happened in Washington DC this past week. We’re happy to see the thousands of National Guard troops leaving the city. We’re happy that shuttered metro stations are reopening. We’re happy that new federal action could help to improve the trajectory of the pandemic.

Many of you enjoyed hearing 2017 Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman perform in front of the Capitol during the inauguration on Wednesday. We confess that we didn’t know that Youth Poet Laureate was a thing. But regular readers of this report will recall that just a couple of weeks ago we featured a poet laureate with ties to our community. Barkrunner Eli educated us in our New Years report about Reed Whittemore, a College Park resident and UMD English professor who was US poet laureate on two separate occasions. There's a sign commemorating him along the Trolley Trail where many people do their CPVp each week.

In previous winters, this weekend’s cold weather would have kept a lot of people away from our in-person events. That didn’t happen at this week’s CPVp #41. So we have lots to share this week, as always.



The face masks helped us to stay warm this week (yeah, and that other thing, too)
Heather said: can you see that she's smiling under the mask?

Facts and Figures

  • 176 virtual parkrunners
  • 765 miles covered
  • 5 first-timers
  • 3 new HIGH FIVE badges earned
  • 3 new TEN TIMER TURTLE badges earned
  • 4 new 25-TIMER badges earned
  • 12 barkrunners
  • 7 virtual volunteers

Stat(s) of the week: January 2021 is unusual for having SIX CPVp days. That’s because we have 5 Saturdays plus New Years Day. We challenged you to get out and get active on as many of those days as possible. Here are the counts with 1 remaining Saturday in January.

5 times: 87
4 times: 39
3 times: 35
2 times: 45
1 time: 106
Total: 312

Nice going! We’ll update with end-of-the-month totals next week. Then we can restart the counts for February, when you’ll only have 4 Saturdays to cover.



Adrien Harrison is one of the many people (and pups) on track for 6 CPVps in January

A very fresh start

The main thing that we heard in this week’s activity reports is how cold it was. It wasn’t so much the temperature as the wind that was blowing from the north in the DMV.


Pam Marcus demonstrates alternative ways to put a hot tea to good use

Erin Munsell did a 15-miler as a warm-up for the weekend, joining with Jen Murphy for 10 of those miles. A few miles from the end, Jen noticed that Erin’s hair was frozen.

Lisa Wilson reported that her 5K on the Paint Branch Trail took 42 minutes for the first half and 18 minutes for the return journey. These times may be “approximate”, but we understand the sentiment.

In a week that started with troops on the National Mall and ended with memes about Bernie Sanders’ mittens, Joan Heffernan was making good use of her mittens for her CPVp in Suffield, CT. Joan reports that they were a gift from a former student. What a great way to share appreciation for a teacher!


Nice mittens, Joan!

Further afield, Meridith Phillips was feeling the full force of the wind as she did her CPVp along an empty beach in Nags Head, NC.

And much further afield, Rach and John Cousen were scoping out the flooding that recently hit much of the UK, including their region of Leicestershire. They walked with the “village flood warden” (yeah, we didn’t know that was a thing). Conveniently enough, the local flood was about 2.5 km from home. Perfect for a virtual parkrun!

Wherever you want … or can

One of the popular venues for CPVp activities is the Trolley Trail that extends from North College Park through Riverdale Park to Hyattsville, conveniently ending close to Franklin’s Brewery and General Store and Vigilante Coffee, among other excellent local businesses. The trail follows the route of the old #82 streetcar line that ran along Rhode Island Avenue. See a cool video of the old route here.

This week we learned about another Trolley Trail that is now on our list of places to visit. The Number Nine Trolley Trail in Ellicott City is where Andrea Solan did her CPVp this week. It covers part of the route of an old line from Ellicott City to Catonsville that was in use in the first half of the 20th century. That boardwalk through a ravine looks really enticing.


Andrea Solan on the "other" Trolley Trail

Neha Joshi and Yogarshi Vyas did their CPVp by walking laps of the parking lot of Graduate Hills apartments on the western edge of the UMD campus. Yogarshi is dealing with some knee issues, so this was the safest way to get his weekly 5K in. Neha noted that it wasn’t the most scenic 5K route ever, but she conceded that the company was pretty good. We wish Yogarshi a speedy recovery!


Now that's a fine compliment!

We were surprised to learn that the venue for Robin Phillips’ CPVp this week was the Austrian city of Innsbruck (one of only 3 cities to host the Winter Olympics twice … though soon there will be a fourth, do you know where that is?). We were feeling jealous. But then we learned the backstory. Robin and family are isolating at home due to recent community spread of the coronavirus in a local elementary school. So Robin was running on his treadmill, with a choice of a fake location or staring out the window. Ok, so we’re no longer so jealous.


Yeah, that route looks legit

Mayor to Mayor

Trails for walking and biking are one of our favorite things. In College Park we are fortunate to have so many good options. They’re continuing to improve, too. If you’ve noticed the road works along Route 1 in College Park, that’s in part because of work on creating a new bike lane. If you're not in College Park and this means nothing to you, let's just say that this is a big deal, as our main artery is about as non bike-friendly as a road can be.

There are many reasons to feel optimistic about the choice of Pete Buttigieg as the new federal Secretary of Transportation. Buttigieg, AKA Mayor Pete, is the former mayor of South Bend, IN who made a splash on the 2020 presidential election trail. The Washington Post recently featured a story about his efforts to rethink streetscapes in South Bend during his time as mayor there.

Our own “Mayor Patrick” is also keen on trails and public transportation. So we were excited to see this clip of him asking Buttigieg about biker and pedestrian infrastructure at this week's US Conference of Mayors meeting.


Mayor Patrick speaks with Mayor Pete

Milestones and More

This week we welcomed FIVE first-timers to CPVp. On such a cold day, that’s maybe more than we expected. Barkrunner Clyde was running in Livonia, MI, so he’s probably used to the cold. Mickey Lanigan joined us from Central Florida, so we suspect that her weather was a little milder. Amber Marcut, Ellen Hamilton, and Shikha Manandhar are all locals. Welcome to Shikha, who joined us once before for an in person event in 2019, and to Amber, who is a genuine first-timer. Yay!


Welcome Shikha!

Ellen has joined us for a number of CPp events before, both as runner/walker and volunteer. One that stands out in our memory is Memorial Day weekend 2017 when we welcomed parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt, together with a crowd of 180 that seemed huge at the time, though it’s now a regular winter day for CP Virtual parkrun. We were concerned about trail congestion, so we assigned Ellen the role of “lead bike” to warn other trail users. But when she reached the Dead Marshes area of the course she discovered what appeared to be an injured duckling on the side of the trail. So she quickly shifted her role to duckling protection (a role that is not included in the list of official volunteer roles).


Ellen's first time volunteering at CPp didn't turn out as planned

THREE more people earned a High Five badge for their 5th CPVp: Dan Pearlstein, Deborah Gayle, and Crystal Bergemann. Deborah headed out at 5:30am when it was even colder than it was for most of us. Dan became a regular parkrunner last winter, shortly before we went virtual. Crystal was one of our original CP parkrunners, taking part in our official launch event. She was also one of the earliest winners of our parkrunner of the month award. So it was great to see her name pop up in this week’s Facebook feed.


Crystal in early 2017, receiving the PoTM award

We also saw THREE new proud recipients of our Ten-Timer Turtle badges: Rach Cousen, Monique Richards, and Rod Green. Monique and Rod are both locals and regular runners with Prince George’s Running Club. Rach is one of our recruits from Melton Mowbray Virtual parkrun in the UK. The turtle badge may be especially suitable this week, since Rach did her virtual parkrun with her village flood warden.

And we also saw FOUR new members of our 25-timer club, now displaying cake badges in the weekly results table: Zak Mellen, Michael Bevers, Adam Gann, and barkrunner Walker.

Notably, although this group has completed 100 CPVps between them, probably only around 15% of those have been completed anywhere near College Park. Adam and Walker join us from Detroit, and Michael from Charleston, WV. Zak is definitely local -- this week he’ll be helping to manage College Park’s population surge, as part of the UMD Resident Life team. His CPVps tend to be split between local runs on the Paint Branch Trail and runs in Northern Virginia.

Just a few of the other notable things that reached our inbox this week.

Jen Matis again completed her longest run ever, covering almost 8 miles. If you’re following along, you’ll know that it will take a 10 mile round trip for Jen to reach the vegan donuts at Donut Run in Takoma. Getting closer! Do you have a goal that you’re working towards? We’d love to hear about it.

This week’s virtual tailwalkers, completing the 5K in 1:39, were Team Schneider. That’s Erin, Joshua, Samantha, and Mary Clare. This was a notable achievement, because it was Erin’s first time completing the 5K distance since the first of her foot surgeries back in October. Fantastic! It’s also notable because of young James Schneider’s outfit, which had us all wishing we had a Baby Yoda suit of our own.


We want a Baby Yoda onesie!

At the other end of the speed range, our fastest time of the week was by Katie Hirsche, as is often the case these days. We actually had one faster time. Speedster Sam Phipps shared the following:

“I actually ran pretty fast today. Legs and old injury felt good. But I failed at hitting my watch. It said 30ish seconds, not even Eliud Kipchoge can run 3.3 mi in 30 seconds!”

(Fun fact: Eliud Kipchoge's 1:59:40 marathon time from 2019 equates to around 14:10 per 5K, eight times over. That's fast.)

If Sam said that he ran “pretty fast”, then that’s probably an understatement. We’re happy to see that he’s getting back in shape, and we all can look forward to the day when we’re able to come back together on the Paint Branch Trail and watch him whiz past in the opposite direction as we head towards the turnaround.

Finally, in the “gluttons for punishment” category, this week’s clear winners were David Lai, Dami Alao, and Malik Al-Jame. Not only did they complete a trail half marathon around Greenbelt National Park. They decided to make it more interesting by pausing every 2 miles for 25 air squats, 25 push ups, a 60-second plank, and 10 burpees. Yikes!


Hard core!

Virtual Volunteers

Many thanks to this week’s virtual volunteer crew! It takes at least as much time and energy to put on these virtual events as it does the in person events. So this wouldn’t be possible without a team each week.

Katie Hirsche: results (Strava)
Trace Huard: results (Facebook)
Tara Mease: results czar
Colin Phillips: results, report, and propaganda
Heather Sisan: photo management and cheerleading
Anna Tinnemore: results (form)
Andrea Zukowski: email and photos

Here’s what the virtual volunteer crew does each week.

First, they collect up the activities, pictures, and stories that flow in across multiple channels throughout Saturday (Strava, Facebook, email, online form, Andrea’s camera). The activities are all entered into a big Google Sheet that Tara manages. Pictures are labeled and saved to our Google Drive archive.

We do a preliminary sort early evening, so that we can share an “instant feedback” summary post to our Facebook followers on Saturday evening.

Saturday night and on Sunday we check and format the results, sort stories, write prose, trim and compress photos, and upload the report to our website. We focus on putting it on the website, as that's the location that the most people can see.

Then we share the report and results to all of our channels. They generally go right away to Facebook, Strava, and Instagram. We try to keep our emails to once per week, so the report and results links tend to go out in the weekly email at the end of the week.

Then we rinse and repeat.

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


Thanks to Trace for joining the virtual volunteer crew this week


This week the barkrunners had mixed feelings about getting outside in the cold. Some could’nt wait to get started. Others were happy to stay home in bed. Some may have been eager to get out and then thought better of it.

Gloria Cottman took Tuffi out on the Paint Branch Trail early the day for a morning 5K. She figured that was probably enough for the day, but Scruffi had other ideas, and gave Gloria sad looks throughout the day until she took her out. So Gloria got to do her second 5K of the day. And Scruffi set a PB for 5K! Scruffi is not among the younger pups, but she has gotten into the 5K habit very recently. She’s a canine example of what we have seen so many times before in humans: it’s never too late to get a little more active.


Tuffi got to do the morning 5K


Scruffi got the afternoon shift

Roo got to go out with Dom Blom and Michael Iati on the Paint Branch Trail, and seemed to be pretty happy about it.


Roo enjoyed his outing with Dom and Michael

Shackleton started his run by heading south on the Paint Branch Trail, with the help of a brisk “tail” wind. When he reached Acredale Park, Angela said that it was time to turn back into the teeth of the wind. Shackleton had other thoughts.


Keep. Heading. South.

Eli was out exploring Hyattsville with Ellen, as usual. This week they found another cool mural. This one was painted by artist Demont Pinder. This mural is very new, and it was featured in a recent story in The Hyattsville Wire (which we recommend as a great source for local happenings and history).


New mural!foxy-web

Foxy looks pretty happy to be outside


Gifford is actually happy to be outside, too. That's just his RBF (resting barkrunner face)


Barkrunner Tucker went for a jaunt with Amy Rice. ... And we realized that we have TWO barkrunners named Tucker in our CPVp database. Tara, help!

Looking Back

One year ago, on a wet morning in College Park when the Paint Branch Stream had turned into a raging river, complete with kayakers, we welcomed the Barnes family from Newcastle, Australia: Michelle, Craig, Jack, Lachlan, and Lacy.


The raging Paint Branch Stream, one year ago

Older son Jack was first finisher that day. Fortunately he didn’t leave the locals too far behind, as we had to make some course improvisations on the fly during the event, to put a turn around cone in the right place for our two-lap course.


That's called a mid-course adjustment

Mom Michelle ran with Lachlan, and dad Craig ran with Lacy. It was a little colder than they’re accustomed to, but they seemed to have a good time.

This week we were delighted to hear from Michelle, who shared this picture of Lacy from last week’s Paradise Point parkrun in Gold Coast, Queensland. Lacy recently turned 11, earning the freedom to run without a parental chaperone. She marked it by running a speedy 22:24 PB and finishing as first female that day. Nice job, Lacy!

Needless to say, we’re also jealous of the fact that life is so normal now in Australia. Let’s hope that we can get to something like that in 2021. We're willing to compromise: we'll forgo the beach if we can just get together in the park.


Nice PB Lacy! ... And look at that beach!!!

Looking Ahead

Two questions that we’re facing everywhere we look in 2021 are: “When will things get back to normal?” and “What will ‘normal’ actually look like when we get there?”

In education, we’re likely going to see more hybrid in-person and virtual learning in the future. Maybe not so much for elementary schoolers. But certainly for the higher education that’s a big part of what happens in College Park. Workplaces are likely to be more hybrid, especially for many local workers who have skipped their daily commute to downtown DC over the past year.

But what about running and walking communities like ours?

We have written often about the pros and cons of in-person vs. virtual events in this column. It’s clear that some people are served better by one or the other format. It's also that some people are served well by different formats on different days. They're local enough to join us regularly, but sometimes they can't get to be with us at 9am. So is there a future for hybrid events?

The simple answer is that we just don’t know. But we were interested to read this week that the London Marathon, one of the world’s premier races, is leaning in to the hybrid approach for 2021.

Normally around 40,000 gather in London for the marathon each April. Last fall a similar number took part in a virtual version of the London Marathon, including a half dozen CPVp regulars. Many other CP parkrunners took part in other virtual fall marathons, sometimes using the CP parkrun route as a venue. Overall sentiment was, “Well, that was better than expected!”


Stewart's looking forward to getting back to normal after fracturing his arm. He did his first ever marathon in this year's Virtual London Marathon. 

The 2021 London Marathon will take place in early October, in the hope that coronavirus restrictions are relaxed by then. The plan is to have 50,000 in-person participants in London, and also to have 50,000 virtual runners taking part on the same day around the UK and around the world, for a total of 100,000. That will make it the world’s largest marathon. Ever.

We will be curious to see how it works out. We don’t know, for example, how the integration of simultaneous in-person and virtual events will be handled, if at all.

Is any of this relevant to our community? There are a lot of differences between the London Marathon and College Park parkrun, in terms of scale, budget (theirs is many millions, ours is $0), and visibility (they're a national institution, we're tiny).

But there are a couple of points of connection that make this speculation less idle.

First, parkrun and the London Marathon are both products of the same running community in south west London. The two organizations have deep connections going back many years, and they have partnered on a various projects, including the growth of parkrun events in London a few years ago. Fun fact: the founders of the London Marathon and parkrun came from the same running club, Ranelagh Harriers. That club is also ‘twinned’ with our local Montgomery County Road Runners, which many College Park and Kensington parkrunners belong to. In fact, when we were working with Pam Marcus and her team to get Kensington parkrun started, the connection to Ranelagh Harriers proved valuable in getting support from MCRRC.


Even if we can't cheer you in person, we'll do the next best thing(s). Our signs are no longer spread along the trail. But they can be found at Acredale Park on Saturdays.

Second, the virtual London Marathon and College Park Virtual parkrun stand out for being among the more successful examples of their genre. And for similar reasons.

We don’t anticipate that many of this past year’s virtual races will be interested in holding hybrid events in the future. Deservedly popular local events like the popular Celtic Solstice 5 miler in Baltimore aren’t going to be looking to hold parallel virtual races. Don't expect to see a virtual Cherry Blossom 10 miler in 2022. There’s little demand and little upside for the organizers. Locally, the Army Ten Miler might be an exception, as there is a well defined audience of potential participants, in whatever locations troops are stationed around the world.

The London Marathon was unusual among virtual races in 2020 for finding a model that felt a bit more like an actual event. Everybody did their marathon in the same 24-hour window. The organizers, and their partners at the BBC, used electronic communications to create more of a sense of participation and connection. Here in College Park, Colin Phillips teamed up with some CP parkrunners to live stream his run to the BBC’s "digital wall". The organizers created an app that made a noble effort to help participants feel that they were part of something larger than themselves. A lot of people reported that it was a surprisingly good experience. The extra effort paid off. We followed the evolution of virtual races over the past year, and the ones that got the best feedback managed to make the social engagement feel genuine.


Colin was excited this week to run injury-free. He's hoping to get back to marathon shape by the fall. If travel or the pandemic makes it impossible for him to get to London to do the marathon in person, he knows that the virtual event will be a fun alternative. And the venue for that is already clear.

There are parallels to CPVp. Participation actually increased over our in-person events. We regularly hear from people who tell us that they are surprised at how well it has worked. We are surprised, too. We know that it’s not the same as in-person events, and there are many people who we’re just not serving like we used to. But the focus on using communications for social support is the key.

It’s still way too early to know how things will unfold for us here in College Park, and across our now distributed community. But this week’s move by one of the world’s top running events means that the notion of hybrid events is suddenly a more serious idea.

Meanwhile, wrap up warm, and we look forward to hearing from you again next week for CP Virtual parkrun #42.

Until next time!

Your CPVp Team


Debbie enjoyed quality time with her daughter Nina on the trail this week


Good morning, Elmer!


Lori looking stylish in her Maryland flag mask


Tim and Emma Keer are among the big crew that have completed all 5 CPVps this month. Here they are in snowy Michigan for their very first parkrun, 4 years ago this weekend.

bud-verge copy-web

Bud can be found on the trail every Saturday morning, working up an appetite for ...


No, not for ALL of them


Chilly social-but-distanced coffee meetup at the Discovery District Park


See you next week!