Light at the end of the tunnel (Virtual Report 46)

Last week everybody was telling us about ice and snow on their virtual parkruns. This week we heard so many stories about the milder, brighter conditions. Not only in the DMV, but in lots of places around the country.

We also heard other encouraging stories. More of you are starting to get vaccines (including Lisa Wilson’s 102-year old dad -- phew!). The sudden surge in infections at UMD that led to a sequester-in-place order one week go is now at least partly under control. And there are increasing signs of optimism that could even point the way towards us getting together again in person.

Increasingly, it feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel.

FOR INFORMATION ON HOW CPVP WORKS SEE HERE

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A very welcome sight 

Facts and Figures

  • 166 virtual parkrunners
  • 700 miles covered
  • 1 first-timer
  • 0 new HIGH FIVE badges earned
  • 1 new TEN TIMER TURTLE badges earned
  • 3 new 25-TIMER badges earned
  • 12 barkrunners
  • 6 virtual volunteers

Stat(s) of the week: February participation stats! Despite a rather bleak month of Saturdays, 250 parkrunners (and barkrunners) recorded 676 runs and walks in February.

  • 102 completed all 4 February events
  • 46 3-timers in February
  • 29 2-timers in February
  • 72 1-timers in February

Did we see a drop in participation in response to the February weather? Let’s see …

  • Average weekly participation for all 46 CPVps = 169.06
  • Average weekly participation in February 2021 = 169.00

… Well, that’s pretty close. So it looks like the weather didn’t make much of a difference!

RESULTS TABLE FOR CPVP 46

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Louise and Anne were just 2 of the 102 ever presents at CPVp in February

Light at the End

It was a bit wet for folks who set out early in the DMV. But those who waited a little were rewarded with a glorious day when it felt like spring was just around the corner.

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The early birds got wet this week. Such as Gus in Glen Burnie

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Still a bit wet when Team Schneider headed out for their 5K. Samantha and Mary Clare paced mom Erin, who is on a comeback after foot surgery.

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There's the sun! OK, so this is cheating. That's Adrian and Stella Dover in the UK

Teresa Perdomo and Külli Crespin were happy to ditch the treadmill and enjoy the local sights in Hyattsville.

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Neha Joshi was exploring Little Free Libraries along the Trolley Trail in College Park.

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It was a bit more hospitable than recently for our social-but-distanced coffee meetup at the Discovery District Park in College Park.

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Even in northern Idaho there were signs of a thaw. Cindy Cohen was able to run on a clear road rather than getting out on skis for a change.

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In Columbia, Andres Mbouh did his CPVp together with a new running group that he has started with his church, encouraging others to stay active and connected (sound familiar?).

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Jackie Hayes was enjoying a longer run along the Capital Crescent Trail in Washington DC when she had a flyby from David Lai’s crew as they zoomed past.

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David's crew in Georgetown, ready to head up the Capital Crescent Trail

In Melton Mowbray, UK, Rach Cousen was enjoying some warmer weather, and appreciating the moonrise on a well lit evening.

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Full moon rising over Melton Mowbray

Kelsey Mannix wondered aloud (i.e., on Strava) whether she could do her CPVp in Fort Wayne, IN. Absolutely, Kelsey! You can do it absolutely anywhere.

Case in point: this week’s fastest 5K was by old friend of CP parkrun Lokesh Meena, who was running laps around his apartment building in New Delhi, India. Here’s the Strava plot of Lokesh’s run this week. And then a picture from when Lokesh joined us for our 100th regular event, back in Fall 2018. Lokesh was a DC-based diplomat at the time.

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Lokesh's route in 2021

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Lokesh in 2018

Yes, it’s “our” Stefano

Last week we highlighted some folks who are on track to complete a lot of virtual events, while having done few or none of our in person events. We mentioned a query about our friend Stefano Gazzano, who has joined us almost every week during the pandemic from Italy, sometimes with beautiful pictures of his travels, to brighten our pandemic inertia. We found one Stefano Gazzano in the parkrun database of 7 million names. This person had done 3 parkruns, a few years apart, all in Scotland, and always in late winter. We were not sure that this was “our” Stefano.

Clearly an astute reader of these reports, Stefano got in touch with us a couple of days later to explain that, yes, they were one and the same Stefano. And he explained the unusual history. Stefano is a rugby fan, and he has traveled a few times to watch Italy games in the Six Nations Championship, an annual tournament that is hugely popular in the UK, but largely unknown in College Park. A bit like the opposite of Big Ten Football. A big, big deal in these parts, but unheard of in Europe. (OK, so we’re barely aware of Big 10 football in College Park, but apparently it's A Thing.) Stefano did his first parkrun while visiting Edinburgh in 2011, which is why he has a really low barcode number. His most recent non-virtual parkrun was on a rugby visit to Cardiff, Wales in 2018. Mystery solved!

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Mystery solved! Stefano and Paolo Giulio at Edinburgh parkrun in 2015

Happy Birthday

We’d like to wish a very special Happy Birthday to Katie Hirsche, who turned 18 this weekend!

Katie holds our female course record of 18:35 (or thereabouts), set during the pandemic.

She has completed 74 “classic” parkruns, 69 of them at College Park. She attended the first ever parkrun in the DMV, in January 2016 at age 12. She first joined us in College Park in our 5th event, at age 13. She has also completed all 46 of our virtual parkruns.

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Katie en route to the first of her course records last October

Also, she has volunteered at 27 classic parkruns and 32 virtual parkruns. She is also our leading Strava cheerleader. If you’re in our Strava Club, you will have noticed.

And she’s now no longer a junior parkrunner. Congratulations, Katie! And we are really, really hoping that we’ll be able to get together and cheer you at an in person event before you head to college later this year.

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One of our favorite Katie pictures - her first sub-21 minute clocking, in 2018

What’s more, Katie wasn’t the only one with a birthday this weekend. Jeff Rosenberg, a regular member of Team Rosenberg, joining from Denver, CO, had his birthday on Saturday. How do we know this? We just know.

Milestones and More

This week we welcomed one new first-timer - Jamila Hinds. She’s no stranger to CP parkrun, as she has joined us in person a number of times, most recently last winter, shortly before the shutdown.

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Welcome Jamila! (This picture is from one year ago)

Amy Rice completed her 10th CPVp this week. She reports that between weather and kids she wasn’t able to get outside. But she was able to complete 6 miles on the treadmill. That seems pretty good to us!

We had THREE new 25-timers this week. Neil Jograj was walking near his new home in Bonaire, GA**. Melanie Barzik was running in Kensington. And Kristen Maneval was running in Gambrills, MD … where she also set a PB. Nice!

** Fun story related to Neil. For the past couple of months your report writer has been receiving occasional emails from a guy named Neil, who talks about adventures with his wife Jules. It seems to include a good amount of biking. Makes sense -- our parkrun friends Neil and Julie/Jules recently moved to Georgia, and we know that they enjoy biking. It was only this past week that it became more obvious that this Neil was in Australia. He has a neighbor named Colin Phillips, who he thought he was writing to. And meanwhile our Colin Phillips thought he was receiving messages from his friends Neil and Jules. Let’s just say that it was a little embarrassing to tidy that one up.

Among other achievements this week, Derek Symer’s CPVp also marked the completion of a 434 mile virtual race across New York State. Derek proudly displayed his finisher’s medal at Acredale Park on Saturday.

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434 miles in the book for Derek

Lisa Shiota completed an interesting virtual race this week: together with her team she completed the Virtual Desert Storm 218-miler, organized by the Marine Corps Marathon folks, commemorating the 30th anniversary of the 218-mile journey across the desert that the Marines made from Saudi Arabia to Kuwait City. We know that some of our virtual parkrunners were involved in Desert Storm, so this must bring back strong memories for them.

Finally, a shout out to young Blaise Gieske, who got out for a park-stroll with parents Meghan and Ben. Meghan ran her fastest “post-Blaise” 5K (yay!), and reported that Blaise is growing up fast: “He just started walking, so we got him out of the stroller at the end for his first parktoddle. He made it about 10 feet before falling over (no blood, lots of tears until he got distracted by a dog and forgot all about it).” See, it’s not only the grownups who are being saved by the barkrunners in the pandemic.

Barkrunners

We already met young barkrunner Coney a couple of weeks ago. She’s little sister to seasoned barkrunner Walker, who teams up with Corey and Adam in Detroit, MI. Well, this week Coney completed her first full 5K. Nice job, Coney!

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First full 5K for young barkrunner Coney

Lizzie is very much the leader of her pack (Joanne, Clare, and Ginny). After a couple of weeks when the weather prevented them from getting together, replaced by unacceptable (to barkrunners) treadmill running, Lizzie was delighted to get the band together again.

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After picking across ice and snow last week, Shackleton and Angela had a fun time enjoying the spring weather on the Paint Branch Trail. Angela reports that Shack is being very accommodating as she slows down (pregnancy tends to do that).

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Tuffi was very tempted to celebrate the milder weather by leaping in to the creek. Scruffi earned the role of this week’s “tail wagger” by stopping to sniff everything along the trail, making for a leisurely 90-minute 5K.

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Tempting!

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This week's tail wagger

Eli continued his art explorations with Ellen and found this cool bus.

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Nice paint job, City of Hyattsville

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Barkrunner Nathan recovering from his 5K

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Pakora approves of Pratyush's marathon training plan

Virtual Volunteers

This week’s virtual volunteer crew was a seasoned team of regulars. Last spring it took a while to figure out how to get everything to work smoothly. Nowadays, it’s so much easier. Maybe unsurprising, as we’re approaching our 50th event. Thanks this week go to:

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

We’d like to thank the folks who have reached out to offer their help for future weeks. It’s truly appreciated. Even if we now have worked out many of the kinks in the system, it’s still a time-consuming process every week, turning 150-200 reports of activities completed in different times and places into coherent tabulation and a report of our collective activities.

As always, we’re looking for new volunteers who can help out in the coming weeks. Drop us a line at collegepark@parkrun.com if you can help.

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Heather got the whole family outside, plus bikes, plus friends - perfect!
Then she volunteered for CPVp - even better!

Looking Back

On this weekend in 2020 we were getting really close to the shutdown of our regular events. But we had little idea of that at the time. A regular crowd of around 130 joined us on the Paint Branch Trail, and we were mostly looking forward to spring.

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We're not sure what was shocking Keaton on this day one year ago. But we had no idea what was about to hit us.

It’s interesting to see CNN’s coronavirus coverage from that day. At that point just a handful of covid-19 cases had been detected in the US.

On February 29th we were celebrating Leap Day. Stewart Mayhew dressed in frog green for the occasion. Jackie Hayes and her daughter Kayla were leading the show.

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It's not easy being green ... for Leap Day

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Jackie and Kayla in charge, one year ago

James Schneider was a napping infant in a back carrier. One year on, he’s literally finding his feet as a park-toddler.

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This guy is now a budding parktoddler

On this weekend in 2019 we were celebrating Sheilah Kast’s 50th parkrun.

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We're looking forward to welcoming Sheilah back to the trail

First timers from that day 2 years ago were Luther and Michelle Lemon. Luther and Michelle nowadays join us virtually almost every week. Kristen Maneval set a PB of 41:xx. This week in her 25th virtual parkrun she set a PB of 35:xx. Nice

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This picture is from one year ago. Michelle's little package now is a toddler.

In 2018 on this weekend we celebrated Andrea Zukowski’s 50th parkrun. She had said in 2015 that at a rate of 2 parkruns per year (on family trips to the UK) it would take her until she was 75 to earn her 50 shirt. She was only off by around 20 years on that prediction.

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Andrea's 50th, early 2018

We love this picture from 2018 of Nick Brennan, PJ Brennan, Lara Ehrenhofer, and Steve Hendrix. On that day Nick and PJ brought along their newly adopted son. Now they have two! Lara now joins us regularly from Berlin, Germany. And Steve now is the Washington Post’s bureau chief in Jerusalem, from where we occasionally hear or read his reporting on the Middle East, such as this piece in today's Washington Post about Israel's ahead-of-the-world vaccine rollout.

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On this weekend in 2017 one of our first-timers was Greg Ervin, visiting from Ohio. Greg continued to join us whenever he was in town, completing 10 in person CP parkruns. Now he doesn’t need to travel -- he has completed a dozen CP virtual parkruns. Another first-timer that day was Frank Filteau, who went on to complete over 150 parkruns in the 3 years before our extended pause.

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It's cool that Greg can join us remotely, though we'd love to see him again in person

We also found this nice photo of Hannah Russell and her parents Judy Barnes and Marvin Russell. On that day Marvin was completing the 11th of his 132 CP parkruns (and 44 virtual events). Hannah was still a UMD student. Judy was yet to complete her first event. In those days Judy would walk part of the out-and-back course while Marvin was running. It wasn’t until a couple of months later that Judy got a barcode and started covering the whole 5K. She has now done 142 5Ks (98 classic, 44 virtuals).

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That day we saw 84 finishers. At the time it was a Saturday attendance record. Nowadays we generally see double that number on a Saturday for a CPVp.

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This day in 2017. The PG Parks "Mobile Fitness Unit" joined us

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We miss seeing Trini Molina on the trail on a Saturday morning

Looking Ahead

There was big news this week for UK-based parkrunners. The UK government announced a roadmap for emerging from pandemic restrictions. A couple of days later parkrun HQ announced their own plans for the return of hundreds of events. The headline was the proposed return of 5K events on June 5th in England.

What does this mean, if anything, for us in College Park?

In some ways, not very much. But it does give us some useful pointers.

The UK plan applies only to England (around 85% of the UK population), and not to other regions of the UK, since they have independent control over pandemic measures. The UK government has outlined a staged rollback of pandemic measures, with at least 5 weeks between each stage. First, schools and limited social interaction. Then, some businesses and outdoor activities in stage 2. Then travel, and a much wider range of activities, including mid-sized sports events in stage 3, starting no earlier than May 17. The aim is to start 5K parkrun events at least 2 weeks after the start of stage 3 is confirmed. That’s how they arrive at the date of Saturday June 5th. Stage 3 will start later if key targets from Stage 2 are not met, delaying the start of parkrun events.

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Kristie is one of our regulars who has yet to do one of our in person events

For us to return to “normal” in person gatherings in College Park, there are four key enablers.

Local landowner permission. We cannot go ahead until Prince George’s County lifts restrictions on mid-sized outdoor gatherings, and until Prince George’s Parks is again allowing permits for events of up to 200-250 people. We suspect that this is the most important factor in the timing of our return.

We do not know when local restrictions will be lifted, but they are unlikely to change faster than in the UK. The current prevalence of the virus in Maryland is similar to the UK, but UK vaccination rates are ahead of us, as is vaccine uptake. Already 95% of people aged over 70 have had at least one vaccine shot in the UK. (We might never reach that level in the US.) Prince George’s County has taken a generally cautious approach to COVID restrictions. This in part reflects the higher impact of the pandemic on the county.

Permission from parkrun. Our insurance and IT are handled centrally by parkrun in the UK. We cannot operate without their blessing. We do not expect that to come earlier than the UK restart planned for June 5th.

The parkrun UK plans include an earlier return of their 2K junior parkrun events for children, starting on April 11th. Some junior events might start later than others. The junior parkrun events are more similar to North American events, because they are smaller, and because there is little “parkrun tourism” between events. Similarly, it’s very rare for US parkrunners to regularly visit other events.

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Carly is another regular who hasn't yet done a "regular" CP. This week she was taking it easy after getting her first shot (yay!). And Janel was getting some fresh air ahead of some big exams this week (good luck!).

It is conceivable that some other North American events might have local permission to restart earlier than others, especially smaller events in states with fewer COVID restrictions. But as the largest parkrun event in North America, situated in a state and county that have been more cautious around pandemic restrictions, we in College Park are unlikely to be first in line for a return.

Participants and volunteers: We can’t hold in person events if people don’t want to take part and don’t want to volunteer, because they feel unsafe. That would be an issue if we tried to restart right now (setting aside the fact that it’s currently disallowed). But this is unlikely to be a limiting factor by the time that we get the green light from the county and from parkrun in the UK. It *is* likely that when we restart in person events not everybody will feel comfortable taking part. That's understandable. But we don't expect to be held back by lack of volunteers or participants. (When we return we will almost certainly be operating under parkrun's COVID-19 framework. It involves some operational adjustments, but nothing that will be a major barrier for us.)

Local community: We don’t need explicit permission from the local community. But we can certainly generate resentment if we go ahead too early. We use public trails that we share with others. We hold events every single week. We won’t survive if we encounter strong community pushback. Strangely enough, we’re also the largest running/walking event in the county, with 8,000 - 9,000 participants/year.

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Sub 50 this week for Lori. Nice!

The unrolling of pandemic restrictions in 2021 is sure to create much tension. Some will be adamant that it is too slow. Others will be adamant that it is too fast. It’s just not possible to satisfy everyone. The best way to minimize this tension is to come back a little slower than others. If schools are back in session; if UMD is operating more normally; if fans are watching baseball or football games in person; and if restaurants are operating more normally, then College Park parkrun isn’t going to draw a lot of attention.

Putting this all together with the current trajectory of the pandemic and vaccine rollout, our best guess is that we might be able to restart in the second half of the summer. We see little prospect before Memorial Day. We would currently be disappointed if we’re still in virtual mode on Labor Day. But we should emphasize that we have no insider knowledge. We are just trying to calibrate expectations.

Next week: Watch this space!

Until next time!

Your CPVp Team

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See you next week. Soon the tunnel of trees will be bursting with spring activity.