Two legs good, four legs better (Virtual Report 47)

We’ll start this week with a message from Mary Langan, who checked in from Italy.

“I live next to Montagnola Park in Bologna, Italy this year while I'm completing a PhD fellowship. We're in the 'red zone' right now so we're locked down but individual exercise near your home is allowed. Never been more excited to jog than I have been these last few days! There's a dog park and kids playing so my time there makes everything seem brighter and more cheerful and the endorphins from running don't hurt either. :)”

We feel the same way, Mary! And we’re always happy to hear from friends around the world. It helps us to forget that we rarely go more than a few miles from home these days.

This week saw a big crowd of virtual parkrunners. 209 participants was one of our largest Saturday turnouts ever. So we have a lot to report on. And since this was a barkrunner-themed event, you are in luck if you’re one of the readers who skips the words to go look for the cute puppy pictures.



The PGRC crew(s) on the Northeast Branch Trail, with barkrunner Lizzie

Facts and Figures

  • 209 virtual parkrunners
  • 870 miles covered
  • 11 first-timers
  • 3 new HIGH FIVE badges earned
  • 1 new TEN TIMER TURTLE badge earned
  • 4 new 25-TIMER badges earned
  • 27 barkrunners -- RECORD!!
  • 7 virtual volunteers

Stat(s) of the week: Math professor Larry Washington writes: “I figured out how you resolve ties in the Results: Backwards alphabetical by first names. Clearly Colin and Andrea are being generous.” Close, Larry, very close!

Larry presumably noticed that last week there were 3 participants who appeared with a 5K equivalent time of 25:24. They appeared in the results in the order Melanie Barzik, Larry Washington, then John Ramsey.

Larry’s exactly right about how this ordering came about. Though in a bit of a roundabout way.

We never made any effort to break ties in virtual parkrun 5K times. We’re pretty chill about the times, as you may have noticed. We convert longer distances to equivalent paces for 5K, we round distances that seem really close to 5K. Some estimate their times. Yeah, it’s no big deal.

But the part that we have given thought to is how to order the names that don’t record a 5K time. This accounts for a sizable chunk of the weekly results table (something that we are very happy about). We sort the weekly table by time and then alphabetically by first names, because it’s fast and easy in Google Sheets. And last week we accidentally clicked the button to follow reverse alphabetical order, and then we figured that this would make a nice change. When you have a family name that begins with Zu… you’re aware of the impact of alphabetical ordering.



Emily, Kyle, and barkrunner Sophie (yes, we have two Sophies!) enjoyed an hour and a half walk on the trail - that's plenty of time precision for us! 

Barkrunners- Iditarod Edition

This weeks’ spotlight on barkrunners didn’t disappoint! Even though they have trouble typing out their own stories, the pups’ humans were more than happy to share photos and stories about their furry friends. And we had by far our biggest ever turnout of barkrunners.

Our Virtual Iditarod partnership with Roosevelt Island parkrun resulted in a combined 1385 km. That’s a lot of distance, the most we have covered together in a while. But it was short of the 1500 km target that we had announced, to align with the length of the Iditarod sled dog race, which started this weekend in Alaska. … But then we learned that the COVID version of the race this year covers a shortened out-and-back route (we love out and back routes!). And this year’s distance is pretty much exactly the same as the distance that we covered. So, we did it!!

Roosevelt Island even got a visit from a few retired sled dogs, and some parkrunners got to introduce some new barkrunners.


Retired sled dog Black Bear met new friends on Roosevelt Island

Fun fact, barkrunner Shackleton was originally named Sled; his human, Angela Gentile, renamed him when he was adopted. Their 4 mile run this weekend would be light for a sled dog, but it was just perfect for Shackleton and his pregnant park-musher.


It's always a good time to stop for a sniff

Eli’s weekly art exploration led him to the traffic box art wrapNiqabi by Rashad Ali Muhammad of Clinton, MD.


Your weekly art update from Eli

Barkrunner Gifford was reunited with Dan Owen this week after his human’s return from the UK. Gifford was quick to demand a familiar run along the C&O canal towpath.



Pakora is now running sub 28 minute 5K’s, including sniff breaks, with human Pratyush Tiwary.


Pakora is becoming quite the runner (but marathons are for crazy people)

The last time Jasper went running was the tutu parkrun in February 2020, so he was excited to get to run again with Emma Keer that he barked nonstop for the first half mile. Not used to such a long run, he only made it 1.7 miles before demanding to be taken home and allowed to nap in the sun all afternoon.


Jasper is excited to get a run with Emma


The all important recovery phase

Curious how much extra distance barkrunner Chevy covers zigzagging along the trail, Lisa Wilson attached her phone to Chevy’s harness while using her fitbit to track her own run walk. It turns out between drinking all the puddles, making new barkrunner friends, and having to go back to retrieve a lost cap, Chevy managed 12 miles to Lisa’s 7.


Chevy got in a few extra miles

Meanwhile, Chevy’s tiny brother Nemo joined Hump for a mile walk along the Paint Branch trail. Scaled to the length of Nemo’s little legs, that’s probably more paces than most of us got this weekend.


Nemo gets a lot of steps to the mile


Tucker was excited to get outside with Amy Rice


Sophie misses her parkrun pals. But a run in Rock Creek Park with Evan is pretty nice.


Baxter reading the URL where he can find these reports

Milestones and More

This week we welcomed ELEVEN first-timers! Peter X, Rees Stiles, Stefania Gazzano, Emma Bradley, Laurie Collins, Allison Johnson, Black Bear (barkrunner), Bonnie (barkrunner), Copper (barkrunner), Emmo (barkrunner), and Jake Cox.


John Maneval brought along his friend Peter

Fittingly, four of this week’s first timers are barkrunners, and some others joined (or were recruited) as a part of this week’s virtual Iditarod challenge. Rees Stiles joined the Cary, NC crew. Laurie Collins is CP(V)p regular Gloria Cottman’s sister. Emma Bradley in Essex, UK was recruited by Louise Godley. Allison Johnson and Jake Cox in Aspen Hill were recruited by Anna Tinnemore.


Welcome Bonnie and Emmo - Melanie Barzik's pups

Stefania Gazzano is daughter-in-law of CPVp regular Stefano Gazzano, in Civitavecchia, ITALY. (Good luck to Stefano on his upcoming surgery -- we look forward to when you can run with us again.)


Paulo Giulio, Stefania, and barkrunner Nathan

THREE joined the High Five club this week. Theodore and dad John McElhenny covered the regular CPp course in 42 minutes. On this day last year they both set PBs of 48 minutes, so we’d count that as a clear PB! And the other new 5-timer is none other than Hump Plotts.

Mark Shroder was the one new member of the Ten Timer Turtle club this week.

And we have FOUR new 25-timers this week, each earning a cake badge: Pete Poremba in Ohio, Adrien Harrison in Columbia, MD, Shelly Gough Lauffer in Mt Airy, MD, and Elmer Hernandez, who can generally be found on the Paint Branch Trail in College Park. on a Saturday morning.


Elmer always has kind words for everybody along the trail

Diana Claros completed her first ever half marathon. Congrats! Danny Walker happened to be taking part in the same trail race.

Jeremy Rueter completed what we think is his first ever 10 mile run. Nice!

And young James Schneider, who a year ago was napping in a backpack at CP parkrun, this week toddled a full mile as part of Team Schneider’s 5K in Bladensburg.


Team Schneider visited the caboose in Bladensburg

Virtual Volunteers

We are as grateful as ever to our virtual volunteer crew. It’s always a team effort, but especially so on a weekend with a big turnout and where one key team member is sidelined by the day job for much of the weekend.

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

This week we shared a picture from this weekend last year, at our last big in person gathering. Tara Mease commented: “I cried that morning. I knew it would be one of the last weeks that Xander and I could come, and that parkrun would be one of the things we could do for the longest. I had no idea how much everyone else would be joining in on the isolation, nor how long it would last!! It's been so so so marvelous to have the robust virtual parkrun community spring up!!”


This was a whole year ago

Well, we cannot say enough how much more feasible it is to keep this going because of Tara’s data management wizardry.

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

Looking Back

Over the past year we have been looking back each week to our photo albums from the same week one year earlier. We use those pictures in our social media posts -- they always match the seasonal conditions on the trail -- and sometimes we share a few of them here. Well, this week we reach the end of that line, because it’s a full year since our last in person meetup. So, these memories are extra special for us.

On the first week of March in 2020 the McElhenny family was out in force. Mariella McElhenny reached the (junior) 10 parkrun milestone, and the family brought cake to share. Mariella ran together with Milkii Dagne, who reached the 10 parkrun milestone on the same day.


Let them eat cake!


Milestones for Milkii and Mariella


This week: mom Kate needs a zoom lens as Gwyn and Mariella sprint into the distance

First-timers that day included Andres Mbouh, who has since gone on to complete 30 CPVps, and has also started a running group in Columbia to encourage community members to get active.


Andres did his first parkrun on our last week before the shutdown


Andres this week, helping to keep people active in Columbia

Catherine Spirito and Pete Monacelli managed to get in their 50th runs just in the nick of time.


His and hers 50 sashes for Pete and Catherine

We implemented some precautionary measure that weekend, in light of the virus that we were all hearing about. But they seem a bit quaint in retrospect. At the time we thought, like many others, that surfaces were a key vector for the virus, so we retired the PB bell, and decided to quarantine the finisher tokens for a few days before sorting them. We were exploring elbow bumps. We had no idea of the changes that the following days would bring.


Innocent times

Here’s CNN’s coronavirus news page from March 7th, 2020. There were 437 confirmed cases in the US by that point. Italy was in discussions about a lockdown in the northern part of the country, and New York State declared a state of emergency. The first case in the DC area was confirmed on that day. The total number of tests carried out in the US up to that point was less than 6,000. Nowadays that’s about the number that UMD alone runs in it’s weekly Tuesday-to-Thursday mass testing cycle.


Carey and Frank enjoying something that no longer seems normal

On this weekend in 2019 Carlos Chaverri-Morales brought the family along (Viviana, Elena, and Sara) for the first time. They had fun!


We love this picture of Janet Tate and Rebecca White supporting each other on the out-and-back.


The Kaczmarski family was also out in force. Some ran, some walked, and some napped.


Evan Hirsche and barkrunner Sophie paced Katie Hirsche to a PB, and then they immediately took over as the barcode scanning crew.


This weekend in 2018 was an unusual one. We learned early in the morning that there was a tree down right beyond Hump’s Crossing. So we sent out cancellation notices via our website, email, and social media around 7:30am. You might have thought that this would have been an invitation for everybody to sleep in or take a little longer with the morning coffee. Not exactly!

A number of people headed over to Kensington, to join in the test event for the soon-to-launch Kensington parkrun.



Token 0004 for Xander in 2018. There will be more of these low numbers in his future.

Clark and Violet Ridge, plus Patrick Wojahn and Kirk Gordon headed down to Anacostia to visit the parkrun there, which had launched just a few months earlier.


Clark and Violet at Anacostia in 2018. This week they ran together in Berwyn Heights

Steve and Cindy Feld headed over to Fletcher’s Cove parkrun on the C&O Canal, where they also ran into Cindy Cohen.


Cindy, Cindy, and Steve at Fletcher's Cove. Cindy may be back in College Park next week

Gus Campbell went to Leakin Park parkrun in Baltimore, which is like his second home parkrun, anyway.

Nobody went from College Park to Roosevelt Island parkrun … but it looks like that event was canceled on the same day, so that’s not so surprising.

And meanwhile a number of people didn’t get the note in time and still showed up to Acredale Park. Impressively, by the time they arrived, the parks department had already been out with chainsaws and had cleared the trail. So maybe we could have gone ahead anyway!



And four years ago, on this weekend in 2017, we had a different kind of adventure. It was an unseasonably cold day, and with 36 finishers it was one of our smallest ever fields. But it was a day when we learned an important lesson.


One of our smallest ever fields on a rather cold morning

Most of the week’s volunteer crew was from UMD service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega. Great! But they initially went to the wrong location, so at 8:55am we had almost no volunteers. So we quickly dispatched Nick Huang to head up the trail to be turnaround marshal, while Colin was left to buy Nick some time with a slow pre-event briefing. As word spread that we didn’t have a volunteer crew, a few people stepped up on the spot to help out. And then the APOs made it to the park just in time to be in place before the first finishers arrived.


The APO volunteer crew eventually found the right park!

It was one of those days when we learned to really not sweat the setbacks, because things would work out in the end.

That was also the first day that we had a female first finisher. A female barkrunner, that is. Australian cattle dog Scout helped pull Ken Leonard to a PB of 19:11. To our knowledge this might still be the fastest barkrun on our course. (We don’t keep official records, nor do we encourage record tracking, for safety reasons.) Ken explained to us that Scout caught the scent of a friend who happened to be biking on the trail that morning, and so she sped up in order to try to catch up with the friend!

There’s a fun description of that day’s events in our run report from CPp #21.


We miss Scout!


Look who set a PB on that day in 2017! Just 4 years old at the time.

And looking back a little further, Janet Grudzien John sent us this message from Honolulu, HI. “Six years ago I ran my first ever 5k (Huntington parkrun [UK]) Here is what I posted that day "Going to attempt to run/walk a 5k this morning. Despite years of playing rec soccer, endless hours of cardio, and my love of swimming I have never attempted one in the past. I just want to complete it. Fingers crossed." Well, she succeeded. And now she has completed over 140 parkrun 5Ks and a whole bunch of virtual 5Ks, too. Great stuff, Janet!


A 5K is now easy peasy for Janet. 6 years ago it was a big deal.

Looking Ahead

Last week we wrote in this column that we’re cautiously optimistic about being able to hold in person events again in the summer, more likely later than earlier. Nothing that we have seen in the past week changes that estimate.

In the UK, the current focus of parkrun is on restarting some of their junior 2K events in April. The interesting thing to watch there is how many of the 300 events choose or get permission to return at that point. Current numbers appear to be a little over 50%. This will lay the groundwork for a much bigger task of trying to bring back hundreds of 5K events at once in June.


This crew is looking forward to the return of Durham, NC parkrun

Locally to us, the alarming spike in COVID infections at UMD appears to have been brought under control impressively quickly. The UMD COVID-19 dashboard shows that this week’s 8,000 tests yielded just 47 positives, i.e., a positivity rate of 0.6%. This is back to where things stood a month ago.

Nationally and in Maryland, COVID infection numbers are trending slightly downwards, but rather less quickly than a few weeks ago. Fatalities are also down, but by much less than case counts. We would hope to see a big fall in fatalities as a consequence of early vaccinations targeted at vulnerable populations. That hasn’t happened yet at the national level. Signs are maybe more encouraging in Maryland, where in January we were losing 40-45 per day to COVID-19, and where this weekend the 7-day average was down to 12.

And then there’s Texas, where ALL restrictions will be lifted as of this week. This is despite case rates per capita that are currently around double what we’re seeing in Maryland. If things go badly there, people will die in Maryland as a consequence.

We have no news on changes in park permissions in Maryland. We imagine that if school openings go well in the coming weeks and if infections, hospitalizations, and fatalities get below half the current levels, then we might see more action on that front. But we do not expect that Prince George’s County will be leading the charge.


We hear you, Rachel! Hopefully during the summer.

So, as we have done for the past year, we will maintain our focus on doing what we can to help each other stay a little more active, and a little more connected. We are AMAZED that, one year into the pandemic, we have 200+ participants in a virtual event.

If you’re in the College Park area, you’ll be sure to see friendly faces if you come along to the Paint Branch Trail on a Saturday morning. There’s no formal gathering. People show up at whatever time suits them. The trail is not crowded. If you haven’t visited in a while, you should check out the new connector trail that leads to the College Park Woods neighborhood. It’s a really nice addition.


Always good to see Lucy and Laurie along the trail on a Saturday

We will continue our social-but-distanced coffee meetups at the Discovery District Park late morning Saturday. With significant improvement in the weather on the horizon, we’re going to have less need for blankets in the coming weeks. There’s ample seating, and it’s easy to catch up with friends safely.

If you have ideas for new community challenges, we’d love to hear them. Drop us an email.

Until next time!
Your CPVp Team


Meridith is raising awareness of a campaign for routine colorectal cancer screenings from age 45. Thanks Meridith -- we need to take this seriously.


Unexpected visitors at Acredale Park this week. We hope that the person who needed help is now ok. (Not a parkrunner.)



Frank Filteau navigates around police cruisers on the Paint Branch Trailmeghan-gieske-web

Meghan Gieske saw these THREE bald eagles on her run in South Bend, IN


Mary Hicks assures us that this is fine weather for early March in Northern Illinois


Late afternoon sun from Louise Godley's run in Wheaton Regional Park in Silver Spring


Alyssa and Keaton getting in some extra miles with a walk in Clarksville


Spring is reaching Connecticut


Malik and David and their crew are ready for their latest hard core workout


Still not broken - Colin is excited to be back to running the trail on a Saturday


Shorts weather? Nice try, Trace! We promise that it really will be warmer next week. See you then!