We like to say that we aim to leave the park and trail in better shape than we found it. We certainly succeeded on that front this week. We had around 30 parkrunners helping to clean up Acredale Park and the Paint Branch Trail, as part of a North College Park Community Cleanup. Not only that, we even found Mary Hicks, hundreds of miles away in Rockford, IL, taking similar action for her own neighborhood.
Separately, Lisa Wilson is using her engineering know-how to ensure that the trail is as safe and sound as possible.
It’s tempting to think that we simply abandoned the park and the trail in early 2020 and will return to find whatever might have happened to it during the pandemic. Quite the opposite. This community has been watching over it throughout, and when we return in larger numbers, hopefully fairly soon, we’ll find it in even better shape than before.
Now let’s see what everybody got up to for CPVp #53.
Just some of the cleanup crew. In College Park ... and in Illinois
Facts and Figures
- 178 virtual parkrunners
- 750 miles covered
- 3 first-timers
- 1 new HIGH FIVE badges earned
- 3 new TEN TIMER TURTLE badges earned
- 3 new 25-TIMER badges earned
- 5 new 50-TIMER badges earned
- 15 barkrunners
- 34 not-so-virtual volunteers
Stat(s) of the week: Many of you recently participated in a fundraiser for the College Park Community Food Bank, which has been helping to support hundreds of local families throughout the pandemic. We are happy to pass along the news that the campaign raised $2,550. That’s fantastic news, far more than expected. Thanks to all who participated, and to those of you who are volunteering at CPCFB or in many other ways during the pandemic.
Sister act: Meridith and Adrien took a run together on the Paint Branch Trail for the virtual Georgia Aquarium 5K (Meridith is rather into dolphins), and then joined the cleanup.
We’re Wombles Now!
A couple of weeks ago when Elizabeth Sheridan visited Wimbledon Common in London for her CPVp, Louise Godley reminded us of the cultural importance, for Brits of, ahem, a certain age, of Wombles. These are fictional, pointy snouted characters whose mission in life is to pick up trash that they find around Wimbledon Common.
This week Rach Cousen scored bonus points for naturally using “womble” in a sentence (as a verb, no less) when she described our park clean-up efforts as “wombling”. We hadn’t thought of the cleanup in those terms, but we’ll take it!
It was exciting to see a gaggle of parkrunners at Acredale Park, awaiting further instructions. It was almost, just almost, like old times. But instead of reminding people to thank Hump as they ran past, Andrea was doling out trash bags, grabbers, and face masks.
Almost like old times at the park
Even so, it was great to see folks who we haven’t seen in person in months or in some cases in more than a year.
… But it was also great that in so many cases we weren’t simply reconnecting after a year away, because we have been connecting weekly all along.
Neha and Yogarshi did some wombling after their run
A number of us were enjoying a new specially curated playlist created by parkrunner and music maven Bud Verge. This week’s theme: songs about running. You can access it on Spotify here (it works with a free account).
The past couple of weeks Bud shared the list with a few CPVp friends on social media. It was fun to compare notes with others who had been running or walking at different times, but who had the same soundtrack. If others are interested in joining the fun, and if there are more of these in future weeks -- Bud’s out for a couple of months with a stress fracture, alas -- we can find ways to share more broadly.
Stewart was fueled by Bud's playlist this week
Angela Gentile & TJ Hool did their CPVp in the Badlands in South Dakota. While Angela hiked, TJ came across a group of rams during his run. Bighorn sheep have made a dramatic recovery over the last century, from a population of 20,000 in 1940, to 80,000 in the US today. Although the Badlands Bighorn subspecies (or variation of the Rocky Mountain Bighorn subspecies - taxonomists disagree) that originally occupied the area is now extinct, Bighorn Sheep were reintroduced to the park starting in 1964. TJ came across one of the bachelor herds, which the male lambs join at around 2-4 years old. Female lambs, however, will stay with their mothers’ herd for their whole lives. The sheep graze on vegetation and retreat into the cliffs to avoid predators and digest their tough meals in their four chambered stomachs.
That looks a little hilly
In recent months the National Mall here in DC has been even more inaccessible than The Badlands. Something to do with an insurrection. So Rachel Lukens was very happy to get out to run on the paths along the mall this week.
It's open again!
Meanwhile in Michigan, Cory Kind helped us to uncover an interesting rabbit hole of Big10 history. Cory took the pups for a jaunt in Gabriel Richard Park, next to the Detroit River. They found this lovely field of daffodils. Virtual volunteer Heather Sisan commented that her husband attended a high school of the same name. So we figured that this dude must have done something notable.
Walker and Coney checking out the smells in Gabriel Richard Park
Sure enough, in 1817 he was the co-founder of the Catholepistemiad of Michigania.
Well, it turns out that the name didn’t stick, but the institution did. We now know it better as the University of Michigan (Go Blue!). Richard was a French Roman Catholic priest whose first role in the US was as a mathematics teacher in Baltimore, Maryland, before heading off to make all kinds of important contributions in the then Northwest Territory.
Remaining with the Big10 theme, Ann Robinson, Michael Phipps and their crew from Mansfield, OH parkrun were due to take part in an annual 4-miler that ends at the 50-yard line of the Ohio State University football stadium in Columbus. But that wasn’t happening, because of you-know-what, so they chose instead to do a 4-miler on OSU’s Mansfield campus, which we confess we weren’t aware of. Cool idea!
But of course they have a buckeye mascot. His name is Brutus, apparently.
Milestones and More
This week we welcomed THREE first-timers: Sam McGranahan, Ankur Holz, Aileen Kroll. See our “looking back” segment for a vintage picture of Sam outsprinting our mayor. Ankur joined us from Howard County for the first time. And Aileen is a long-time CPp regular who joined us for the cleanup project -- it made us very happy to see her bike chained to the railing at Acredale Park for the first time in a long while.
This week’s sole new 5-timer was Kayla Hayes, a regular CPp runner and volunteer over the years, often supporting her mom Jackie Hayes.
We had THREE new 10-timers this week: Christina McNamee-Mahaffey, Sharyn Gordon, and Michelle Brandy.
In Christina’s case she was doing her first ever 10K, and we are thrilled to hear this. Christina was a bit apprehensive when she first joined us at CP parkrun about 2 years ago. That’s understandable, as a big crowd of runners can be a bit daunting. But she quickly figured out how we roll, and also joined as a volunteer a few times.
Christina's first ever 10K!
Michelle was enjoying nature near her home in DC. And Sharyn was enjoying the scenery from the comfort of her treadmill.
This week’s new 25-timers were Diane Rosenberg, Michael Iati, and Ann Robinson. Ann was part of the Mansfield OH crew mentioned above, and it’s so good to see that she’s back to running after a nasty fall last September. Michael now rarely misses his CPVp jaunt together with Dom Blom and their barkrunner Roo. And by our calculations Diane becomes the SEVENTH member of Team Rosenberg to join the 25-timer club. Impressive!
Finally, this week, we saw 5 more members of the 50-timer club … the one we thought we’d never need.
- Dale Morey
- Jen Matis
- Bonnie McClellan
- Eli (barkrunner)
- Ellen Oberholtzer
We’re delighted that Dale has been joining us weekly during the pandemic. He now has done many more CPVps than CPps.
Jen this week yet again covered further than she ever had in her life before, around 11.5 miles. We figured that she must be gearing up to try a half marathon. But no, it’s something more ambitious. She’s looking to celebrate her 50th birthday in June by covering 50K in the space of 3 days!
Eleven miles. And lilacs!
Bonnie McClellan was out on the trail early as usual, together with husband Mike and with Anna Tinnemore. Bonnie and Mike now have BOTH completed 50 CP parkruns AND 50 CP Virtual parkruns … and Bonnie is the younger of the two at 81.
And not forgetting barkrunner Eli and his human Ellen. Eli is now the very first barkrunner to join our 50-timer club, and he’s more of a star than he realizes. His travels with Ellen during the pandemic have opened our eyes to the many beautiful and cool things right on our doorstep in the communities along the Streetcar 82 Trolley Trail. This week they were enjoying the blossoms of a dogwood tree (how appropriate!) by the Hyattsville courthouse.
Dog with dogwood
Beyond the CPVp badges, a couple of other things jumped out at us.
Patrick Wojahn was feeling so energized that he went and blazed his standard 4.6 mile route around North College Park. In fact, he not only beat his fastest CPVp time yet, we think he was also faster than his CPp 5K PB … which he set 4 years ago this weekend.
Larry Washington’s 70th birthday can’t come fast enough right now, as he seems to be practically on fire. If his distance measurements are correct, then his run this week was significantly faster than his best ever parkrun 5K time, set back in 2017.
Andrea Zukowski was feeling pretty happy to run 6 miles, further than she has in a long time. She was inspired to do so by her team of Tuesday morning run buddies from Prince George’s Running Club, who were teaming up to cover a full marathon distance between themselves yesterday.
Andrea completed her leg of the team marathon
Keaton Ellis was feeling pretty good about dipping below 20 minutes for the first time in a while. He confessed that his route was a little gravity-assisted. But according to the rules of CPVp, we really don’t care, as long as you have fun (and stay safe).
It's all, er, uphill from here, Keaton
… And last but not least, there’s no milestone quite like simply being able to run again. This week it was Stefano Gazzano’s turn to re-start running after surgery. Congratulations, Stefano!
Stefano is back to running, with Paolo Giulio for company
This week we’re including all the park cleaners among the volunteer crew. We’re labeling them as Wombles (see above). We’re also introducing a new volunteer role of “DJ”, in recognition of Bud Verge’s curated playlist. Thank You to all!
Katie Hirsche: results (Strava)
Jen Matis: cheerleading
Tara Mease: results czar
Colin Phillips: results, report, and propaganda
Hannah Russell: report extras
Heather Sisan: results and cheerleading (Facebook)
Anna Tinnemore: results (form)
Bud Verge: DJ
Andrea Zukowski: results, email and photos
Wombles: Judy Barnes, Gloria Cottman, Külli Crespin, Ginny Fromel, Barbara Gusack, Adrien Harrison, Clare Imholtz, Neha Joshi, Aileen Kroll, Lizzie (barkrunner), Stewart Mayhew, Colin Phillips, Meridith Phillips, Calvin Ridge, Clark Ridge, Felix Ridge, Violet Ridge, Hannah Russell, Marvin Russell, Erin Schneider, James Schneider, Joshua Schneider, Mary Clare Schneider, Samantha Schneider, Joanne Smith, Yogarshi Vyas, Lisa Wilson, Patrick Wojahn, Chris X, Andrea Zukowski
As always, we’re looking for new volunteers who can help out in the coming weeks. Drop us a line at email@example.com if you can help.
The barkrunners all stayed home for a nap this week.
Just kidding! With mild weather and spring smells all around, it was a perfect day to be a barkrunner.
Even Marlow looked a little less put out to head out for his walk this week.
Pakora was frolicking along the trail in College Park with Pratyush Tiwary, and he got to pause for a little stream play along the way.
Lizzie came along for the park cleanup project, and was excited to meet LOTS of new friends.
Lizzie greeting some of her fans
And in Michigan, Jasper and Whistler took part in an experiment in course measurement, together with Tim and Jeri Keer. We think that one of these Strava tracks is from a barkrunner (or at least a human with a barkrunner), and the other is from a human. Your guess is as good as ours.
Back in College Park, Shackleton is missing his humans, who were off adventuring in S Dakota. But he was not going to miss out on his CPVp. Thankfully, Kyle McCormick took him out for a stroll, and the world is a happy place again.
One year ago, in April 2020, we were starting to get itchy feet.
We held our first virtual coffee meetup on April 11th, with around 40 in attendance. Clearly, folks were missing seeing each other on a Saturday morning.
Back when Zoom felt like a new thing
Then, on April 18th we experimented with a Saturday morning social media post, encouraging people to chime in to tell us what they had been up to. We were really encouraged by the interest that this generated, and that led us to start poking around to see how we might build on this in future weeks.
Our first toe in the water, 2 weeks before the start of CPVp
Later that same week Governor Hogan released the first plan for the staged reopening of activities in Maryland. That’s when it became clearer to us that we weren’t likely to be back to in person events for a while. So that is when we set about making more concrete plans for College Park Virtual parkrun.
One year earlier, in the more innocent times of early 2019, it must have been Easter weekend, as we found tailwalker Eden Gray sporting bunny ears.
Many parkrunners who are regular CPVpers were setting PBs.
PB for Lucy on this weekend in 2019
... And Catherine!
We welcomed first-timers Cordell Eddings. Yes, both of them! (One of them goes by CJ.)
The tunnel of trees was looking great in the spring, as always.
And Lisa Wilson was pretty happy to get finish token #100 on a day when she was also sporting her 100-timer shirt.
In 2018 for our 79th weekly event we found many regulars celebrating speedy PBs. Maybe it’s the April weather that puts an extra spring in people’s stride.
Super speedy time for Win Persina on this weekend in 2018
PBs for Nick and Janice on this weekend in 2018
John Wilkerson’s barkrunner was especially eager to make it to the finish.
Hold on tight!
But it was just a great morning to be out on the trail, whether or not you were in a hurry.
It was Emily's birthday this weekend -- happy birthday, Emily!
In April 2017 we had a crowd of 94 finishers, which at the time was a record turnout for a regular Saturday. We were pretty giddy about that, to be honest.
Carlos Gough reached the 10-timer milestone. Carlos now has well over 50 parkruns under his belt. And he dipped under 30 minutes for the first time that week. (Keep up, mom!)
This guy has grown
First-timers that day included John Ramsey. John has barely missed a week in the 4 years since then. On that day he finished in 31:xx, and he has gotten substantially faster since then.
John's first parkrun (of 139 "classic" and 53 virtual)
Also appearing as a first-timer that day is Judy Barnes. It was by no means Judy’s first visit, but it was her first time going all the way to Lisa, with a barcode. Judy has now been stuck on 98 in-person parkruns for over a year, so we’re looking forward to making a big fuss over her on the second week after our return.
Judy's first official finish
The Foley Family were also first-timers that weekend. They became very regular runners and volunteers in the following years.
And we also welcomed Chris Van Vlack for the first time. Back then his parkrun PB was 27:xx. Extra training with Zak Mellen during the pandemic has made that feel like a stroll in the park these days.
Patrick Wojahn set a PB that day of 21:08, helped by a ferocious sprint with Sam McGranahan. That remains Patrick’s PB … but such is his pandemic fitness that he eclipsed that pace this weekend, on a run that was half as long again.
Seems like Patrick's PB is ready for an update
Another of the many PBs that day was by Andrea Zukowski, who finished in 25:56, a time that she would find hard to fathom these days.
Bridget helps Andrea to a PB
Our favorite sprint finish picture from that day is Yancira Amaya and Cliff Bedore. We don’t recall who finished first of those two. But we do remember that they were smiling broadly seconds later.
We love this!
Last week in this column we said that the remarkable pace of vaccinations is leading us to think more seriously about the restart of in person events. Not right now, but maybe by the end of May, around Memorial Day. We looked closely at how vaccinations are on track to becoming a game changer for reducing the risk of COVID-19 transmission at events like ours.
This week we have just a few updates on our situation.
David's crew was running up and down hills with heavy stuff again this week
There are 4 basic criteria that parkrun HQ sees as prerequisites for restarts. We agree with all of them.
- Compliance: follow government rules on gatherings
- Safety: minimize risk of virus transmission
- Participant intent: don’t return if most participants and volunteers aren’t ready
- Community acceptance: be mindful of community comfort levels
Compliance: No updates on this front.
We do not have a permit from Prince George’s Parks & Recreation, and the county guidelines have not changed recently. That said, the parks department is organizing more and more group activities of its own, it is promoting a 5K event of its own at National Harbor on May 1st, and the county’s “50% capacity on everything” ruling could possibly apply to us.
We suspect that if we start to see clear effects of vaccinations on reducing COVID-19 cases in the DMV then the conditions for gaining permission will improve.
Calvin proudly demonstrates a homemade grabber that Violet built
Safety: We remain in a “not out of the woods yet” situation, but developments this week still point to us being in a strong position for safe outdoor gatherings by Memorial Day weekend.
- COVID-19 cases in Prince George’s County and Montgomery County are flat over the past 2 weeks, at around 1 in 6,000 residents testing positive per day. There are increasing hints that Maryland’s fourth wave has crested, and that we are headed for a sustained decline.
- UMD’s mass testing yielded 11 positives from a total of 6,400 tests in the past week. Since everybody gets tested every 2 weeks, the test positivity rate of < 0.2% is a good estimate of prevalence of the virus on the campus.
- Maryland’s vaccination program continues to move remarkably quickly, 500,000 received a shot in Maryland in just the past 7 days. That’s 1 in 9 adults. Now 55% of adults have had at least one shot.
- Although the pause in the single shot Johnson & Johnson vaccinations this week was a disappointment, its impact on the rollout in our area should be minimal. Supplies of the highly effective 2-shot mRNA vaccines (Pfizer, Moderna) are plentiful.
- It looks increasingly likely that UMD will soon announce a vaccine mandate, as a number of other local colleges have already done. This means that vaccination levels in College Park are likely to be extremely high, in light of the size of the 50,000 person campus community.
At some point the rate of vaccinations will plateau, due to a shortage of willing recipients. We do not know when that will be. But we remain confident that the DMV is on track for a high vaccination rate. We also remain confident that by late May almost everybody in our area who wants a vaccine will be able to access one.
This means that by late May, communities whose members overwhelmingly want to protect themselves and others using the vaccines will have very high levels of protection.
We believe that our community fits this description. We also meet for brief periods of time, in wide open outdoor spaces, with ample opportunities for spreading out. We are on track to be in a very safe situation.
Recent relevant resources:
A year into the pandemic, it’s even more clear that it’s safer to be outside. Washington Post, April 13th, 2021. This journalism is supported by a review in the Journal of Infectious Diseases from late November, which overlaps with a study on outdoor/indoor safety commissioned by parkrun.
What can I do? A calculator. This is a useful piece by Emily Oster, Brown University economist and COVID data maven. It runs through basically the same exercise that we did last week. Except that Emily focuses on small indoor gatherings for families, whereas we were focused on mid-sized outdoor gatherings. The bottom line is the same, though: vaccines are a game changer.
Vaccination progress in the US. This graphic, from the wonderful Our World in Data, shows the percentage of the population that has received at least one COVID vaccine shot in many of the states that have parkrun events. It’s striking that during January and February the rollout was closely matched across all states. But in March and April they have separated along relatively predictable lines. This is not a matter of supply. It’s a matter of uptake. It’s a reason to feel optimistic about our situation in the DMV, if not about the US as a whole.
At first it was all about supply and delivery. Increasingly the action is in demand.
We do want to acknowledge one flaw in the calculations that we shared last week. It does not change our conclusions, but we want to be transparent. We said that vaccinated people are FAR less likely than others in the community to be infectious. This is accurate. We also said that if 1 in 500 unvaccinated individuals in the community are currently infectious, then the rate among vaccinated people should be 1 in 5,000 or less. Also accurate. The misstep was that we treated the overall community prevalence of the virus as the equivalent to the prevalence among unvaccinated people. That’s roughly true when few in the community are vaccinated, but it becomes less true once we reach high levels of vaccination. Simple example: if the overall prevalence is 1 in 500 people in a community where 50% have received a highly effective vaccine, then the vast majority of the infectious people are in the unvaccinated half of the population. So their prevalence would be around 1 in 250.
Practically speaking, though, this tweak makes little difference to our projections, as long as there is high uptake of vaccines among CP parkrunners.
(Emily Oster’s calculator had the same issue as our calculations. We pointed it out to her and she made an update.)
Spring blossoms (h/t Kristine Rogers)
Participant intent. We know that there are many CP parkrun volunteers, walkers, and runners who would be happy to show up to an in person event today. We’re sure that there are also many who would not. We’re unsure of the relative size of these groups.
Since there is no plan to return right away, what matters more is how people will be feeling over the next month or two.
One development this week is that parkrun HQ has stepped up its surveying of US parkrunners via their “return to parkrun” email survey, after a hiatus for most over the past few months.
We encourage you to fill out the surveys from parkrun if you receive one, even if you have received one before. They are being sent to the same sample of US parkrunners regularly, to track shifts in attitudes over time. Unfortunately, the results are likely to be biased. Most people don’t respond to email surveys, and those that respond to surveys about the return of parkrun are more likely to be those who are eager for it to return sooner rather than later.
Although it’s hard for us to have an accurate picture of sentiment in our community, we do have the benefit of staying in regular contact throughout the pandemic, and being as transparent as possible about plans.
Barkrunner Gifford enjoying the trails around Glen Echo, MD
Local acceptance. It’s not at all easy to track community sentiment around the return of events like ours. But a really good proxy is to see what else is happening in the area, and to ensure that we are not an outlier.
In that context, two developments this week involve plans for activities that will be far more visible in College Park than CP parkrun.
First, UMD announced this week that on May 21st it will host two in person graduation ceremonies outside at Maryland Stadium. This will be the first big in person event at UMD since Winter 2020, with numbers that vastly surpass the turnout at CP parkrun.
Second, UMD this week released its plans for a return to mostly normal operations over the course of the summer. This means that there will be a steady ramp up of activities on the campus over the course of the summer, ahead of a likely big surge in late summer.
None of these steps guarantee broad acceptance. But they do imply that there will soon be other, much larger activities happening in town.
Coming Attractions. Our summer plans are uncertain. But we know exactly what we will be doing the next couple of Saturday mornings.
April 24th - Is it a bird, is it a plane? No, but some folks plan to be out next Saturday morning chasing or pacing a fast 5K time along the Paint Branch Trail for CPVp #54. Clark Ridge and Sam Phipps both tested out their 18-minute pacing skills in the past week, so you can maybe guess what’s being planned. … And as always there will be plenty of people out there simply enjoying a pleasant run or walk along the trail.
May 1st - it’s our birthday! CPVp #55 will also be our 1st (and only?) birthday. We’re not yet sure what we’ll be doing to celebrate, but we won’t be letting that day pass unnoticed.
Also May 1st (or thereabouts) - Azalea Classic 5K. This annual University Park ES fundraiser is a local favorite. Normally we have to choose between CP parkrun and the UP race. But this year there’s no need to choose, because the Azalea Classic is a virtual event. In fact, if anybody is looking for a good place to do an accurately measured 5K route for their virtual AC, we know of a good place to do that!
Until next time
Your CPVp Team
Adrian and Stella Dover picked up duck eggs along their park walk
See you next week ... from Lara in Berlin, Germany