"Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time." (Ruth Bader Ginsburg)
CP Virtual parkrun #21 had a little bit of everything.
We enjoyed the best weather for running and walking in months. A truly beautiful day.
We did a one day challenge, to try to cover the length of the perimeter of Maryland. Virtually, of course. At 842 miles, that was going to require more than we had covered since Week #14.
And we were thinking a lot about the struggle for equality and opportunity, following the news just hours earlier of the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We had RBG quotes to inspire us on the trail this week.
And yeah, there’s still that pandemic thing going on.
2020 is an emotional whirlwind already. This weekend was like 2020 after drinking a little too much coffee. Of course, we have plenty to share. And it was a bit of a whirlwind week in parkrun world, too. More on that at the end of the report.
Teresa and Külli completed a half marathon distance on local trails this weekend
Facts and Figures
- 174 virtual parkrunners
- 840 miles covered (so ... that's about as close as we could get, right!)
- 10 first-timers
- 5 new TEN TIMER TURTLE badges earned
- 15 new HIGH FIVE badges earned
- 12 barkrunners (a record!)
- 7 virtual volunteers
Stat of the week: the boundary length of Maryland is 842 miles. But the total tidal shoreline of the state is 3,190 miles
Bonnie McClellan and Anna Tinnemore with one of the RBG quotes on the trail
After hearing the news Friday evening about the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the second ever woman on the US Supreme Court, many parkrunners set out to honor her memory on Saturday. Andrea wrote some inspiring RBG quotes on the trail, including "You will get satisfaction out of doing something to give back to the community that you never get in any other way."
We can relate to this
Louise Godley & Anne L’Ecuyer’s walk in Takoma Park brought them to a neighborhood shrine to both RBG and John Lewis. (C’mon 2020, why are you doing this to us?)
Seen in Takoma Park
Hannah Russell discovered it was almost exactly a 5K round trip to the Supreme Court building, so there was no other option for where to run. By 8am, there were already tons of flowers, signs, and messages at the steps of the building, and many people walking up to pay their respects.
Supreme Court flag at half mast
There were more people than we have seen since March on the Paint Branch Trail on Saturday morning. Never crowded, but lots of smiling faces.
Win Persina was out picking up trash while running, to make sure the trail was as beautiful as the day’s weather.
It wasn’t only parkrunners who were enjoying the trail. Prince George’s Running Club and Mocha Lee’s fitness group were taking advantage of the lovely day to do some (responsibly social distanced) group running. The DeMatha HS cross country team often do a pre-season time trial at CP parkrun. This year they did the same thing, but without parkrunners (well, aside from team member Ian Parsons, a regular parkrunner). Plus lots of other runners and cyclists.
So many enjoying the great running weather on the Paint Branch Trail
Some folks at the Paint Branch Trail must have thought they were seeing double, or triple, as Andrea and Colin kept passing them. They’re both training for the Virtual London Marathon in 2 weeks, and so were doing multiple laps. Andrea covered around 10 miles before her knee told her to stop. … And then Zoe Phillips said, “I’ll help you to finish your marathon, Mom!”, and proceeded to recruit friends to make up the remaining 16 miles. Colin ran the parkrun course 6 times this week. Meridith Phillips reports that he passed her 7 times on the trail.
Colin approaches the end of his 6th lap of the CP parkrun course. He's planning an 8-lap version for the Virtual London Marathon on Sunday Oct 4th.
On another local trail, the gaping hole in the NE Branch trail we mentioned last week has already been fixed! Two thumbs up to our friends at PG Parks for that!
David Lai and Malik Al Jame were excited to explore more of the great trails and parks in the DC area with a couple other friends. They ran the Capital Crescent Trail; starting in Adams Morgan, passing through Fletcher’s Cove to visit the parkrun route there, onto downtown Bethesda, and back via the National Zoo on the way back.
David and Malik did an epic DC tour this week. Then Malik came over to College Park to run 5K with his nephew Isaiah. Perfect!
Also in DC, Dottie Jograj took a walk on Roosevelt Island with Julie Russell and Neil Jograj. And Külli Crespin & Teresa Perdomo each covered a half marathon distance in College Park (see picture at the top).
Dottie, Julie and Neil pretty much covered all of the alternate courses for Roosevelt Island parkrun.
Enjoying good weather and good company
So many parkrunners commented on the great weather - it feels like Fall, which is such a relief after months of blistering humidity. Our picnic this week behind The Board and Brew even moved to a sunny spot on the other side of the bridge because our usual spot was too chilly!
We found a warmer spot for the outdoor meetup this week, right across the stream bridge, next to the Paint Branch Trail and UMD Lot 11b.
Anne L’Ecuyer & Louise Godley went for a long walk on the Sligo Creek Trail. Both were loving the great fall weather, with Anne throwing in some funky dance moves along the way. Louise, on the other hand, was having a harder time getting out the door and is grateful to CPVp, and the prospect of a beer later, for the motivation.
Ellen Oberholtzer and barkrunner Eli continued their local artwork tour.
Eli's contribution this week in his local art tour
Tour de Maryland
This week we set a 1-day challenge to cover the length of the perimeter of the State of Maryland, which is listed at 842 miles. Our final count for the day is 840 miles. So we’ll treat that as well within the margin of error, and declare victory!
We passed (virtually) many familiar and less familiar landmarks along the way.
We first headed west along the C&O Canal towpath, which parallels the Potomac River and marks the southern border of the state. One of the first landmarks we reached was the small town of Harper’s Ferry, famous for John Brown’s unsuccessful 1859 raid that aimed to end slavery. It’s a good reminder that setbacks in the fight for freedom are sometimes followed by victories.
After following the tributaries of the Potomac beyond Cumberland, MD into the Alleghenies we reached Backbone Mountain, at 3,360 ft. the highest point in the state.
We traversed the northern border of the state, otherwise known as the Mason-Dixon Line. This led us past Hancock, MD, where the state is just 1.8 miles wide north-to-south, and eventually to the top of the Chesapeake Bay at Elkton, MD. The small seat of Cecil County turns out to have a more colorful history than we could have imagined. For many years it was known as the “Gretna Green” or “elopement capital” of the east. Both baseball legend Willie Mays and televangelist Pat Robertson tied the knot in Elkton, MD. Who knew that this small town was once the Las Vegas of its time!
Heading south into the Delmarva Peninsula we eventually reached the Atlantic Ocean. We skipped the bustle of Ocean City to instead visit the wild ponies that can be found at Assateague Island National Seashore.
At this point the border of Maryland requires a crossing of the Chesapeake Bay, close to Smith Island, a fishing community that is known for the official state dessert, and a distinctive local dialect.
Smith Island cake: did you know that we have a "state dessert"? Us neither.
For our final leg we returned to College Park from Point Lookout State Park, soon passing through St Mary’s City, the first European settlement in Maryland, and the one time state capital. The main activity in SMC these days is St Mary’s College of Maryland, part of the University System of Maryland (and current home of regular CPVper Alyssa Heintzelman).
Got some ideas for future community challenges? We’d love to hear them!
Milestones and other achievements
Our fastest runners this week were Robin Phillips (M) who ran a 19:11 in Bristol, UK, and Carly Maas (F) who ran 23:19 on the Paint Branch Trail and was pleased with running her fastest 5K time in a while. [Uh oh, sorry bro -- a late arriving result nabbed the top slot.] And our virtual tailwalkers this week were Lisa & James Wilson. Lisa broke her father James out from his assisted living facility because it was such a pretty day. James deserves a special (virtual) high five, because it was his fifth CPVp 5K. Impressive for 102 years old. We think this makes him the oldest person in the world to complete 5 parkruns. (Unfortunately, they're virtual, but we're not going to be picky.)
The longest distance this week was run by Dagny S, who has been training for the Marine Corps Marathon. He completed his longest run ever at 22.22 miles, on an out and back route along the B&A Trail in Anne Arundel County. Dagny wrote that he’s having fun running in the footsteps of his fellow Oromo athletes, which includes many of the world’s fastest distance runners. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oromo_people).
Other runners also had personal milestones this week, with Jen Matis and Jeremy Rueter both running 10Ks, and Mike McClellan going sub 50 for his 5K for the first time since surgery over a year ago. Colin was at Acredale Park as Mike ran towards the finish and then dropped to the floor, after pushing himself a little too hard. But 82-year old Mike was up and smiling again very soon afterwards, waiting to cheer Bonnie McClellan and Anna Tinnemore to the finish. Later in the morning, Trace Huard also ran an all-time PB of 22:13!
We welcomed 10 first-timers this week: Jessica Rosenberg, Adrien Harrison, Mocha Lee, Stephanie Brown, Darlene Dyer, Anne Byrnes, Richard DeAngelis, Sevi X, Sevi X's mom, and Vicki Stevens.
We had our highest count of new HIGH FIVE badge earners since, well, CPVp #5, with 15 new 5-timers: Ben Flamm, Emily Flamm, Sarah Wimmer, Diana Claros, Jim Linn, Jasper (barkrunner), Whistler (barkrunner), James Wilson, Kiki Ivanovsky, Kurama (barkrunner), Lizzie (barkrunner), Michelle Brane, Sasha Ivanovsky, Yoko (barkrunner), and Jules Adamo.
And 5 parkrunners earned a 10-timer Turtle badge: Terri Snedeker, Danny Walker, Jeff Rosenberg, Sophie (barkrunner), and Judy Mason.
Congratulations to all, but here are just a few special shout-outs.
Welcome to Mocha Lee and her fitness group, including Stephanie Brown and Darlene Dyer, who did our regular 5K course as part of their weekly group workout. Also a member of the group: regular CP parkrunner Jim Cantwell. Plus some photobomber in a yellow parkrun shirt.
Mocha Lee and her crew
First-timer Jessica Rosenberg joins husband Brian and son Peter as the latest addition to Team Rosenberg, who had 6 participants this week. They were the Pennsylvania arm of Team Rosenberg, while Jeff Rosenberg earned his 10-timer badge running in Colorado.
Welcome also to Adrien Harrison, from Columbia, MD, sister of regular CPVper (and chalking helper) Meridith Phillips. And Anne Byrnes, wife of regular CPVper Amanda Mercer. They enjoyed the outdoors at Gravelly Point on the Mount Vernon Trail, one of our favorite spots for people and airplane watching in the region.
It was great to see Vicki Stevens and Richard DeAngelis back on the PB Trail on a Saturday morning. Both were regular CP parkrunners in the Before Times. We hope they can continue to join us (semi-)virtually.
Good to see Ben Flamm and Emily Flamm both earning their High Five badges on the same day. We’re pretty sure that wasn’t planned.
Impressively, five barkrunners were among this week’s new 5-timers. The pups probably don’t mind the cooler weather.
And we were thrilled to see barkrunner Sophie earn a turtle badge this week. Sophie is our most enthusiastic barkrunner at regular CP parkrun, and we know she must be missing leading the pack on a Saturday morning.
Sophie can't wait to rejoin her parkrun friends
Congrats to Judy Mason of Kensington parkrun and Terri Snedeker of Fletcher’s Cove parkrun on their 10-timer badges. To mix things up a bit more, Terri completed his 10th CPVp while running a 5K PB on the course of Anacostia parkrun. Clearly the best way to celebrate that achievement would be to go to the coffee shop for Roosevelt Island or Kensington parkruns.
This week’s CPVp was brought to you by 7 virtual volunteers.
Hannah Russell (report), Tara Mease (results wizardry), Anna Tinnemore (more results wizardry), Colin Phillips (propaganda), and Andrea Zukowski (email and chalk-based comms) are the core crew who have been keeping things humming along week after week.
This week they were joined by Katie Hirsche, who did Strava results collecting while resting up ahead of her first ever half marathon on Sunday - the Virtual Parks Half Marathon. Congrats Katie! (And Evan.)
And Lisa Shiota was a first time virtual volunteer, also monitoring results as they rolled in on Saturday. Lisa was feeling under the weather, so she handled this role adeptly from her couch while recovering. Thanks for your help, Lisa!
An additional shout out to the past virtual volunteers who helped out as online cheerleaders, reading and responding to activities posted on our Facebook feed. All very much appreciated!
As usual, we always welcome offers of help to keep CPVp going. It’s fun. And it earns you a cute volunteer badge in your CPVp results that stays even in weeks when you’re not volunteering.
Congrats to Katie on her first ever half marathon, and to pacemaker Evan
This report would not be complete without our weekly update on prospects for a return to “normal”. If we can remember what that even means. It's a bit long this week, so feel free to just skip to the bonus photos at the end.
In global parkrun world, the week was a bit of a whirlwind. Barely 24 hours after parkrun UK announced their carefully crafted plan to bring back hundreds of events in England by late October, the UK government announced new restrictions. Coronavirus cases are surging again in the UK. At the time of writing, per capita rates are similar to what we have seen in Maryland over the past couple of months.
In the current situation in the UK, it looks like a number of landowners will be reluctant to allow events to restart. Increasing numbers of parkrunners are reluctant to restart. And there’s a heightened risk of reputational damage in local communities. These issues are all discussed in a (long!) online Q&A hosted by parkrun global leaders this past Friday. We give full credit to them for recognizing that this likely will delay plans to return in the UK.
In other places, there are glimmers of a restart. This weekend 4 events started in very COVID-safe locations. 3 in the remote northern Australian city of Darwin. And one on a disputed British island in the South Atlantic. There are currently plans for most New Zealand events to restart next week, Sept 26th. And for events in Western Australia to return not long afterwards. The experience in these safer locations will surely be helpful.
Sharlene and some of our RBG graffiti
In College Park and surrounding areas the COVID situation is becoming clearer.
Infection rates in Maryland and Prince George’s County have been holding steady for weeks now. At the time of writing, hospitalizations in Maryland are below 300 for the first time since March, around one sixth of the peak total in the Spring.
The COVID-19 situation at UMD is clearer now than one week ago. From Sept 13-19 UMD reported 177 positive cases in their dashboard (61 from campus testing, 116 from self-reported cases). Results from the latest round of mass screening on campus are showing around 1% positives. That is much higher prevalence than in PG County as a whole. But not at the levels of some of the more alarming campus outbreaks around the country. UMD reports that it is working closely with the county health department on coronavirus control measures. One dorm building is currently in quarantine. It will be a few more weeks before we can see more clearly how the rest of the year will unfold for the College Park community.
This week saw the announcement that Big10 football will return in October. Albeit in empty stadiums. Meanwhile, there is no news on changes in event restrictions in PG County.
Congratulations to Angela Gentile on the (virtual, of course) National Women's Half Marathon. She reports that barkrunner Shackleton ran with her for the first 3 miles.
It’s clear that things aren’t likely to change dramatically for months. So there is increasing discussion of: “Is the medicine worse than the cure?”. A blog post shared with parkrunners worldwide this week (The time to act is now) directly claims that the health benefits of bringing parkrun events back outweigh the health risks. This is similar to discussions that have unfolded over opening of schools and colleges, and other parts of the economy.
We do not take a position on whether the benefits of our local event outweigh the risks. But in the case of College Park, we can at least be specific about the relevant considerations. Also, CPVp has given us a clearer picture of what community members have been up to during the pandemic.
CP parkrun is probably the largest running and walking event in Prince George’s County, with around 7,000 participations per year, and growing. It is probably the largest regular fitness activity in the College Park area. And, of course, it’s free. So there are no major economic issues associated with our pause.
The health benefits of CP parkrun to the community include physical health, mental health, and what we might call “community health”, the benefit of positive interaction between different segments of the local community. A healthy community is a connected community. What matters is whether the event is improving these health indicators over what would happen otherwise. If CP parkrun is just creating a free version of activities that would happen anyway, then there is no net benefit.
Currently, the health risks of CP parkrun involve increasing the risk of spread of COVID-19, not only to participants but to those individuals who participants come into contact with.
The following are ballpark figures, but they give a sense of the numbers involved.
In Prince George’s County currently around 1 in 1000 of the population gets a positive COVID-19 diagnosis each week. Assuming that individuals remain positive and infectious for 14 days, this suggests that 1 in 500 in the county is positive right now. It’s hard to know how many asymptomatic cases are out there, but recent CDC estimates are that as many as 50% of cases are asymptomatic. So, maybe around 1 in 1000 in the county are positive-but-asymptomatic currently.
If we assume that those with COVID-19 symptoms would avoid coming to CP parkrun, but that asymptomatic carriers would still attend, this means that around 1 in 1,000 participants would be an asymptomatic carrier. (Of course, some asymptomatic people would stay away if they are quarantining for a family member or close contact. And some mild symptomatic people might still come along. These are only rough figures.)
Over the next 6 months, assuming regular turnout of ~150/week, this would amount to about 4 or 5 instances of an asymptomatic carrier coming along to CP parkrun on a Saturday, or 1 every 4-6 weeks.
Risks of transmission are said to be low outdoors (see the parkrun commissioned review of the relevant science). Asymptomatic individuals are thought to have low risks of transmission. Pre-symptomatics might be a different story. There are widely shared stories that raised fears about the risks of heavy breathing runners. But the science has been strongly disputed. Nowadays we know much more than we did a few months ago about the critical role of prolonged exposure.
Again, we take no position on whether this level of risk is acceptable, for individuals, or for the city or county. But this is a first-pass estimate of the risk level at CP parkrun, if it were to return imminently. (To be clear, there has been no discussion of that.)
As for the health benefits of CP parkrun -- to physical, mental, or community health -- and the impact of events being paused, those are harder to calculate. In the case of COVID-19 you either have it or you don't have it. But these health measures are far more complex.
We can use CPVp as a point of comparison to regular CP parkrun. It’s useful because it’s an indicator of activity during the pandemic. Of course, we have only partial information. But we do know who is reporting activities for CPVp on Saturdays. And the growth of our College Park parkrun Strava Club has given us more information about what folks get up to on other days of the week.
Overall participation in terms of numbers of runs or walks is barely different between Spring/Summer 2019 and Spring/Summer 2020. If anything, we see slightly increased counts of activities in 2020. This has surprised us. It is not what other parkrun communities around the US or around the world are seeing, with a couple of exceptions.
But we see many fewer new participants in 2020. In March - Sept 2019 we welcomed around 500 first-timers to CP parkrun. Some kept coming back, many did not. In the same period in 2020 we have seen many fewer local first-timers. So, the community is strong. That's wonderful. But it is not currently growing in the way that it normally would.
The diversity of participation has been different in 2020 than in 2019. We now see more walkers, and more women. But we see less racial and socioeconomic diversity. We see fewer students, too. So we're making less progress on our aim of bringing together different parts of the community.
We cannot pretend to quantify mental health impacts on the community, especially when 2020 is already so stressful. But we are confident that there are many community members that would see real benefits from being able to come together with a positive group of people on a regular basis. With CPVp and with our (safe, limited) meetups we’re doing what we can to address that need. But it only goes so far.
Volunteering at CP parkrun certainly contributes to the mental health benefits. It doesn’t make you fitter, but it does make you feel good about your role in your community. And volunteers tend to come back more often as runners and walkers. Volunteering at CP parkrun has shrunk dramatically during the pandemic.
As for community health, that is even harder to measure, as it’s a feature of groups rather than individuals. But there is clearly a difference between 2019 and 2020. CPp was one of the largest regular local gatherings that brought people together from different backgrounds. CPVp may, in fact, be one of the largest local “gatherings” during the pandemic. But it is less diverse, and the opportunities for people to support and to talk with people who they wouldn’t see otherwise has narrowed. At a time when town-gown relations are fragile due to concerns about the spread of the virus, the benefits of different parts of the community coming together are even greater than usual.
We leave it for you, dear reader, to weigh these benefits and risks. And they mean different things for each individual. But this is our very local version of what the parkrun HQ folks are working through on an international scale.
One thing that we can say for sure, however, is that the success of CPVp has made a difference to physical, mental, and community health. The vast majority of communities that have lost their local parkrun event do not have the benefit of something like CPVp. And, channeling Ruth Bader Ginsburg once more, we are proud to be a part of this change, one step at a time.
Until next time!
Your CPVp Team
Great to meet regular CPVper Andres Mbouh at the post-parkrun picnic
Keaton and Alyssa are back from Pennsylvania for some low altitude training
Ha! Seen on Strava. That's kind of how we roll in College Park.