Please enjoy the latest in our ongoing series of interviews with Lillie parkrun participants. Many thanks to Amanda S (aka "Amanda 1") for participating and to Marie Hamlin for continuing to interview. We are nearing the end of the queue so if you'd like to see more, contact us via our social media!
Hi Amanda, could you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in Michigan on the west side of the state. I studied geology as an undergrad at Albion College (where I met Kristine and Charles), and I finished my Master of Landscape Architecture degree at U-M. After graduate school, I moved out West to work at a landscape architecture and urban planning firm. After growing up in the Midwest I wanted the experience of living near the mountains. I first moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and then Salt Lake City, Utah. When I was in Salt Lake, I had an awesome experience working on the landscape architecture for the Natural History Museum of Utah—I got to use my geology and design skills all in one project and it was the coolest. I’ve been back in Ann Arbor for a little over ten years now and have been working at the Ann Arbor District Library for about five years as a graphic designer, and it’s a fantastic place to work and be creative.
You are a very creative person. I have seen some of your work, including our new milestones signage.
When did you start running?
About three years ago I needed to make some healthier choices for myself, so I started working out regularly and lost over 40 pounds. One day, I just wondered what would happen if I started running! I signed up for the Burns Park Run with my best friend Kristine Y, which was two weeks after I had started running for the first time since high school. I couldn’t go very far without stopping to walk but I finished — and I was kind of hooked (even though I wasn’t good at it!) The Burns Park Run is kind of special to me because of that experience, and it was sad not to be able to participate in it this year because of its cancellation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Running is something that I’ve really come to enjoy quite a bit, and I don’t have to take as many walk breaks anymore. It’s been good for me physically and mentally. I was so thrilled to discover parkrun in the fall of 2018—it’s a perfect running group for me.
Forty pounds is quite an achievement, and as far as taking walking breaks, crossing the finish line as many times as you have is something to be proud of. You have the record of the highest number of parkruns all completed at Lillie, and because of that were given the title of parkrun passionista by Tim Keer. Our first home-grown 50 milestone!
Where is your favorite place to go running?
Of course Lillie Park will always be one of my favorites! Parks along the Huron River are great. And I’ve also become quite fond of just walking and running in my neighborhood while we’ve been in quarantine. I like seeing everyone’s gardens come alive, and seeing folks out and about.
(editor's note: be sure to click the play button above to see the year in bridge photos!)
What do you like about Lillie parkrun?
Aside from our pretty park and spending time outside, it’s really the people! It’s an incredibly supportive group. I love the combination of activity and conversation on a Saturday morning—it’s really just the best way to start the weekend. And as an introvert, it’s fantastic to have that bit of social interaction... and then I can have the rest of the weekend to myself.
What’s your favorite volunteer role at parkrun?
When I’m feeling outgoing, I really like to do the first timer’s briefing. I feel like the first impression with anything new is so key to making a lasting connection with an experience or with other people—so I try hard to help make someone’s first visit a pleasant one!
Another favorite is the course setup — I love summer mornings when it’s light so early. The park is quiet and still, and you can get in a bit of a warm-up too.
Any tips for parkrunners or first timers who are coming to visit Lillie parkrun?
This has been said before by lots of folks, but just put your shoes on and check it out. It took me several weeks after learning about parkrun to actually show up (this was still in our trial-run pre-official status). I was anxious about being too slow and not fitting in. But I shouldn’t have been nervous at all. Now, don’t get me wrong… I’m still slow — but there’s no fear about not fitting in because everyone is welcome.
Do you have any future plans to visit any other parkruns?
I’d love to check out the ones in Colorado or Idaho. I might have to do some extra training to prepare for the altitude, though! I’m not sure my lungs could handle it after living at 800’ for the past ten years instead of 5000-7000’.
Yes training might be in order. Are there other activities that you really enjoy?
Going to museums of all kinds. We’re lucky in Ann Arbor to have so many choices here, not to mention the Detroit Institute of Arts.
I’ve always enjoyed nature — geology, clouds, that sort of thing. OH, and maps! I love looking at maps.
I love listening to music and have a small-ish vinyl collection, and I look forward to when we can all go to concerts again.
To be able to hear live music again would be good for the soul. Until then, enjoy the sounds from your turntable. Do you have any other hobbies?
Outside of work, I am an artist and enjoy watercolor painting and pen-and-ink drawing. I’ve recently learned embroidery and am just starting to pick up tapestry weaving. It’s been a lot of fun to find different mediums to play with line and color in abstract ways.
I love this! You captured our beloved bridge in all its splendor. We will miss her, even with her puddles, frost, and goose droppings.
Do you have any pets?
I have a cat named Zoe who turned 17 years old in May. I adopted her when I lived in Santa Fe, and she’s been all over the country with me. I’ve had cats my whole life — they’re so wonderfully weird. I adore dogs too, but I’m unfortunately a little allergic to them … so I just get my dose of all the good doggos with our barkrunners on Saturdays.
Zoe looks great for being 17 years old! If Zoe could talk I’m sure she would quote Sassy and say “cats rule and dogs drool!”
Do you like to travel?
I do! I used to travel a fair bit for work when I was out west, but I don’t get to do it very often anymore. I’ve been lucky to get to Alaska and all around the Rocky Mountains. I was able to visit Kristine and Charles and Aldus (Torsten wasn’t born yet!) when they lived in the Netherlands, which was amazing. My favorite kind of travel is a road trip, though. I love being on the freeway under the wide-open sky on the lookout for good clouds and landscapes!
Road tripping while looking at the clouds and admiring the landscapes sounds like a relaxing, yet fun way to travel.
I want to thank you for taking the time and agreeing to this interview. I hope that you are able to get to a concert soon, perhaps they will allow outdoor concerts before too long. I am looking forward to seeing you on Saturday mornings, and looking forward to seeing a sketch of a new Lillie Park bridge.
Check out our Lillie parkrun passionista Amanda's history!