When Crissy Field parkrun launched in San Francisco in January 2015, it was expected to be an instant hit. What could be better than a free, weekly event in one of the top running venues in the continent? Three years on, the story has been different. Crissy Field parkrun started small, and its gradual growth has allowed it to become as well known for its welcoming vibe as for its spectacular views.
On a picture-perfect morning in January 2015, 22 runners gathered at Crissy Field in San Francisco to inaugurate the fourth parkrun in the USA. Since that day three years ago, 4700 parkrunners have completed almost 9000 parkruns in this free weekly 5k event, open to everyone, in view of the magnificent Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz Island and the city skyline. Our first anniversary run was heralded by a spectacular rainbow arcing across the bay.
This was the second weekly 5K event organized by our Event Director Max Metcalfe. Two years earlier he and his sister Julia had started the Fog City Run, a weekly gathering on Wednesday evenings that challenges runners with some of San Francisco’s more daunting hills. Fog City Run is still going strong after five years, and many of its regulars became the core volunteer group at Crissy Field parkrun.
Expectations of large turnouts ran high those first months in 2015. There were hundreds of people running on the SF Bay Trail every Saturday morning. According to Strava over 12,000 people ran there each week in 2015. After all, San Francisco is a runner’s paradise, selected in 2016 as the top running city in the US by Runner’s World magazine. Recalling the line from the movie Field of Dreams “If you build it, they will come”, we posted signs and handed out cards advertising Crissy Field parkrun.
Crissy Field averaged 26 runners a week during 2015. Not the numbers we were hoping for, but it gave us the opportunity to interact with the parkrun participants. We quickly discovered that Crissy Field was becoming a not-to-miss stop for “parkrun tourists” on USA visits. Our growth has been steady. In 2017 we averaged over 84 parkrunners a week.
Eleven Crissy Field runners achieved parkrun milestones this past year. Joel Rizzo marked his 100th parkrun (all at Crissy Field) and ten others, including Max Metcalfe, reached 50 parkruns. We anticipate many more milestone achievements in 2018, with several runners poised to join the 100 club and many on track to reach the 50 run level this year. Three of our Junior runners also passed their 10-run mark in 2017. The female course record was broken four times last year, now standing at 16:54, held by Rebecca Robinson. The current male record of 14:59 was challenged in December, when Michael Hiscott clocked a 15:02.
While other parkruns have to contend with snow, ice and hurricanes, for two and a half years Crissy Field had never canceled a run. This streak ended in August 2017, when a free speech rally was slated to occur right in the middle of our route. Because the heavy security planned for the rally blocked part of the course, we had to cancel for the first time. When the smoke from the Napa Valley wildfires infiltrated the Bay area in October 2017, we closely monitored air quality after it had reached a hazardous level midweek. Fortunately the air cleared by Saturday morning, and the parkrun went ahead as scheduled. A third challenge in 2017 was the planned closure and resurfacing of the part of the Bay Trail that forms the first and last miles of our route. After a rain there were massive puddles on the course. The intrepid would run through them while the more cautious (or wiser) would run around them. These trail closures required us to run on alternate routes for three months.
One of Crissy Field parkrun’s most notable achievements occurred on October 28 2017, in setting the USA parkrun attendance record with 256 participants. 150 youth and adult volunteers from the “Running for a Better Oakland” organization motored across the Bay Bridge to join us. This was more than double the number that came over in February for their first outing at Crissy Field parkrun.
Running for a Better Oakland
Many new faces appear each weekend at Crissy Field. Half of the runners on a typical Saturday morning are first timers. They are a mixture of locals doing their very first parkrun, or visitors from other countries with parkruns. At the Dynamo Donut Hut we welcome the Welsh, ruminate with the Russians, snack with the Scots, articulate with the Afrikaners, orate with the Ozzies, imbibe with the Irish, engage with the English, gab with the Germans, sip with the Singaporeans, kibbitz with the Kiwis, discourse with the Danes, chat with the Canadians, and mingle with the Manx. We also are a favorite destination for honeymooners, and we look forward to celebrating a parkrun wedding someday.
We are off to a strong start in 2018 with 100 or more participants in each of the first three runs of this year. As these numbers continue to increase, so does the need for additional marshals and barcode scanners. No parkrun can succeed without a dedicated group of people who fill the volunteer roles. Thanks to the volunteer stalwarts of 2017: Joanna and Philip Gadd, Crispin Flowerday, Max Metcalfe, Julia Metcalfe, Joel Rizzo, Dale Rose, and Andrew Stanley-Jones, with frequent assists from Mia and David Hartley, Heidi Sokolowsky and Knut Mehr, Monica and Mike Turner.
If you go along to Crissy Field parkrun on any Saturday, you’re sure to enjoy a run a spectacular setting. But you’ll also be part of a special gathering of parkrunners from around the world. Allow time to hang out and chat and to see who showed up that week.
Andrew Stanley-Jones and Joel Rizzo
Dale Rose, Crispin Flowerday, Philip and Joanna Gadd
and our fearless leader, Max Metcalfe
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