News - 17th January 2018
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The man and his data

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Every week, parkrunners in the US are rewarded with a wealth of information on the latest parkrun performances and milestones across the country, crammed together in a data-rich report compiled by Tim Keer, a Livonia regular who likes his data as much as his running. New course records? Milestone shirts awarded? parkrunners gone touristing? Quirky achievements? It’s all there (and much more!) in the Keer Report, a tool as useful for Event Directors as it is fun for geeky parkrun enthusiasts. So who is the man behind the numbers? And how can you get your hands on the data?

 

Thirty years ago, if parkrun had existed back then, I would not have thought it would ever be for me.  I grew up in England, and enjoyed sport as a kid (with more enthusiasm than ability), but I detested running with a vengeance. We had an annual cross-country race at school, and in my memory, it was 10 miles of losing your shoes in muddy fields. In reality, it was probably about a 5k.

 

In 1990, some friends and I entered the Great North Run (a half marathon), and I had a great run, chasing Steve Moneghetti to the finish line as he set an amazing course record of 1:00:34. (I finished in about 2 hours, but I chased the person in front of me, and I’m sure they chased the person in front of them, and so on, all the way up to Steve out in front, so I’m sure that some of the credit for his record belongs to me). I see that Steve is now heavily involved in parkrun in Australia.

 

I moved to Detroit in 1992, intending to stay for a couple of years (“So why are you still here?”, you may ask. I’ll tell you why I’m still here… I met my wife Jeri), and I led a resolutely sedentary life until my mother-in-law gave us her treadmill about 15 years ago. I became an occasional turkey-trotter and ran a few races over various distances, but never managed to become a really regular runner. I would run for a year, then stop for six months, then get back into it, then falter again.

 

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I’m hoping that parkrun can be the missing ingredient that will keep me active well into old age. I first read about parkrun in a British newspaper about a year ago, and the article mentioned that there were just a few parkruns in the US. “What are the chances that the Metro Detroit area has one?”, I asked myself, and was pleasantly surprised to find that there was a parkrun in Livonia. My daughter Emma (pictured above) and I attended our first parkrun on January 28 last year, and I was immediately hooked, thanks to the amazingly welcoming attitude of the entire Livonia parkrun team.  I have run and/or volunteered on all but three Saturdays since then, mostly at Livonia, but also at Heritage Harbor in Illinois, at St Albans, my hometown in the UK and, just last weekend, in Cambridge, UK.

 

Outside the world of parkrun, I’m an engineer. I’ve always been interested in improving the efficiency of engineering tools (engineers should be paid to think, not perform boring and repetitive tasks) and I currently work for a software company that helps customers automate engineering processes (CAD, CAE etc. for those of you in the business). So I’m very comfortable with data and its manipulation. I have been storing details of my running in spreadsheets for years and, soon after I discovered parkrun, I (manually) copied all the Livonia parkrun results to my computer. parkrun USA had a small enough number of locations back then (Mansfield OH had just become the eighth US parkrun, and now the sixteenth US parkrun will launch next month) that I soon bit the bullet and copied all the US results too. So I now have a database of all US parkrun results and I compile an unofficial summary report every week, which I post to the parkrun USA Group on Facebook. The report highlights personal achievements at parkuns around the country, and allows event teams to see who is about to reach a milestone for running and/or volunteering.  The report also identifies people involved in parkrun tourism (visiting different parkruns.) This is a big part of the parkrun scene in other countries, and is now more popular here as the number of parkruns has increased.

 

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What are my goals for parkrun in 2018?  In Livonia, I would love to see more first-timers become regular parkrunners.  We see many of the same faces every week, but too many people run or walk once or twice and then not much after that.  I would like the weekly attendance at Livonia parkrun to grow so much that people think it’s getting too crowded and decide to start another parkrun in Metro Detroit. For the USA as a whole, I hope to use my stats to support the event teams as they grow their existing events and start new ones. And I have personal parkrun goals too, but they are incompatible with the official line that “it’s a run, not a race”, so I will keep them to myself.

 

You can read Tim’s latest parkrun USA summaries by joining the parkrun USA group on Facebook, an open community that discusses all things parkrun in this country. Just answer a couple of simple questions to prove that you’re a parkrunner rather than a spammer. And you can see a copy of this week’s report here.

 

And in case you have ever wondered what is the closest parkrun to any point in the continental US, Tim has the answer. Here’s his Voronoi diagram that shows the answer for February 24th 2018, the day when South Boulder Creek parkrun becomes the 16th US parkrun event. If you’d like to see a parkrun in one of those big open areas, we’d love to hear from you: usa@parkrun.com. 

 

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