When Mansfield, OH launched in early 2017, it was the smallest US community to host a parkrun. As the event celebrates its first anniversary, event director Karen Crane shares her experiences of how it has made a difference to the community and to her life.
We are regularly asked why we do it, week after week. For me, parkrun is about showing up. Sure, it’s about exercise and fitness, too. But it’s mostly about being there every Saturday morning, in all weather, so that other people can run or walk a 5k.
My husband, Steve, and I go early to run the course, check the trail for fallen limbs, trees, trash. Many times other volunteers join us to get their runs in as well before parkrun starts. We’ve gotten to know each other much better during our course prep runs. We watch for and say hi to the dog walkers and our park neighbors. It would be so much easier and faster to run a quick 5k from home, to get it done and be on with our day. So why do we make a morning of it, every Saturday? We talk about it often. Why do we do it? How has parkrun made a difference to us? How has it made a difference to the other members of our community who show up every Saturday?
We talk about all the people we now consider friends who we didn’t know a year ago. Or didn’t know so well. The amazing core team of Karyl, Linda, Bob, Sharon, Chris, and Amanda. The local people who return weekly for parkrun. The dog walkers in the park as we set up for parkrun. People from far away: from other states and even other countries who visit (Mansfield, of all places!) Then there’s our family in Australia all doing their own parkruns. Without parkrun we would be out exercising and getting fresh air on our own, in a much shorter time. But parkrun gives us so much more.
We now know Mark Abrams, Superintendent of Mansfield Parks and Recreation. Mark was instrumental in funding parkrun in total. He saw the value of having a local parkrun, of bringing people to the community and to North Lake Park. Mark keeps the building warm for us to use on the coldest of days, which allows parkrun to go forward when the temperatures may suggest cancellation. It is air-conditioned in the heat of summer. Bathrooms and water indoors! He also added a water fountain near the parking lot. We are grateful and thank you, Mark!
We celebrate birthdays, births, anniversaries, and milestones. We grieve losses. Together. We all wore lipstick to commemorate Diana’s dear friend, Celia. Wearing lipstick was Celia’s trademark, always when running, so Diana had a request that any parkrunners moved to do so, wear lipstick during the run in Celia’s memory. And so we did. And Diana rang the bell. We ring the bell to celebrate our community. Christopher, from Ireland, introduced us to the bell when he visited. (Yes, he visited Mansfield! This still surprises us.) We now use it to start the runs (Timers ready … runners set … bell … and off they go), and to celebrate. Thanks for sharing, Christopher!
One year in, hundreds of community members have taken part, and we’re approaching our 1500th run completed. All for free. We hear stories of people being more motivated to get out and exercise because of parkrun. They are bringing their friends and family with them, not only to parkrun, but on other days as well, so that they are able to do the full 5K on Saturday. They are showing up. More people are visiting Mansfield and North Lake Park, from near and far, to be part of our parkrun.
The most recent example of why we do it was our New Years double parkrun. Steve and I decided to drive from Ohio to College Park, Maryland, for the inaugural US double parkrun. So we hopped in the car and spent New Years Eve with parkrun friends Colin and Andrea, Stephanie, Ian and their baby Henry. We didn’t know them before parkrun. We know them better now and consider them friends.
We arrived at the first parkrun of the day, in Baltimore, and we already knew people! There was Joyce, who went to the same college as our daughter. And Colin, Andrea, Ian, and Andres. Then back to College Park where we knew even more people: Darrell, Stephanie, Jolanta, and others. Everybody was there in the cold for parkrun. And we met more new people. It was an amazing feeling.
The pre-run briefing is one of my favorite parts of the parkrun morning. It’s where we check in on milestones, birthdays, visitors, and trail conditions. And we learn who else showed up. At Leakin Park, the first parkrun of the day, one of the tourists, Tracy, was a visitor from Australia. It turned out that her home parkrun is the same run where Steve’s brother and sister-in-law are run directors. We ran with Tracy at Leakin Park, then at College Park. We took pictures, talked, drank coffees, exchanged stories.
Connection, friendship, showing up. Oh, and exercise and fresh air. That’s why we do it.
Event Director, Mansfield, OH parkrun
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