April 28th brings anniversary celebrations at the warmest and coldest parkrun USA events. In Florida, Clermont Waterfront parkrun turns 5, and in Minnesota, Eagan parkrun marks its first of parkrunning. We check in with both event teams, and find that some things are different between satellite towns of Orlando and Minneapolis, but the growth of a strong community around a parkrun event is a constant.
Clermont Waterfront parkrun was the second US parkrun when it started in 2013, and it is often the largest. It is popular with parkrun tourists from abroad who include a parkrun in their Florida vacation, but it has also built a strong local following. Almost 6000 individuals have completed around 18,000 runs. That’s around a quarter of all parkruns and parkrunners in the US so far. Impressively, nearly 300 people have completed Clermont Waterfront parkrun at least 10 times, including Larry Hevner, who last weekend celebrated his 70th birthday by doing his 176th Clermont parkrun.
But beyond the numbers, Clermont parkrun has succeeded in creating community where other efforts had struggled. Co-Event Director Kimberly Grogan explains:
“For more than 10 years we had tried to have run clubs and tri clubs to no avail. Even though Clermont is well known for endurance events, people weren’t interested in ‘being community’. And South Lake County isn’t so densely populated. We were never sure if they didn’t work because we didn’t get enough non-speedy people into the clubs, or because there just weren’t enough people.
But when parkrun came along, founded in Clermont by a humble English couple with no personal motive other than they love parkrun, it worked. parkrun works because it is a weekly ‘meeting’ that is set and constant. The only things that change are the weather and exactly who is there. Thankfully, Clermont parkrunners love the parkrun tourists and showing off our area. Most of the tourists would have never left the concrete jungle of theme parks had it not been for parkrun, and they are pleasantly surprised and feel at home when they join us.
I think it helps that many of our core volunteers and RD’s are retired or semi-retired and have slowed down a bit in life, so that they can take time with people and the event. They are also our regulars at the post-parkrun breakfast at Cheeser’s Palace. This means there are always people going to breakfast, which helps to build the community even more.
We love to tell anyone who will listen that they can start with walking the entire 5k, and we tell them about the success stories of people who started at 45 minutes for a 5K and have gotten down to 20 minutes.”
When Eagan parkrun launched one year ago it was the 9th parkrun USA event, and the most northerly, located in a suburb of Minneapolis. Minnesota winters can be unforgiving, so locals expressed surprise when the Eagan parkrun team explained that they intended to meet every Saturday, year round. 49 events later, they can say that it worked. Nate Damro, Event Director at Eagan parkrun, shares his thoughts on the first year.
“Well, we’ve done it… we made it through a year at Eagan parkrun! While Eagan isn’t the first cold weather parkrun (see Livonia parkrun, Russian parkruns, etc), you just never know how a local group is going to respond or come together in that first year. Will we have enough volunteers? Will people show up, and will they keep showing up? Will anyone be there in the winter? These are all questions that have been answered at Eagan parkrun. We survived the last that winter had to throw at us on April 14th and we enjoyed a parkun in the 50′s on April 21st. All ramping up for our 1st Anniversary on April 28th.
Some reflections on our first year:
We are so grateful to the 101 volunteers we have had over the last year. Without you giving of your time we would not be able to sustain the event.
Thanks also to the 4 new Run Directors who have joined our core team in the last year. It really is critical to have a strong team that makes parkrun a local success.
Congratulations to the 633 different parkrunners who have completed over 2000 runs. It’s not always easy to try something new or to keep coming back, but many of you have, and some literally look like different people over the last year. I hope that parkrun has played a small part in that transformation.
Thanks to all of the tourists that have made the journey to Eagan, whether across the country or around the world. You each bring something to Eagan parkrun and it helps us grow and feel part of something bigger.
We learned this year that some winters are going to be tough and for the most part … if you can see the hazard and avoid the hazard we’ll keep running. Wind chills below -20F is a no go. A fresh dusting of snow on top of some icy patches is a no go. We had a few cancellations, but we held 49 events. Not bad for the COLD NORTH!
Looking ahead, we have plenty to do and to be excited about. Summer is upon us and we are looking forward to some larger turnouts. We are seeing more and more young runners and walkers. Most importantly, we are really looking forward to the many new friendships and relationships that will be started on Saturday mornings at Thomas Lake Park.”
Despite being 1500 miles apart, 2017 saw connections form between Clermont Waterfront and Eagan parkruns. In September, when a hurricane led to evacuations across much of Florida, Eagan parkrun welcomed Clermont team members Bill and Frances Post. In October, Eagan team members Nate and Melissa Damro and Scott and Michelle Horn had a chance to visit Clermont.
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