As it celebrates its first birthday, the team at Leakin Park parkrun in Baltimore look back on a year full of surprises. The team was thrown in at the deep end when the event founder was transferred to another state almost immediately after the launch. They faced weather extremes ranging from Arctic cold to damaging floods. And the park’s reputation. Well, that wasn’t a surprise. But the team, the park, and the community rose to the occasion.
One year on, parkrun has introduced hundreds of people to Leakin Park. It is making good on the aim of reviving the image of one of America’s great urban wildernesses, while getting Baltimore active.
The Leakin Park team writes:
We are eager to celebrate our first birthday, to use the time to thank the many people who have made our event possible, and to look back on what our first year in Baltimore has helped accomplish. We hope to see many of our parkrun friends on June 23rd to help celebrate the occasion with us.
One of our key supporters who helped make the first year a success is parkrun Ambassador Rory Murphy who did the heavy lifting of getting a parkrun started in Baltimore. Rory recalled, “When I arrived in Baltimore from London in September 2016, one of my first objectives was to set up a parkrun there. It was great having Fletcher’s Cove, Roosevelt Island, and College Park parkruns reasonably close, but the Saturday morning commute down I-95 was never fun, and I always felt that Baltimore needed its own event.”
Rory achieved his goal, but nobody expected that his job would move him to New Jersey shortly after the parkrun launched. Rory continued to help from afar. But we had to learn a lot, quickly.
Every week we appreciate the help of our volunteers who selflessly give their time to make our event happen. The Friends of Gwynns Falls is a vital supporter of our mission. They provide more than moral and financial support for our event, they also regularly provide the manpower. Our Friends Jo and Ed Orser and Bridget McCusker have volunteered a combined 90 Saturdays at Leakin Park. As our regular turn-around marshal, Ed is one of our most enthusiastic supporters, but he also draws energy from us: “The exercise is good for us, but so are the enthusiastic and encouraging voices.”
Some members of our core team have personal highlights from the first year. For Tom Hornik, it was the ability to run in the park in all conditions. The Maryland climate provided deluges, gales, heat and humidity, plus snow and ice. In January Tom was surprised to see parkrunners cross the finish line with ice and icicles covering their eyebrows and eyelashes. Still smiling. “It was quite the sight,” says Tom.
Leakin Park is a gorgeous venue that merely needs someone with a camera to capture the bucolic setting of our weekly event. Kristie Metz often serves as our photographer in addition to her Run Director role. Kristie’s fascination with nature and trees is evident in the photos she shares. Whether it’s the park’s summer greenery, autumn hues, naked winter trees, or spring pops of color, Kristie enjoys capturing it in her pictures.
For Iman Newman, one of our regular runners and volunteers, he enjoys the family aspect at Leakin Park. Being a father himself, he adores “seeing young children in their strollers or kids running beside their parents. The entire parkrun thrives on sharing the energy of the morning, and we love giving each young finisher a high-five for a job well done.”
Leakin Park parkrun has helped both the park and our runners develop stronger community ties. Event Director Doug Jones reflects, “I’ve lived in nearby Catonsville for almost 15 years while only knowing a small group of neighbors. After a year of parkrun, I am fascinated by the waves and greetings I receive from my parkrun friends when I’m out in the community.”
Our first year has connected us to organizations and individuals we would not have predicted at the start of our event.
Tom enjoyed sharing our parkrun with a group of high school students who came to parkrun to complete a homework assignment. Our event provided these young adults with a venue and plenty of motivated parkrun enthusiasts to earn their PE grades.
Moms Run This Town created a wonderful partnership with Leakin Park parkrun. Jenn Givens, our liaison to MRTT, says: “parkrun is such a fantastic community resource. More than just a 5k, Leakin Park parkrun seeks to make connections while promoting health and well-being. There is an unmistakable sense of family, and Catonsville Moms Run This Town is glad to have become a part of that family.”
We had no idea of all the friends we’d make in a year of just meeting up in a park on a Saturday morning. Rory Murphy again: “I’m proud of what all the core team have done since my departure and look forward to seeing it continue to grow in its second year.”
Thank you to everyone who helped make our first year a success.
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