Mark your calendars because parkrun is coming to the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area. Event Director Stephanie Evans tells the story behind Michigan’s second parkrun event. A healthy community is already forming around this free, weekly 5K run/walk around the beautiful lake and trails of Lillie Park.
On November 3rd 2018 at 9am Lillie Park, Ann Arbor will become the latest addition to the parkrun USA event series. Like all other parkrun events worldwide, Lillie parkrun, Ann Arbor is a volunteer-led, FREE, weekly, timed 5km run, walk, or jog that will be held year round — yes, even in the Michigan winter — that emphasizes community building and social interaction over super speedy times.
Taking part in a parkrun event couldn’t be simpler. All you have to do is register online before your first event to receive a free personal barcode that you print out and bring along every week. Then simply show up on a Saturday morning, complete the course, and have your barcode scanned by one of our lovely volunteers.
Although parkrun is cost-free, and essentially swag-free, too, sustained participation is encouraged. Those who complete 50 events are recognized as members of the parkrun 50 club, and they receive a (free) shirt to mark that milestone. Further milestones come after 100 events and beyond, or for volunteers who lend a hand at 25 events.
The magic of parkrun is that it is suitable for everyone: from Olympians to walkers, from ages 4 to 84 and beyond, although children under 11 should stay with an adult at all times. Strollers and dogs (on short leashes) are welcomed, even encouraged. We’re very social, too: after each event we head over to Biggby on Ellsworth Rd to catch up over coffee.
We have been conducting informal Saturday runs for a few months now in Lillie Park. Every week we have a great mix of people finishing the course in anything from under 20 minutes to over an hour. We have already seen a diverse community start to form, including locals and people from further afield.
I started parkrunning as a total non-runner five years ago to improve my fitness. I have slowly progressed from a walker/jogger to a double (soon to be triple) marathon runner and my parkrun time has dropped from close to 40 minutes to just over 21. Despite this, when I was living in England and attending parkrun every week, it was not uncommon to find me hanging out at the back of the pack, walking with a new attendee in my favorite volunteer role of tail walker, i.e., the person whose job it is to finish last, guaranteeing that nobody else will finish last, and finishing in an hour or more.
So, when I was offered a job in Ann Arbor, Michigan, getting my parkrun fix was never far from my mind.
Before I even booked my one way flight from London, a city that has parkruns in 60 locations every Saturday, I was worrying about how I would get to what would be my new nearest parkrun in Livonia, 35 miles away from my soon to be new home town.
My husband and I had briefly discussed the idea of starting a parkrun in Ann Arbor, but we had no idea what was involved. Before we left England, I sent him on the hunt for a potential location, with the strict criteria that there should be off road trails, plenty of parking, and a coffee shop within walking distance. Easy, right? Using Google Maps he identified a park close to I-94, on the edge of Ann Arbor. Fast forward 12 months and we are about to launch Michigan’s second parkrun event in the exact location he showed me.
Of course it wasn’t quite that straightforward. By the time we moved I had totally forgotten about the park he suggested, but eventually fate took control and we ended up finding Lillie Park in real life. Long story short, I loved the park and the course, and Pittsfield Charter Township, who manage the park, were as excited as I was about bringing a parkrun to the Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti area.
Our course starts from the South Pavillion in the park, which provides us with a shelter for all weathers: rain, snow, and summer heat. There are also restrooms. Then we head out into the woods to complete three laps of the lake followed by a lap of the soccer field.
The course is away from the road and pollution, and we often see a variety of wildlife hanging out by the trail to distract us from the run. Lillie Park is a real hidden gem. In fact if you mention it to people in Ann Arbor, most of them vaguely know where it is but they had no idea it had a beautiful trail around a lake, or that it is a great place to head out for a run or walk on a Saturday morning. In fact, most of our the people coming to our trial runs have commented that while they regularly drove past the park on the road that goes between Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti they had no idea it was there!
Our course is almost totally flat and has been stroller and dog approved, and the three lap route means that there are plenty of opportunities to interact with other parkrunners.
Lillie parkrun, Ann Arbor will be free forever, thanks to the support of local organizations, thanks to the community members who will take turns volunteering to put on the events each week, and thanks to parkrun supporters from further afield. We are so grateful to our wonderful supporters, including the Ann Arbor Track Club, Pittsfield Charter Township, the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation, and the whole parkrun USA team, particularly Andrea from College Park parkrun in Maryland, and Tim from Livonia parkrun, our Michigan sister event.
When I asked Ann Arbor Track Club president Mitchell Garner why the club decided to provide a donation, this is what he had to say:
For 50 years the Ann Arbor Track Club has supported the sport of running in the Ann Arbor community. We love running and everything that goes with our wonderful sport. We chose to support the Ann Arbor chapter of parkrun because the informal, community-based runs that parkrun puts on throughout the world every week are consistent with our mission statement of promoting fitness, friendship, and fun for persons of all ages through running and walking.
It is incredible to think that every week, people around the world are gathering with their friends and fellow runners to run or walk a noncompetitive 5K and just have fun! It’s all about motivating people to get moving and experience the endorphins that come with running and walking as well as the social benefits of doing a fun activity, without any pressure or commitments, with other similarly motivated people.
The world would be a better and happier place if more people took advantage of the uplifting experiences that parkrun can offer them through its weekly runs. Congratulations and welcome to parkrun on its exciting entrée into the Ann Arbor running community!
Although Cross Flatts parkrun (Leeds, England) and Crystal Palace parkrun (London, England) parkruns will always have a special place in my heart for the roles they played in this journey, I am super excited to share the magic of parkrun with the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti communities. In the short amount of time we have been holding informal runs in Lillie Park we have already developed a warm and diverse community of walkers and runners, old and young, with a couple of dogs thrown in for good measure and I cannot wait for this community to grow.
See you on November 3rd!
Event Director, Lille parkrun, Ann Arbor
Website & free registration: parkrun.us/lillie
Location: Lillie Park, 4365 Platt Rd., Ann Arbor, MI 48108
Post-parkrun meetups: Biggby Coffee, 3980 Platt Rd, Ann Arbor
When registering, we encourage you to opt-in for to receive our email communications. parkrun does not share your email address, not even with the Lillie parkrun team. You will receive just two messages per week: a weekly news and volunteer update from Lillie parkrun, and a weekly newsletter with uplifting stories from parkrun USA.
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