Sewanee, TN, pop. 2300, holds the distinction of being the smallest US community to have a parkrun event. Too small? Not at all. Locals and tourists alike have been charmed by the personal touch at Mountain Goat Trail parkrun.
Co-Event Director Kristin Sturgill takes up the story.
“Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name. Where they’re always glad you came…”. If you’ve got the theme song of Cheers running through your brain now, you’re welcome, but we’re not talking about your favorite bar. We’re talking about your local parkrun and one in particular the Mountain Goat Trail parkrun.
Mountain Goat Trail parkrun boasts the smallest US community to have its very own parkrun. The town of Sewanee, TN has a population of about 2,300 and nearby Monteagle has a population of about 1,200, which doesn’t provide the biggest pool of potential parkrunners. Add to that the hurdle of all US parkruns: no one has heard of parkrun in this area of the world. It might sound like the Mountain Goat Trail parkrun was doomed to fail but some amazing things have happened in the first four months of this tiny parkrun’s, well, run.
Oh boy did we start small. Many parkruns boast huge numbers at their inaugural events. We had a whopping 5!
The most amazing part of this first five was that every person came for post-parkrun coffee afterwards. We sat at a table and laughed and gushed about the fun we’d had, and the tone of our parkrun was set. It is all for fun after all. The Event Directors put off results processing in favor of post-parkrun socializing and absolutely no one minds the wait for results.
The next amazing thing to happen was a slow and steady growth each week for the first seven weeks topping out at 22 for that build up. Our record attendance is 29 finishers and that feels just right for this parkrun.
We haven’t even touched on the amazing people we’ve met each Saturday. Our slow and steady growth has really provided the opportunity to get well acquainted with each other and build fast friendships. We’ve been blessed with people who are there to support each other.
Along the way we’ve met Susan, our parkrun ‘passionista’ who has completed 12 of 19 events and all at MGT. She’s a widower who moved to Winchester, a neighboring town. She’s an avid runner and is currently training for a 50k “while her knees will let her”. Susan brings a beaming smile each week and a great attitude.
We’ve met Erin, who has really stepped up to take on leadership roles and spread the parkrun word. With Erin comes her four kids (when they can be coaxed out of bed) and her husband. She has treated us quite a few times to her incredible talent for photography.
Kerline has been with us since the start, even before the start! She came to our practice events and has been our tailwalker with her gorgeous daughter Emilie. Emilie mostly is along for the ride at 2 years old but does not suffer missing her parkrun Saturday!
This is just scratching the surface of our great crew. Eddie and Ethan our father son dynamic duo, Rick, Sally, the Roberts family, Becky, multiple Jeff’s, Miles, Nicky, Nailah, Katie, Brad, and the list goes on. Each one with a fabulous story to tell, each one a part of our parkrun family.
Those are just the locals! We have been embraced by the parkrun tourist! Sewanee area is a treasure trove of tourist attractions tucked in between Nashville and Chattanooga. At our second event we were treated to US parkrun tourist stars Bill and Frances Post and our first UK tourists Mark and Sarah who drove from Atlanta because we were the closest parkrun. By the end of the visit we felt we had four new friends.
This has repeated itself several times with visitors from the UK, Ireland, Northern Ireland, South Africa, Australia, Michigan, Washington DC, and North Carolina. A runner on vacation can run anywhere but a parkrunner on vacation needs a parkrun. Once you’ve been to one you’d understand. You know that you’ll not only get a run but you’ll gain new friends and like walking into your favorite haunt, will be embraced as if you’ve always been part of the group.
We’ve been chalking the motto “We start as a group of people. We finish as a group of friends” at our starting line. This is our goal and we hope that everyone feels welcome, supported and appreciated when they join us for a 5k. We don’t care if you’ve walked the trail or come in with an 18-minute course record. Don’t get us wrong we’re impressed if you finish that quickly, but we’re just as impressed with the person who comes out every week. We’re impressed with our walker who cut two minutes off their 50 minute personal best. We appreciate the person who shows up week to week with a big smile and a can-do attitude.
We hope everyone who comes enjoys the beautiful amenity we have in the Mountain Goat Trail. We hope everyone who comes feels welcome and we hope you’ll join us for a post-event coffee and sandwich at the Mountain Goat Market. We sure try to know everybody’s name but no matter what we sure are glad you came!
Another parkrun is in the record books, but, as always, we’re left with great memories to cherish. Across parkrun USA, we celebrated anniversaries, milestones, friendships, and being outside. We welcomed new parkrunners and prepared to welcome a new parkrun. And, we even had some parkrunners turn up in a limousine, dressed to the nines! …
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