A while back we shared an article playfully identifying several of the “types” of parkrunners that exist. You could probably categorize some of your fellow parkrunners you encounter on Saturday morning at your local event.
Maybe you identify with one, too, or maybe you’re a little bit of several. We found someone who fits one of these descriptions to a T and was willing to share about how he came to be “the cheerleader”.
Junjie (JJ) Su first heard about parkrun from Nick Huang, a fellow Singaporean. “He was the one who first told me about this event that had free shirts after you attended enough times. That sounded pretty neat,” he said. Later, he found out that his friend had been part of the group that held Saturday morning informal group runs on what they hoped would (and, of course, later did) become a parkrun course.
Like many others, JJ registered online, printed out the barcode and announced to his friends that he was going to try parkrun – way before he actually showed up for the first time. “The friendly needling by my friends surely contributed to my eventual showing up. And that would be College Park parkrun event #34, during the summer. Better late than never?”
The things that stick out in JJ’s mind about his first few parkruns? The first name he learned and remembered at parkrun (Bernie;) the heat (his first few parkruns were in the month of June;) and that 5K seemed like “such a long distance to cover on foot, in the heat”. We’re sure a lot of people can relate to his sentiments!
He took a week off after his first event, then came back and ran 3 in a row. He shared that it was really tough for him to run a 5K distance every Saturday morning and after “slogging” for 3 Saturdays in a row, in the heat, he “chickened out and took a break”. (Side note: we don’t consider that chickening out, especially those who have experienced a DC area summer. We fully support people participating in parkrun the way they best enjoy it and taking breaks when their bodies need it!)
JJ quickly figured out that on the weeks he didn’t want to run, volunteering was a great way to stay engaged with the community and have fun. “It gave me a good reason to head out on a Saturday morning, when I would have otherwise stayed in,” he said. First, he tried barcode scanning. The next week he tail walked, figuring since he was planning to walk it anyhow, he might as well fill a volunteer slot. Soon he tried timekeeping, and that role became his favorite. To date, he has volunteered 43 times and 13 of those were as timekeeper. Tied for second- barcode scanning and tail walking.
“In retrospect, I guess I gravitated towards these roles because they allowed me the chance to engage with other people. Scanning allowed me to match a name to a face. Tail-walking helped with that too, as the role usually included taking photos of people. I found that I had to look at people to take their pictures! And as a timekeeper, I had the opportunity to recall the names of the incoming parkrunners before they crossed the finish line. When it happened to me, I felt that it was so cool to have someone recognize me as I was about to finish! So I was trying to pass it on.”
The College Park core team loved his enthusiasm and encouraged him to try the Run Director role. “I felt that the core team had entrusted me with a very big baby when they asked me to RD” he said. JJ was in that role for the 100th College Park parkrun, which was the first time the event had over 200 finishers.
Event Director Colin Phillips shared his sentiments about JJ:
“His always positive attitude and relentless encouragement are infectious. He was the one who figured out that timekeepers have a free hand that is useful for giving high fives. JJ is part of what makes the vibe at CP so warm.”
Colin also said that other people are excited to volunteer the weeks JJ is on the volunteer roster and have even specifically coordinated their volunteer sign-ups with JJ’s. When we asked JJ if he knew that was happening, he responded “Nope. I didn’t really know that until someone mentioned it. In any case, I’m glad that my choice to volunteer has helped in some way to encourage others to volunteer too!”
We then asked if he is a high-energy type of person on a regular basis, to which he replied “I don’t have enough energy to be high for everything. My battery is not that big. It is, however, big enough for at least once a week on #parkrunday!”
It’s safe to say JJ has gotten hooked on parkrunning, and while he may have struggled for his first several 5Ks, he now regularly runs in the mid-20s. He earned his V25 shirt long ago and recently earned his red 50 shirt. He goes to the local coffee spot post-parkrun to spend more time with the parkrun community.
He has played the part of a local tourist by visiting nearby Kensington parkrun and during the winter break from his grad studies at UMD, also completed 3 parkruns (in two different locations) in his home county of Singapore. Oh, and he even goes back to the course on non-parkrun days, as he has completed 17 freedom parkruns.
We hope everyone has the opportunity to visit College Park parkrun and get a high-five and cheer from JJ at the finish line, but chances are there’s someone like JJ at your home parkrun, too. If not, maybe YOU can be that person cheering on others and contributing to the friendly atmosphere at parkrun. We (and JJ) encourage you to give it a try!
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