The parkrun family is made up of 22 countries around the world, and we’ll be taking a closer look at a number of them.
This week it’s the US! Having recently celebrated eight years since the first event took place, here is the story of parkrun USA…
The parkrun culture is communal, supportive, and not about coming first or last. People take time to learn each other’s names. Unlike traditional US running events, there are no medals or chip timing.
There’s a special magic about parkrun that can only be experienced by attending one. That magic is a sense of community!
The growing success of parkrun US demonstrates there’s plenty of support for the free, weekly, timed 5k. In just eight years, parkrun US has grown to 45 events with four more in planning.
US parkruns feature diverse landscapes, climates and people. It’s a huge country, but the positive parkrun culture rings true for all of them. No one is a stranger at parkrun!
To help demonstrate the journey and evolution, out of the 45 US parkruns, we’re featuring four events, from Michigan, Tennessee, Vermont and Wisconsin.
Rick and Lori Brauer brought the first US parkrun to Livonia, Michigan, eight years after the first-ever parkrun in London, England was started by Paul Sinton-Hewitt.
On Saturday 2 June 2012, Livonia parkrun welcomed 28 finishers and walkers with seven volunteers, and just like that, parkrun USA was born!
They handed off the Livonia parkrun to the capable hands of Lynn Boven and Spencer Greve in 2016. By then, parkrun was spreading in the US.
Lynn and Spencer had volunteered for years before taking on the Event Director roles. Lynn was impressed by the number of people who volunteer.
At parkrun, everyone makes a point to know each other. It’s a community.
Mountain Goat Trail parkrun
Who wouldn’t want to do a parkrun with that name?! Kristen and Brad Sturgill had moved to rural Sewanee, Tennessee. Kristen heard about parkrun from a “couch to 5K” friend who was a Durham NC parkrunner.
She thought a local parkrun would be a great way to meet people. In spring 2018 Mountain Goat parkrun was born, named after the old railroad bed that’s now the course.
Mountain Goat is a small parkrun with a big heart and everyone pitches in as needed. To quote Kristen on her parkrun culture, “You just care about each other. Period.”
If you are visiting Nashville or Atlanta, consider the drive to Sewanee. You can race the pig in the field next to the course (the pig wins I’m told!) and enjoy the post-event social at the Mountain Goat Market.
Marsh Billings Rockefeller parkrun
Dominic Lord, hailing from Wales and Geraldine Fowler, from South Africa, are the co-event directors for this Woodstock, Vermont parkrun, one of only two in New England.
With a sparse population, Dominic and Geraldine are currently the only two Run Directors, but the event benefits in numbers from tourism.
The scenic course is in Marsh Billings Rockefeller National Historical Park. In a bit of a shocker to new attendees, the first 1 ¼ miles is uphill!
But the scenery at the top is worth it. Plus, the return is downhill! Enjoy the post-event social Abracadabra in Woodstock.
Howard Temin Lakeshore Path parkrun
Co-event directors Shelby and David O’Connor learned about parkrun while living in Australia and looking for ways to meet people. They really liked the community they found there and wanted to bring it to Madison, Wisconsin.
This course is an out-and-backer along the shores of Lake Mendota. The social takes place at the University of Wisconsin’s Memorial Union coffee shop.
The Howard Temin Lakeshore Path parkrun attracts graduate students from the university along with participants from local tech companies, of course along with families and tourists.
As Shelby noted, participants get what they want out of it, whether it’s competition, a morning walk, or social time. Just like every parkrun around the world!
Coronavirus has put parkruns globally on hold which means we are all missing out on our regular weekly dose of 5km fun and coffee.
The pause on existing events hasn’t stopped us from working with teams working on new parkrun developments, however!
As well as a huge amount of interest and prospects in the pipeline, we have four brand new parkrun events confirmed and ready to launch across the US upon our return:
Like the trend seen worldwide, our average finish time across all events in the US has gotten slower as parkrun has welcomed more people for whom physical activity was not the norm.
Taking each full year, in 2013 the average time was 31:46, leading to 33:41 in 2019.
We all know the physical benefits of walking, jogging, running and volunteering, and now communities across the US have enjoyed the social benefits too. Long may it continue!
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