Darrell Stanaford, Event Director at Roosevelt Island parkrun and DC-Area parkrun Ambassador, has been appointed Manager of parkrun USA. Darrell shares his experience as a parkrunner in three countries and invites you to help parkrun reach its full potential in the US.
What better place for a Californian to discover parkrun than Moscow? In May 2014, when I was getting back into running, we were completing our 18th year in Russia’s capital. A Google search led me to the only regular 5K in town – Gorky Park parkrun along the Moscow River. It’s kind of like our Crissy Field parkrun not only because it’s along the water, but it’s also a clubby, millennials gathering spot on Saturday morning.
parkrun immediately became the center of gravity for the weekend, leading me to plan travel around it. One of my last business trips in Russia took me back to St. Petersburg and onto Elagin Island for a snowy December parkrun where it was still dark at 10 am when it was time to part with new friends. Who knew that less than two years later we would host Alexander Zakharin, a parkrun tourist from Elagin, at our own home parkrun on an island in the middle of the Potomac?
Next stop for us was Surrey, England, where our son, Henry, graduated from high school last year. Thanks to Henry we got to parkrun at Guildford three times and at the original home of parkrun, Bushy Park, nine times, including on their 10th anniversary in October, 2014. It was a special day for us, as my wife Svetlana completed her first 5K ever.
And she was hooked too, insisting on starting a parkrun here on beautiful Roosevelt Island as soon as possible after the first DC parkrun, Fletcher’s Cove, was going strong. I begged for patience, but as soon as Paul Sinton-Hewitt ran it and told her, “this may be one of the most beautiful parkrun courses anywhere”, I knew there was no way out.
Let’s talk about parkrun growing across the USA.
parkrun feels very American. If you’ve done one you know what I mean. Grassroots. Volunteer organized and led. Community based. Friends getting together in their local park to walk, jog & run, to cheer each other on, chat. Statistics, personal bests. Parents running with the kids. Free.
OK, so it does not fully satisfy our competitive urge. But don’t we have enough races for that in America? It is not flashy, with lots of prizes, gimmicks and in-your-face commercial sponsors.But maybe we don’t need more of that either? People everywhere are drawn to parkrun because of its simplicity and because it’s so easy to participate in. Free. Weekly. 5K. Register once, show up at 9. Run/jog/walk. Socialize. Come back next Saturday and do it again. parkrun is for everyone – from elite runners, to regular joggers, to morning walkers, to people who haven’t exercised in 10 years.
parkrun has been slow to take root in the USA because it didn’t have dedicated resources and a platform set up to make it easy to start new parkruns. Now we do. Let’s work together to create a parkrun in every city, town, and community in America. How? It’s up to you and your neighbors, your running and walking buddies. Austalia has 2.5 employees overseeing 160 parkruns started by about 500 dedicated volunteers and conducted weekly by around 1,500 active members of their communities. No big government programs. No huge national structure. Just lots of local enthusiasts supported by a small team and a couple dozen volunteer ambassadors who are veteran event leaders.
Can we do that in America? Are you kidding? If you want to help start a parkrun in your community email me or contact me on Facebook or LinkedIn and we will show you how. If you know anyone, anywhere in America who might be interested in parkrun, forward this newsletter to them, connect them to our Facebook page, get them to come to your parkrun when they are in town – SPREAD THE WORD!
The faster we spread the word, the more people that get involved, the sooner we will have parkruns all over the country!
Darrell Stanaford, A1023254
Country Manager, parkrun USA
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