With the August 18th launch of Delaware and Raritan Canal parkrun, Garden State residents will be able to join the world’s largest running and walking community. And Somerset, NJ may see a curious uptick in tourist interest.
D&RC parkrun is a free, weekly 5k on the canal towpath, starting at Colonial Park every Saturday, year round. Like all parkrun events, it’s timed, but it’s not a race. parkrun takes a minimalist approach, with no prizes, no swag, or timing chips, and the focus is on helping people to get active in their community. Simple one-time registration gets you a free personal barcode, and then you simply show up with your barcode on a Saturday morning.
parkrun started with 13 friends in one London park in 2004, and since has grown to over 1000 parks worldwide, with over 4 million registered parkrunners and over 200,000 participants weekly. D&RC parkrun is the 24th parkrun event in the US, and the first in New Jersey. Since parkrunners can show up with their barcode to any event worldwide, it’s common for parkrunners to check out new parkruns while traveling.
Crissy Field parkrun in San Francisco brings together locals and visitors from around the world
One of the most common questions the parkrun USA team receives is: “Is there a parkrun in New York City?” No, there isn’t. But with the launch of D&RC parkrun, for the first time there will be a parkrun within easy striking distance from NYC (details below). So the event should bring together a mix of locals and visitors from afar who might not otherwise stop in this part of New Jersey.
The D&R Canal was completed in 1834 to facilitate the transport of coal from Pennsylvania to New York City. Nowadays it offers walkers, joggers, runners and cyclists a peaceful 34 mile stretch of trail through central New Jersey.
D&RC parkrun Event Directors Rory Murphy and Kay Hallenbeck met via the Leakin Park parkrun in Baltimore (yes, that Leakin Park – it’s beautiful). As a UK-to-US transplant, Kay had discovered parkrun while visiting family in the UK. She would manage 5 parkruns a year, mainly at her home parkrun in Lullingstone, Kent. When Leakin Park parkrun started one year ago, it offered a parkrun 4 hours drive away, rather than an 8 hour flight.
Kay says: “I’m not actually a runner. I ran for 9 years before I started to enjoy it, and the support of my running club, Raritan Valley Road Runners, was key to making that switch. I’m still a back of the pack workhorse, but I love that I can go anywhere in the world and find a supportive, active community through parkrun. It gets me moving more, more often.”
After she volunteered as tail walker at Leakin Park, Co-Event Director Doug Jones set Kay a challenge: meet up with Leakin Park founder Rory Murphy, who had just moved to New Jersey, and bring parkrun to NJ.
Rory takes up the story:
“parkrun came dropping slow in New Jersey.” (Rory is Irish. That’s a Yeats reference.) “There are plenty of good venues, but permission was a sticking point. Some struggled with the notion of a weekly 5k, imagining a typical commercial event with hundreds of runners and lots of disruption.
Other venues were enthusiastic, but we couldn’t find a course that would work. Safety and year-round accessibility are top priorities.
I happened across the D&R Canal towpath, and started talking with the State Park, who manage the Canal, and Somerset County Parks Department, who manage the park that we’ll use for parking and gathering, and we were in business.”
Regular preview runs over the past couple of months have put the towpath through its paces, and have also recruited runners who already love the towpath, but would also like some company on their runs.
Support from Raritan Valley Road Runners (RVRR) has been key to promoting the event to the local running community. The club’s motto is: Run more, Volunteer more, Recruit more and Retain more. Partnership with parkrun furthers all these goals. All parkrun events are organized by volunteers drawn from the parkrun community, and RVRR will contribute to the initial pool of volunteers. Also, parkrunners who are looking to diversify their running will hopefully check out the club’s offerings throughout the week – find out more at www.rvrr.org.
We would also like to thank JackRabbit Running Store in Princeton who have provided financial support to the event to help get it going.
Every week participants are invited to join the post-parkrun meetup for coffee and brunch at Corner Cafe and Grill in Somerset. It’s a great way to cool off (summer), thaw out (winter), and get to know other members of the community.
All are welcome at parkrun, and it’s totally free. You don’t need to be a gazelle. You don’t need to run. Dogs are welcome (short leash, please), and strollers too (but not both at once).
Registration takes two minutes, and it’s free, at parkrun.us/register
D&RC parkrun is not too far from the far tip of Staten Island, but parkrunners who want to take public transportation from Manhattan, the following itinerary looks promising.
Take the 7:14am train from NY Penn Station on New Jersey Transit North East Corridor Line to New Brunswick (arrives 8:11). That leaves plenty of time for a 7 mile cab or car service (approx $25). Or an intense warm up run for the enterprising.
Based on feedback from our first parkrunners, we created a new volunteer role: Tourist Pick-up. If you are coming to visit and would like a ride from New Brunswick Station, either comment on our weekly Facebook post for tourist pick-up, or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will comment on your behalf - no guarantees, but hopefully one of our wonderful volunteers will be able to pick you up and take you back after the event.
The 10:29 departure gets you back to NYC before noon, but with trains every half hour, why not come to the cafe afterwards?
Viveka from Sweden is a self-proclaimed non-runner, but she shared the story of how she became a parkrunner. She volunteers more than she participates and more often walks than runs, which is true for many parkrunners around the world. No matter how you participate, if you do, you’re a parkrunner and you’re always welcome. …
If you’ve arrived at parkrun during event set-up or have volunteered for your local event, you’ve likely watched a Run Director pull all of the parkrun gear out of a Mary Poppins-esque bundle. It’s true that parkruns happen with minimal equipment and intentionally have a small footprint. Each event has the same tokens, stopwatches, scanners,…