This week College Park parkrun in Maryland celebrates its second birthday. The event has grown steadily over the two years, drawing a strong local following of runners and walkers. At their recent 100th event the team polled members of their community about the reasons why they keep coming back, bringing more and more friends and family to join them. It’s hard to choose a favorite, but #28 is pretty good.
Recently we celebrated our 100th College Park parkrun. This felt like an important milestone, and our community apparently agreed, turning out in record numbers, with 210 finishers, plus many more volunteers, kids, and dogs. We asked the community what they like, and they had plenty to say. Hence our “100 reasons why we love College Park parkrun”, including a few of our own.
It’s clear that our community really does love parkrun. Over 1700 people have completed around 9000 parkruns since our launch in October 2016. More than 400 have taken part at least 5 times, and more than 20 have reached their 50-parkrun milestone at College Park, including College Park mayor Patrick Wojahn. There’s a strong volunteering culture, too: over 250 different individuals have contributed to making the events run smoothly.
We gathered some reasons via our weekly volunteer/news email. Then on the day of our 100th event we invited parkrunners to write their ideas on sticky notes to add to this list. Most people contributed just one reason, but for some that just wasn’t enough.
The list gives a very clear picture. It really is all about the warm, supportive community. People often start coming because of personal health and fitness goals. But overwhelmingly it is the social support that keeps them coming back week after week, often bringing friends and family along with them.
So many suggestions!
So here is the full list. Sorted by theme, but in no particular order.
By far the largest number of reasons were related to the friendly community spirit.
2. I love seeing familiar faces when they show up at the park, or when I pass them on the out-and-back route.
3. I love hearing the cheers of encouragement at the finish line.
4. I love seeing people grow in confidence as they get more comfortable doing something that they once found difficult.
5. Total random strangers smile at me, high-five me, and tell me “good job” or “keep it up” just for doing what I love. I might get the same exercise benefit doing a 3-mile run by myself, but the emotional boost from doing it with the parkrun family is amazing!
7. I love the great pictures of the community every week.
8. I love seeing runners and walkers of all abilities and ages
9. I love seeing everyone having fun!
10. It’s non-judgmental (which is my greatest fear when doing active things with other people).
11. parkrun feels like such a wholesome good time. Running with your family, a community volunteer effort. What’s not to like?
12. Everyone is welcome.
13. Because everyone is so nice and encouraging!
14. It’s such a nice, supportive community!
15. Lots of encouragement. Very low pressure!
16. Beautiful people.
17. It’s running with a good excuse to hang out.
18. I have done 2 walks with you and it was rewarding to see the bonds that are formed with all.
Many people specifically talked about friends and family: old friends, new friends, long lost friends, regular family, and parkrun family.
19. Because friends. The hundreds I’ve made, and the hundreds I’ve yet to make.
20. Friends, including some that go all the way back to Beltsville Junior High School (1980-1981)!
21. I get to see my parkrun friends
22. Because I get to spend time with my dad.
23. Nature. Exercise. Friends.
24. I love meeting new friends….runners & walkers are the friendliest people!
25. I’m running for my family.
26. One of the many reasons I love parkrun is because even though I occasionally miss weeks at a time, when I comeback it’s always a fun time with neighbors & friends. It reminds me of how special our community is.
27. Family fun- both my own family and my ever-growing parkrun family.
And this is one of our favorites. What could be more warm and fuzzy?
28. It feels like a hug.
Some of the comments were about specific people who are very active in the parkrun community. Including some younger parkrunners who inspire the grown-ups. We could easily have listed many more people. Event founder Andrea Zukowski gets mentioned a lot, unsurprisingly.
30. Andrea and Colin.
31. Because Andrea and Colin have created a contagious atmosphere of love and joy.
Andrea in her element
Lisa Wilson and Hump Plotts are our much loved course marshals, and everybody is happy to see them on a Saturday morning.
32. I get to see Lisa’s big smile at the turn-around.
33. I get to see Hump’s latest ‘retirement’ t-shirt!
34. Because Hump wishes us a nice weekend!
Nick Huang and JJ Su are our Singaporean grad student duo whose enthusiasm is infectious. Xander Mease is one of our inspirations. He runs most weeks with his mom Tara to help manage his cystic fibrosis, and they’re about to hit their 50 parkrun milestone. Xander is 5 years old. Clark Ridge alternates leaving everybody in the dust with running with his daughter Violet, whose appreciation of the puddles along our course keeps us entertained. Jackie and Kayla Hayes are another parent-child pair who bring big smiles and big hearts to parkrun.
35. Nick and JJ
36. Xander and Tara
37. Violet and Clark
38. Jackie and Kayla
Xander and Tara Mease are College Park regulars. Tara loves that parkrun is open to 5-year olds like Xander, who runs to help manage his cystic fibrosis. In fact, parkrun is one of his short runs of the week.
The local community is important, but many parkrunners also enjoyed feeling part of a much larger community, nationally and globally, either when traveling, or when parkrun tourists come to College Park.
39. I love being part of the international parkrun family.
40. I love destination trips to new parkruns.
41. I love wearing my apricot shirt.
42. parkrun gives me a reason to travel to lovely remote places and meet wonderful people who share common goals and values that I never would have met otherwise.
43. Really welcoming to tourists!
The community includes more than just humans. Many people love that their dog can take part with them. And the dogs agree.
44. Dogs are allowed to run, too!
45. Because it is dog-friendly! And super friendly in general!
46. To tire my dog out!
47. Woof!! (I get to run too!)
48. I woof barkrun.
A number of the comments were about parkrunners’ individual wellness goals.
49. I love trying to get a new PB each week.
50. Very positive for beginners.
52. Enhancing my total wellness while kicking off the weekend.
53. For its consistency, even when I’m not.
54. It gives me another chance to start running!
55. Getting good advice about running in cold weather from friends.
56. I get tired. Amazing!
57. It gets me out here and challenges and inspires me!
58. It gets me out of bed Saturday mornings.
People love the venues. The 5k course along the Paint Branch Trail is a part of town that many locals didn’t know about until they came to parkrun, although it parallels the town’s main strip. They appreciate our big, friendly, independent coffee shop where we go for our post-parkrun snacks. We knew from an earlier survey that people like coming back to an attractive natural setting that makes them feel good.
59. I love running in the shade!
60. The downhill finish! [Full disclosure: it’s barely discernible]]
61. It’s near my house!
62. Running is fun. And I like The Board and Brew.
63. It’s running and coffee.
64. By 10:00 AM I am done!
65. It doesn’t start at 7:00 AM.
Some comments highlight specific features of our parkrun event or all parkrun events. We even found somebody who commented on the spelling.
66. The volunteer vests
67. Photos galore
68. The little p
69. Andrea’s dairy-free, gluten-free cake
We were happy to get comments from some of our younger parkrunners.
70. PUDDLES!! (We can guess who this is)
71. Dog dog dog. Bird baby. (This comment is from an infant too young to speak, who signed his remarks in American Sign Language).
Making a splash
Inevitably, there were a few suggestions that we liked but found it harder to classify.
72. It beats yard work on a Saturday.
73. It’s the best part of Saturdays and it gets me out of bed.
74. Hard to win. Hard to lose.
75. Because whoever you are, parkrun is for you.
76. We can think of 100 reasons!
Well, it doesn’t entirely get you out of yard work.
Tree planting events with Prince George’s County Parks & Recreation
Some people had more to say than would easily fit on a sticky note.
77. I love how the entire person emerges over the weeks. I love watching people bloom, either with their running or their contribution. Though you don’t know it at the beginning, it becomes clear that each person is on a path to something. It’s amazing watching people find their way and helping them on their way. It’s parkrun self-actualization!
78. We are there for a common purpose of being physically healthy, but the atmosphere provided by parkrun allows us to build a community connection that contributes as much to our wellbeing as the physical activity. Volunteering builds our spirit and allows us to make a contribution and everyone who attends a parkrun has an opportunity to volunteer in some way. The only thing better than participating in a parkrun is volunteering at a parkrun!
79. I love how parkrun “feels.” That fabulous connected community feeling is directly related to the amount of effort our College Park parkrun founders Andrea and Colin give every week to parkrun. They spend an enormous amount of time getting to know the people who come to parkrun and making the event inviting to everyone. They ensure pictures and stories are everywhere in social media helping us to feel we are one big extended family and inviting others to join us.
80. If the vision of parkrun founder Paul-Sinton-Hewitt is to create a healthier and happier planet by bringing people together, College Park parkrun is a perfect model of that vision.
In addition to the volunteers who put on the event every week, there’s a core team of volunteers who hold everything together. They have opinions, too.
81. We love how easy it is to put on the event every week. 10 minutes after the tailwalker returns, you wouldn’t know anything had been happening in the park.
82. We love that it’s easy to fill the volunteer roster every week. And the volunteers have fun!
83. We love working with each other and the rest of the community. Almost none of the team knew each other before parkrun.
84. We love seeing the community grow week by week, as people return with their friends and family. At first we’d see 40-50 finishers per week, nowadays 130-150 is more typical.
85. We love the great relations with our different partners, from the Prince George’s County Parks Department to the City of College Park, the College Park Community Foundation, the Prince George’s Running Club, and the University of Maryland. And not forgetting The Board and Brew, who cheerfully accommodate us, whether we bring 5 or 50 people on a Saturday morning.
86. We love seeing people gain in confidence, and we’re inspired by watching their progress.
87. We love seeing people’s joy when they ring the PB bell.
88. We love the Paint Branch Trail, especially the long “tunnel of trees” and the wooden bridges that we cross 6 times along the route.
89. We love the diversity of our parkrun community, in speed, age, ethnicity, fitness background, and more.
90. We love that our two most regular finishers are also our fastest and slowest finishers.
Surely we don’t get to do this without sharing our own reasons why we love parkrun! First Colin …
91. I love that our out-and-back course means that I get to see everybody along the route. And I love getting to know as many names as possible, so that I can cheer them as we pass.
92. I love learning about the cool stories that we hear every Saturday morning.
93. I love being connected to our community like never before, and being part of the current energy in the Route 1 Corridor.
94. I love the DC-area and US parkrun family that we have come to know.
95. I love working with other teams who want to create something similar for their own community.
co-Event Director Colin ran his 50th parkrun on his 50th birthday
And then Andrea. She’s the introvert who had barely run a step in her life before she was 49. If you had told her 5 years ago that she’d organize 100 5K events in a 2 year period she would have asked you what you were smoking.
96. I love the smiles.
97. It brings out the best in me, and in all of us. There is no Saturday that I don’t come home feeling better about the world, and better about my own ability to effect positive change.
98. It reminds us that we’re all in this together.
99. Everyone goes home a little healthier, and a little (or a lot) happier. And that goes a long way.
100. It’s a reminder that every single one of us has a super power in our back pocket: the power to encourage others. That power can move mountains.
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