News - 19th December 2018
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Our parkrun USA Year in Review 2018

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We were spoiled for choice in selecting our highlights reel from 2018. We doubled in size — again! — and that was to be expected. But many of our favorites are things that took us by surprise. Here is a selection of the year’s highlights: our favorite numbers, favorite stories, and favorite pictures, and our hopes for 2019 as we continue to build healthy communities around the country.

 

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Crissy Field parkrun

 

By the Numbers

 

parkrun USA has been roughly doubling in size annually for the past few years. That continued in 2018

 

In 2016 we organized 272 free, weekly 5k events. This increased to 541 events in 2017, and to 1075 in 2018. In the same period we went from 7 weekly events to 15 to 27, with many more in development. With 21 parkrun locations across the border in Canada, North America has gone from 10 to 48 locations in the space of just 2 years. And as anybody who has found themselves hundreds of miles from the closest parkrun on a Saturday morning can attest, we have barely scratched the surface.

 

The 14,000 parkruns completed in 2016 rose to 28,000 in 2017, and to just shy of 50,000 finishers in 2018. That’s 75% growth in the number of parkruns completed in the past 12 months. Around 80% of the growth came from new events, 20% from growth in existing events. We now see around the same number of finishers in a year as the New York City Marathon.

 

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Durham, NC parkrun

 

The number of volunteers doubled in 2018, too. 1,900 individuals volunteered on around 9,000 occasions this year. That’s 100% growth over 2017.

 

We also saw more and more US parkrunners earning coveted parkrun t-shirts for joining the milestone clubs. Hundreds more are working towards parkrun milestones and will be earning their free shirts in 2019.

 

50 club – 105

100 club – 32

250 club – 1

10 club (juniors only) – 73

V25 club (volunteers) – 69

 

These numbers are still small, compared to the global footprint of parkrun, with around 1,700 5k and junior parkrun 2k events and 200,000 participants every single week. But the thing about doubling every year is that, if it continues, at some point it starts to get big quickly. Our volunteers are working hard behind the scenes to be ready for that.

 

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Charleston, WV parkrun

 

Monthly Highlights

 

January. We started the year with our first ever “New Years Double” parkrun. On the coldest January 1st in decades in the Mid Atlantic a crew of die-hards completed a frigid Leakin Park parkrun in Baltimore, supported by a heroic volunteer crew, before heading to College Park parkrun for a gathering of parkrunners from across the region.

 

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Leakin Park parkrun, New Years Day 2018

 

Following the growth in new events in 2018, there will be 6 parkrun pairings to choose from to start 2019, plus many other individual New Years parkruns.

 

The coldest month gave us some cool pictures of extreme parkrunning, especially from the first winter of Eagan parkrun in Minnesota.

 

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Eagan parkrun

 

But few examples were more extreme than Heritage Harbor parkrun in Illinois, where one morning there was a single finisher, running through fresh snow with a prosthetic leg. This is how we came to know Juan Leg — yes, that’s his name — who is now a regular parkrunner.

 

Story: Letting go of my crutch

 

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Heritage Harbor parkrun

 

February. February saw our first new event launch of the year, South Boulder Creek parkrun in mile-high Boulder, CO, which was by far our highest event … for a few weeks, at least.

 

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South Boulder Creek parkrun

 

Meanwhile, Leakin Park parkrun was setting attendance records, thanks to their special Disney-themed event, which of course cost the princess-ly sum of $0 to enter.

 

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Leakin Park parkrun

 

March. March brought new events in consecutive weekends. Kensington parkrun launched as the 6th event in the DC-Baltimore area, and Jamaica Pond parkrun in Boston became the first parkrun in the North East.

 

Story: Study Abroad (about the founding of South Boulder Creek and Jamaica Pond parkruns)

 

Winter refused to give up across much of the country, with flooding, downed trees, and other obstacles at many events. Some events teamed up with their parks authority to clean up the park.

 

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Roosevelt Island parkrun

 

April. More new events joined the parkrun USA family in April. Joe Creason parkrun in Louisville, KY had its roots in a daughter’s desire to remember her mom.

 

Story: A parkrun legacy

 

Aspen parkrun in Colorado became the world’s highest parkrun, at around 8,000’ of elevation. It promptly saw a lot of snow in its first few weeks.

 

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Aspen parkrun

 

Meanwhile, in Boston the new Jamaica Pond parkrun saw a huge influx of parkrunners in only its third week, coinciding with the Boston Marathon.

 

May. May brought perfect weather for parkrunning, and with it the milestone of our first weekend with over 1,000 finishers.

 

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South Boulder Creek parkrun

 

Well, it was mostly perfect. May also brought heavy rains that created some additional challenges.

 

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Kensington parkrun

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Livonia parkrun

 

New events were launched in West Virginia and Tennessee. Mountain Goat Trail parkrun in tiny Sewanee, TN had just 5 finishers at their launch, but they all went for post-parkrun coffee, and that was followed by a streak of 8 successive attendance records in the weeks that followed.

 

Story: All aboard for Mountain Goat Trail parkrun

 

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Mountain Goat Trail parkrun

 

June. June brought the second parkrun to Washington State, with the launch of Des Moines Creek parkrun. DMC parkrun follows a beautiful stream valley, and descends for the entire second half to finish overlooking the Puget Sound.

 

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Des Moines Creek parkrun

 

With each new event we saw greetings from parkrunners across the country. Despite the scale of the country, there is a growing sense of community among people spread across thousands of miles.

 

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Jamaica Pond parkrun

 

July. In July they celebrated a wedding at Renton parkrun. Yes, an actual wedding during the pre-run briefing.

 

Story: A parkrun and a wedding

 

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Renton parkrun

 

August saw the biggest turnouts of the year, with 1,360 people scanning their barcode on August 4th.

 

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Clermont Waterfront parkrun

 

parkrun arrived in the New York City metro area with the launch of Delaware and Raritan Canal parkrun in New Jersey. With much interest from visiting parkrunners from New York City, participants soon came up with the idea of a “voluntaxi” role, in which locals arranged to meet visitors at the closest train station.

 

Story: parkrun arrives in New Jersey (our second most shared story of the year)

 

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Delaware and Raritan Canal parkrun

 

Preparing for future growth of parkrun USA, the first ever meeting of parkrun USA ambassadors took place over a weekend in College Park.

 

Story: Ready for Liftoff

 

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September. September brought the highlight of the year for Fletcher’s Cove parkrun, when they teamed up with the South African Embassy to put on a Nelson Mandela memorial event. They were joined by South African running legend Bruce Fordyce, who also leads parkrun South Africa, and they enjoyed a traditional braai after the parkrun.

 

Story: From world records to walkers

 

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Fletcher’s Cove parkrun

 

Across the Mid-Atlantic they continued to grapple with the wettest year on record. This created some water obstacles that were on the small side.

 

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College Park parkrun

 

While at other events flooding called for more resourcefulness. The Leakin Park parkrun start was unusable for much of the summer, so the team worked with the parks department to find a makeshift course, taking advantage of a road that was closed by the flooding. Never to be kept away by a little rain, further floods in December had the LP team designing a temporary QUADRUPLE out-and-back course.

 

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Leakin Park parkrun

 

October. Special events in October included the Salmon Run at Renton parkrun, a joint effort with the Seattle Aquarium. There was a parkrun tourist invasion at Heritage Harbor parkrun on Chicago Marathon weekend. Halloween parkruns at many locations across the country brought out some unusual creatures.

 

Video: Heritage Harbor parkrun on International parkrun Day

 

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Renton parkrun

 

November saw our busiest parkrun week of the year, with 8 Thanksgiving morning events and a further 26 events two days later. Clermont Waterfront parkrun set a new attendance record, without the normal assist from international tourists, and they welcomed the 100,000th finisher at parkrun USA.

 

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Clermont Waterfront parkrun

 

Mountain Goat Trail parkrun set a big attendance record of 39. That might not sound like many, until you remember that it’s 2% of the population of Sewanee, TN. Chances are that 2% of the population of your town would be a fairly large parkrun.

 

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Mountain Goat Trail parkrun

 

We welcomed the first US member of the parkrun 250 club, Lynn Boven of Livonia parkrun, who reached this milestone 6 years to the day after his first parkrun.

 

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Livonia parkrun

 

And we also welcomed the first centenarian at parkrun USA. Jim Wilson, 100 years old, walked the course at College Park parkrun together with his daughter Lisa, who completed her 100th parkrun and her 100th volunteering in the couple of weeks that followed.

 

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College Park parkrun

 

New events launched in Ann Arbor, MI and Tucson, AZ, rounding out our collection of new events in college towns for 2018.

 

Story: Meet me at Himmel parkrun

 

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Lillie parkrun, Ann Arbor

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Himmel parkrun (Tucson, AZ)

 

December brought YET more bad weather across many of our events, but by now we had learned to embrace whatever the elements threw at us.

 

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Fletcher’s Cove parkrun

 

Hopes for 2019

 

Our mission is to help create healthy communities throughout the US. To that end, in 2019 our ambassador network will work to make it easier for local teams to build thriving parkrun events for their community.

 

If current momentum continues, we can expect 80-90,000 finishers at parkrun USA across 45-50 events by the end of 2019, supported by around 4,000 different volunteers.

 

A priority for 2019 is to develop local, regional, and national partnerships that will help us to bring the benefits of running, walking, and volunteering at parkrun to a more diverse population.

 

Despite all these predictions, we know that the very best things we’ll see at parkrun in 2019 are things that we can only learn about by showing up at the park on a Saturday morning and seeing what happens.

 

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Mansfield, OH parkrun

 

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