Perrigo parkrun, which launches June 15, 2019, aims to build a healthy, friendly community in the rapidly growing city of Redmond, 20 miles east of Seattle.
With an increasingly diverse population, of all ages, backgrounds and nationalities, the city and the community have long been ready to embrace parkrun as a way to bring people together. But finding the right location has proven quite the journey.
Having a local parkrun in your city brings so many benefits, both physically and socially. Community was at the forefront of Co-Event Director, Kerstin Pepper’s mind when she started thinking of starting a parkrun in her local city of Redmond, WA.
As a transplant from Brighton, UK, Kerstin (pronounced “Sherstin”) knows only too well the importance of being able to find common ground when you arrive in a new place, whether it is from overseas, out of state, or simply the next city over. Where do you start, when you need to get out of the house, but sitting alone in a coffee shop doesn’t hold much appeal?
Redmond is currently in a state of massive growth, thanks in large part to local tech giants, Microsoft, Amazon and Nintendo. So where can all these incoming residents, whether they are families with young children or interns dreaming of becoming the next Bill Gates, go to find new friends and be part of a healthy community?
Having left her beloved Brighton & Hove parkrun in the UK several years previously, Kerstin was thrilled to hear on the Facebook grapevine of the launch of the first parkrun in Washington state, Renton parkrun. She quickly got in touch with Co-Event Director (and now US parkrun Ambassador) Kortney Thoma to find out more and share her ideas about the potential of a parkrun in this Eastside suburb.
Kerstin learned, to her surprise, that Kortney had already laid the groundwork for an event in Redmond. This added fuel to the fire, so after attending Renton’s launch in November 2017, volunteering several times and meeting fabulously warm, welcoming fellow parkrun enthusiasts along the way, the idea was firmly cemented.
parkrun (always spelled with lower-case ‘p’) is the name for a series of free 5k run/walk events held on Saturday mornings, year-round. What started as a simple meetup for a dozen friends in Bushy Park, London in 2004 has now grown to more than 1,800 events worldwide with over 300,000 participants every week.
At parkrun the focus is on community and sustainability, rather than on competition or swag. All ages are welcome, from 4 to 104. Dogs and strollers are also part of the parkrun family, and only add to the fun. There are no prizes for finishing first, and the volunteer tail-walker ensures that nobody ever finishes last at parkrun.
In the United States, parkrun is still a relatively new concept, though US participation is currently doubling every year. Perrigo parkrun is the 35th event in the US, and the third in Washington, following the success of Renton parkrun and Des Moines parkrun.
Renton parkrun has been creating a healthy community on the Cedar River Trail since late 2017
Kerstin has been familiar with parkrun for years, having first joined Brighton & Hove parkrun in the UK in 2009. She had been searching in vain for a similar local event since moving to the Seattle area in 2011, when a chance encounter at San Diego airport (!!) eventually led her, happily, to Kortney Thoma.
Co-Event Director, Mary Blake, is a faithful running buddy of Kerstin, and hails from Dublin, Ireland. The pair have trained for several marathons together, citing running as an extreme way of getting some “me time” away from the demands of small children and messy households. Kerstin sold her on the idea of teaming up to lead a parkrun event in their community in Redmond.
Des Moines Creek parkrun celebrates its first anniversary on June 8th. Like all parkrun events it is 100% volunteer led, and walkers are just as much at home as runners
Kerstin: “I just can’t say enough about how much I love parkrun. I was first introduced to Brighton & Hove parkrun by a personal trainer friend, who said it was the perfect way to introduce speed running into my marathon training.
After the birth of my first daughter, parkrun was my first stop as soon as I felt ready to lace up my running shoes again. Despite a slow and, ahem, wobbly attempt for my first parkrun as “mum”, I just loved being able to see my time improve each week after that. It was incredibly motivating.
Add to that the amazing community, who chat and cheer you on along the course, the volunteers offering high-fives and “whoop whoop”s, and, of course, the all important post-run coffee meet (and more chat) …. what’s not to love?
Even through the process of bringing Perrigo parkrun this far, I have loved setting up my table at local events (like the Beat the Bunny 5k community run, or the Redmond Bike Bash) and waxing lyrical about parkrun to anyone who ventures over to find out more.
I love that parkrun is for everybody. My 9 year old and 7 year old have been running/walking with me at the informal trial events that we’ve been holding every week ahead of the official launch. Every week our motley crew of runners and walkers grows just a little bit bigger. We have already had Mexico, India, Ireland, England, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa represented here in our beautiful little park on the edge of town. Runners, walkers, dogs, children, seniors, and teenagers – all have shown up and covered their 3.1 miles with a smile.”
Perrigo parkrun includes 3 laps of the park’s sports fields (1.2 miles total), and 1.9 miles on the flat, paved Evans Creek Trai
Mary: “I first heard of parkrun as an event in the UK many years ago. As an avid runner and someone who is always trying to encourage others to give running a try, I was fascinated with the concept. It reach Ireland until after I moved to the US, so sadly I missed out on it there.
I learned a lot more about parkrun from my running buddy, Kerstin, and was excited to give it a try when it launched in Renton. I gave it a go in Renton a couple of times and absolutely loved it. Renton is a bit of a trek for me with a young family, so when Kerstin started planning an Eastside parkrun, I was super excited and totally on board!
I recently tried a parkrun in Queensland when I was visiting Australia, and I had so much fun meeting the community there that I have vowed to find a parkrun every time I go out of town. I can’t wait to get our Perrigo parkrun community up and running!”
“I was lucky enough to do some Run Director training with Cam and Cathryn [the co-event directors] in Renton. They were so warm and welcoming and really gave me a good grounding. I have to admit I was super nervous about taking on my new role, but the parkrun community just made me feel so at ease and comfortable in the role. Cam and Cathryn have really given me the confidence and tools I need to be Event Director at Perrigo parkrun.”
parkrun is a great way for families to get active together to start the weekend
One of the favorite parkrun customs is the post-parkrun meetup for coffee and conversation. Perrigo parkrunners will be invited to meet at nearby Cypress Coffee. They have amazing coffee — Seattleites know their coffee — some deliciously decadent baked goods, and outdoor seating for those rare Seattle sunshine days.
Cypress Coffee is the place to be after Perrigo parkrun
Despite Redmond priding itself on its extensive system of parks and trails, it proved to be surprisingly difficult to find a parkrun-worthy piece of land that checked all the boxes: an interesting, accessible dog- and stroller-friendly route, with parking, bathrooms, and no road crossings.
And, importantly for Redmond, the park should not already be overcrowded, and the trail not teeming with speeding cyclists. Redmond prides itself on being the cycling capital of the Northwest. That is a wonderful thing, but it brings some challenges, too.
The “problem” with Redmond’s successful growth in recent years, is that many of the more obvious choices are already overrun with regular commercial / charitable running or cycling events. Popular scenic waterfront trails are busy with families and cyclists on a Saturday morning.
The team spent close to half a year working with a seemingly perfect park and trail location in Redmond, doing practice runs in the summer months (when the trail would be at its busiest) and collecting trail usage data.
“However, when we finally went back to the park’s management team armed with what we thought was an ironclad, no-brainer of a parkrun presentation, we were surprised by the news that the west side of the park would be closed for four years while work associated with the incoming light rail project was ongoing. Four years, during which we, on the east side of the park, would regularly be “bumped” for paid running events that would otherwise have all been held on the soon-to-be-closed section.”
The team went back to the drawing board.
It was while pushing her 4-year-old on a swingset in Perrigo Park that Kerstin suddenly looked around, and found herself mentally checking all those boxes, and kicking herself for not considering Perrigo sooner. Perrigo Park has seen significant recent investment from the city, yet it is still underused.
Not only is it a beautiful park, with facilities abounding, it also has a flat, paved trail adjacent to it. The trail does not cross any roads, and conveniently leads nowhere, making it less interesting to our cyclist friends.
Kerstin: “When I decided to try out a few route options, with my Runkeeper app to track the mileage, my excitement mounted as I realized that not only was 5km perfectly feasible, but that every turnaround point and start/finish line was marked by sturdy, highly visible, wooden posts. It was, and is, the perfect parkrun venue!”
In some US cities it can be difficult to obtain a permit for a free, weekly 5k run/walk event. But that has never been a problem in Redmond, where the city has been supportive and enthusiastic throughout the search for a suitable venue. The City even invited Perrigo parkrun to host tables at local events.
The team takes advantage of the Redmond Bike Bash, a great opportunity to meet the active community and spread the parkrun message
Perrigo Park is a beautiful park, located on the edge of Redmond, tucked away between two major roads, it is often overlooked, and thus relatively unknown.
The public park is well lit and features restrooms, water fountains, a covered picnic / barbecue area, children’s playground, and plentiful sports facilities. The quiet, paved, meandering Evans Creek Trail offers a scenic route well away from the roads, and the tree-lined paths are simply beautiful, in any season.
The park is conveniently situated just a short drive from SR-520, making it easy to reach from nearby or more distant cities. With millions of parkrun participants worldwide, “parkrun tourism” is a well-known phenomenon within the parkrun community, and it can draw visitors to towns that they might not otherwise think of visiting. This is likely for Perrigo parkrun, since nearby Microsoft regularly houses visiting overseas colleagues at hotels in downtown Redmond.
TIME: 9am, every Saturday, starting at the red barn in Perrigo Par
REGISTER: go to parkrun.us/register, fill out a simple form, and you’ll be emailed a free personal barcode that you print out and bring along on Saturdays
CHILDREN: all ages welcome! Children aged 4 and older can participate with their own barcode. Under 11s should stay with a parent or other responsible adult at all times. Strollers very welcome.
DOGS: very welcome! No more than one dog per person, on a short leash.
Strollers, selfies, signs, … and snorkels. We’re out there in all weathers, in more and more healthy communities across the US every Saturday morning. Here are just some of our favorite pictures and stories from our fourth consecutive week with 2,000+ finishers supported by 300+ volunteers. Feeling good about the shaded woodland course…
“One year ago today I went to Colonial Park for the launch of a strange thing called parkrun. Little did I know the treasure I had stumbled upon.” Last August the news about parkrun coming to central New Jersey was our most widely read launch story ever. Mostly due to interest from visitors…