News - 11th September 2019

Building community on the Atlanta BeltLine

Photo by Miguel Lugo, from www.beltline.org

Moving to Atlanta from the UK, Sammie Buzzard was disappointed to learn that parkrun hadn’t reached Georgia yet, despite having over 1,500 locations worldwide. The free, weekly, timed 5 km Saturday morning runs had become a regular fixture of her life back home.

 

The fact that parkruns are open to all abilities, and are very friendly and sociable (coffee and cake were a key part of her local run) meant that they were a great reason to get outside and active every week with friends and family, and meet new friends through the event.

 

However, her disappointment didn’t last long. After getting in touch with parkrun USA she was excited to learn that she wasn’t the only one who felt that parkrun should be part of Atlanta.

 

Branded ‘Running City USA’ by the local track club, Atlanta is host to the world’s largest 10k, home of the USA Olympic team marathon trials and has new outdoor trails seem to be opening all the time. One of these trails is the Atlanta BeltLine, a disused railroad that is being converted to walking and cycle paths. It is constantly expanding and will eventually run around the whole city, like a belt! It struck local residents Parker and Alida Hudson as the perfect location for this community event.

 

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IMAGE: MIGUEL LUGO

So early in February a group of volunteers started investigating locations in Atlanta. Sammie, Parker and Alida were joined by Brett Clarence and Sean Enslin who had enjoyed parkrun in their native South Africa. So now the team had experience of parkrun from multiple countries and Parker and Alida were invaluable with their extensive local knowledge and connections.

 

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Atlanta’s Northside BeltLine Trail proved to be the ideal location, with start area at the Bitsy Grant tennis center. Even the slogan for the BeltLine, “Where Atlanta Comes Together” fits nicely with the parkrun goal of community building. Thanks to generous support from and encouragement from the Atlanta Memorial Park Conservancy (with extra special thanks to Catherine Spillman), West Stride, and Deloitte, the event is now ready to launch.

 

The first event will be Saturday, October 5th at 9 am, but come at least 15 minutes early so you can meet a few fellow parkrunners and listen to the pre-event run briefing. Hopefully the “Hotlanta” summer will have faded a bit by the launch date! The event will take place every Saturday thereafter unless there are safety concerns with inclement weather or another event is taking place on the course. In May-September 2020 the event will start at 8 am to beat the heat, but that’s a long way off!

 

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It’s free to take part in parkrun, and families, strollers and leashed dogs (1 per participant) are welcome. Although the event name is parkrun, walkers are welcome and encouraged, too! This parkrun, like so many others, will be a place where people who don’t classify themselves as “runners” will feel comfortable participating and will enjoy their experience. A volunteer tail walker is always the last to finish, emphasizing the no-pressure atmosphere of parkrun.

 

Register just once for parkrun online, and you’ll receive an email with several copies of your personalized barcode. Print out the page, bring your barcode with you to parkrun, and stash the other copies in your wallet, bike bag, car glove box, near your shoe rack or wherever else you’ll be reminded to always have one with you on a Saturday morning! That barcode gives you access to participate in any one of the over 1,600 events around the globe. That’s all you need to take part- no special tech clothing, expensive running shoes or gear needed.

 

The team hasn’t chosen a post-parkrun coffee venue yet, but for the inaugural event coffee and donuts will be waiting at the finish line. Participants are encouraged to stay for a bit to enjoy each other’s company after they’ve finished and cheer on other runners and walkers. parkrun is as much about building community as it is about the 5 km.

 

As parkrun is put on by volunteers every single weekend, the current volunteer team is always happy to hear from those willing to volunteer! Roles are easy to learn, training is provided day-of and the experience is an enjoyable one. Even kids can help with certain roles, another way parkrun is family-friendly. Email northsidebeltline@parkrun.com if you’re interested in learning more about volunteering.

 

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For more information about parkrun, the inaugural event and to get more plugged in to the parkrun community, visit the event website (register while you’re there), check out the event Facebook page and follow the event on Twitter.

 

Team Northside Beltline can’t wait to see you all in Atlanta!

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