News - 15th February 2023

Bringing parkrun to Charlotte


The most populated city in North Carolina, Charlotte, recently became one of the latest cities in America to host a parkrun as part of the free weekly, timed, 5k run and walk series of events around the world.


Now well on its way to its first anniversary this Summer, Little Sugar Creek Greenway parkrun has become a popular way for locals to get healthy and more social.


We asked the Co-Event Directors Sarah and Mitch how they got involved and why they wanted to bring parkrun to Charlotte.


Mitch explains “I have cycled through different athletic activities at different times in my life but I never really enjoyed running because it always seemed boring. A few years ago, though, I found myself at loose ends after several months of waking up at 5am. I realized that all I needed was some running shoes, and I could make good use of that time and head down to the river and run.”


“It was tough at first – I could only run about a kilometer before getting winded, but I enjoyed getting out and seeing the city before everyone else woke up. I was by no means fast, but I felt comfortable going out, exploring different routes and distances, and I started to think about taking part in organized running events. I was still cowed by the idea of a marathon and I also knew I wouldn’t enjoy a hyper-competitive run club.”



Co-ED Sarah helps measure the course


Stuck between wanting to take part in running events, but not wanting that pressure to always compete or perform, Mitch found out about parkrun.  “I then came across parkrun. It was just organized enough to create a focal point for my week, but the casual, volunteer-led ethos meant I could run as fast or as slow as I wanted, and show up when I wanted and sleep in when I didn’t. And it was free! My first parkrun was on December 26. The event team handed out Santa hats to everyone. We ate cake and drank tea at the finish. I was sold.”


“Fast forward a few years, I moved to another city. I was excited to find a new parkrun. But there wasn’t one in Charlotte, despite a fairly rich running culture. I reached out to parkrun to see if anyone wanted to start one. The pandemic got in the way for a bit, but eventually some kindred souls found me.” Including Sarah who is now Co-ED with Mitch!


Mitch continues “My hope – I think everyone’s hope – is that our parkrun can be the same kind of welcoming event as my first parkrun. Someplace to be on Saturday morning, some people to catch up with, some new people to meet (and a little bit of exercise!). I still like to run but now I get just as much pleasure from trying to help provide the opportunity for others in the community.”


Photo 1


When asked to describe the course to a first timer, Sarah explained “When you head down to Little Sugar Creek Greenway parkrun, you will find a simple out and back, with plentiful opportunities for cheers and high-fives. Little Sugar Creek follows one side of the path, and tall trees line the other side, providing shade on sunny days.”



The butt tree!


Like every parkrun, the course has its own quirks and landmarks to take in during your run or walk.  At Little Sugar Creek Greenway, the most obvious landmarks are the namesake creek, and the pedestrian bridge at the turnaround, but a couple more interesting ones are the “butt tree” that volunteers use to remember where to set up the start/finish line, and the turns toward the end of the course that we lovingly refer to as “false finishes,” because we always seem to have false hope that the finish line will be right around the next turn. We are also lucky to see deer, hawks, and herons pretty frequently. Our course check volunteer has even seen a fox!


Rob a regular

Rob, one of the regulars, makes his way across the pedestrian bridge at the turnaround.


If you’re a tourist and looking for a PB, this could be the one for you.  The course is super flat and mostly shaded.


A usual fixture at each parkrun event is the post-event coffee, and Little Sugar Creek Greenway parkrun is no different.  They have visited a few different places but do like to visit Mugs.  As the Sarah explained “It’s a cozy little coffee shop, reminiscent of Friends or Gilmore Girls according to one volunteer! They have excellent smoothies and sandwiches.”


Almost into their second year, we love hearing how the event grows and the stories of people who have been using it to meet friends, as a training tool, or even just to get outside.  We can’t wait to learn where it goes over the upcoming spring and summer.









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