At almost a year old, we check in with Merrymeeting parkrun and how it’s formed a cherished community in Brunswick, Maine.
The Event Director, Kristen Cahill, gives us the origin story and why it’s so beloved, and what you can expect if you visit. Recounting how she first experienced parkrun, it was from a sabbatical in Ireland in late 2021:
I ran a couple parkruns and thoroughly enjoyed them. However, the Bere Island parkrun was different, not only because you have to catch a ferry to get to it but the incredible warmth, laughter and welcoming community. I remember tearing up when I returned to my Airbnb about just how welcoming they had been. One of the runners had even bought my breakfast, and promised to come to the US to visit when I started it. I knew that I had to replicate the same sense of what I could only describe as fellowship, a human to human fellowship, when I got home.
However, I had just moved to Brunswick, at the height of Covid roughly a year and a half earlier and really didn’t know many people in the area. I really wasn’t 100% sure where to start, so I called the town’s Parks and Rec Department and left a two minute voicemail message (which was me babbling nonstop about Bere Island and how I hoped that I could bring something like this to Brunswick). I truly don’t think I’ve ever been as passionate about starting something in my entire life. However, I also realistically feared the challenge of the parkrun name recognition of in the US; and not being able to fully share just how amazing parkrun was for me. I hadn’t even heard of parkrun until I googled running events in Ireland. How was I going to explain something intangible or abstract to others who had never experienced it? To my surprise, Sabrina, the Rec director, called me right back was almost as excited with the idea as I was. I then reached out to parkrun USA, and the rest is history.
The Rec Department was supportive and worked with me on the location and promotion which was a huge help, as I was doing this pretty much on my own. The trail is ideal being an easy out and back. It is maintained nearly as well as the local in town roads. Honestly, it seemed to have easily come together too easy as it fit a need in the community that I didn’t even know existed. I am so delighted by this event for so many reasons. It’s not just about the beautiful scenery, run or pastries; but mostly the parkrun sense of family, fun and bond that this group has come to share in just shy of our first full year.
We are a group of teens to 70 somethings, who most likely would never have crossed paths otherwise. We welcome anyone to join our group chat and subgroups of us often do weekly activities like trivia, yoga, hiking, etc. in addition to our Saturday parkrun. We truly have built a little unit in the short time that we’ve been parkrunning. We laugh a lot and always have fun. We are in the works coordinating with the local adaptive outdoor center (who were also very excited about parkrun) to open and welcome the event to everyone- regardless of ability, in our local area. We look forward to the summer and warmer months when we can expand the partnership and events.
When you come to visit, you will see our scenic trail follows the river Androscoggin River. At the start, there is an old railroad trestle which adds to the charm. As I mentioned, the town maintains the trail just as it does the town roads even in winter, and in fall it has incredible vibrant foliage. After the parkrun event concludes, we usually meet at a local rustic coffee shop. However, depending on the size of the group, we may go to other locations to shake it up. We recently discovered a new bakery in town that has the best pastries on the planet which happen to be my favorite parkrun coffees. One of our regular parkrunners recently shared her parkrun story with the group. She offered that she had looked at the Facebook event page for weeks before deciding to attend her first parkrun as she is a bit shy. She remarked on how warm and welcoming everyone had been; as the weeks went by, she has felt increasingly more comfortable. She even says that it is now the highlight of her week and that for her to even be opening up to a group with how it has impacted her would have previously been incredibly hard, but she felt so supported by her parkrun family. She told me that she thinks a lot of introverts could find their place in parkrun.
The parkrun isn’t just about the running or walking for some Merrymeeting folks. We also have two perennial volunteers for which we could never express enough gratitude: our photographer, Sheri, who is incredibly positive and upbeat, and our scanner, David,who works full time and is building a house by himself. Both take time out of their busy lives and weekend, as often as possible to volunteer- no questions asked. They are incredibly beloved and fill a volunteer need so that others can participate.
Merrymeeting parkrun has brought together many folks who have recently moved into the area, many long timers, many folks looking to get back into walking/running, many who are already avid runners/ walkers and many who just enjoy a true sense of community the event has brought. These folks’ paths may never have crossed otherwise. Sometimes at coffee, I pause and reflect about the serendipity that took me to the Bere Island parkrun over 2700 miles across the Atlantic and all the friendships, laughs, and joy that have enriched my life as a result of it. In fact, to this day, my local parkrun affiliation is still Bere Island in the parkrun reporting system.
Event Director, Merrymeeting parkrun
This week we’re looking back on 10 years of the parkrun Ambassador Programme. Ambassador roles enable more people to get involved with parkrun, share their knowledge, and support their communities health and happiness. Find out how it all started, what the Ambassadors do and what we have achieved together. Firstly, what…
At almost a year old, we check in with Merrymeeting parkrun and how it’s formed a cherished community in Brunswick, Maine. The Event Director, Kristen Cahill, gives us the origin story and why it’s so beloved, and what you can expect if you visit. Recounting how she first experienced parkrun, it was from a sabbatical…