Anacostia parkrun, Washington DC

Anacostia parkrun route. 2.5km out East, then back West to the start/finish, along the river
Anacostia parkrun route – out and back along the trail

Anacostia is a neighbourhood in Washington DC, easy to get to via metro or bus from other parts of the city. For me, the no. 90 bus would have taken me there, but it was quicker to walk a mile to the green line and ride that. From Anacostia station, there’s an exit to the main car park that looks toward the river, and you just have to walk past the park police complex to get to the start. I took the other exit, and walked. It’s not far – under the underpass, turn right and you can see the car park ahead. It all looks a bit car-friendly, but there is a walkway.

A curved roof with rectangular concrete markings on the DC Metro at the long-named U Street/African-American Civil War/Cardozo
DC Metro keeps it simple

I was too early, at before 8.30, so strolled along the river in the sun. There are a couple of lookout points near where the parkrun starts, and across the river is the naval district, with the occasional helicopter coming and going. It was a sunny day, warmer than a couple of days before, and the view is wide open and relaxing.

A sign post marks the start and finish. The tarmacced trail runs off into the distance, with a yellow line marking the centre.
Looking East from the start. Police complex over the road to the right

A little later I spotted the parkrun flag had been put up, and volunteers were adding an advertisement to try to pull a passing runner in. A runner coming from the other direction from the one the sign faced was soon called over by the run director, given a flyer and only escaped by promising to come back the next week.

The route could not be simpler. Run out for 2.5km, turn around at a low wall which borders a circular paved area (though you do also run past a couple of those, to the side – the one you want is right in front of you) and run back the same way. Without a GPS you might not be sure when you’ve got to the halfway point, and there wasn’t a turnaround sign this day, but otherwise it’s pretty much impossible to go wrong.

A sign advertises the parkrun as volunteers complete the simple setup next to a sign pointing to National Capital Parks - East, park HQ.
Walking to the start area

Setup is minimal. A flag, a sign, and some small cones to mark the finish, and remind people to finish off the trail. Not that anyone who forgot was refused a finish token. There’s a waterproof tarp on the ground for people to leave bags and extra clothes, too.

The route is pretty flat; it felt slightly up on the way back, though that might show my increased effort from lack of fitness. It’s a nice run to just switch off and do – no need to ponder turns or twists, and plenty of space for people to spread out on the route after the start.

The finish line, next to waist-high scrub bushes with some spindly trees behind, by the river
Standing in the sun after the event

There’s a lay-by a few hundred metres up the road for parking, and the parking garage for the metro is not far away. The metro is the quickest public transport method, but buses go to the junction of Good Hope Road SE and Martin Luther King Junior Avenue SE, which is just a short walk away.

The road runs next to the trail.
A little more of the course, on the trail to the left
A group photo of all volunteers and participants for event 167
Everyone, at the start

I thoroughly enjoyed my morning; the sun helped, but we got a warm welcome, I bumped into a fellow tourist I knew from the UK, and we all ended up chatting for some time. We were glad to still be there at 10, as a driver stopped to ask us a question. I assumed it would be something we couldn’t answer, but no “Is this Anacostia parkrun?” Why yes! He wasn’t late, just checking where it was, for whatever reason.

Afterwards I caught the no.90 bus all the way to the other end of its route, and walked to the National Cathedral. It’s not close to the parkrun, but here’s a photo to show what’s waiting for you if you go. It’s grand, only without hundreds of years of old building practices, or ancient tombs, to navigate, which makes it a different experience to European cathedrals. The view from the 7th floor, over DC, is worth a look.

The National Cathedral with a US flag flying out front.
National Cathedral

Results from Anacostia parkrun event 167, 26/11/2022; 29 finishers.

College Park parkrun, Md

College Park parkrun route, an out and back along a tarmacced trail
College Park parkrun route. Start behind the Holiday Inn, go 2.5km out and all the way back on the trail

It was 16 degrees the day I’d landed, in the afternoon, and this day was set fair to be similar, but it started extremely cold. In the way of tourists keen not to miss the event, I arrived very early, strolling the less-than-two miles from College Park metro as the weather warmed a little more slowly than I wanted around me.

A wide trail is marked with chalk, 'Welcome to parkrun Turkey Trot'. Gazebos are set up on the grass next to the trail for people to leave their bags.
The start and finish line

This particular event is always big, with well over 100 people, and today was expected to be even bigger than usual. Unlike many parkruns holding an extra event, though, that wasn’t going to be because of tourists – although it’s easy to get to on the metro from anywhere in DC, tourists tend to head for Roosevelt Island or Fletcher’s Cove. Here, it’s the draw of a ‘turkey trot’. The event team had taken an all-in approach to attracting people back if it was their first time, by chalking corny puns and jokes at intervals along the route. It was a welcome distraction from the actual running, I thought.

Both I and the other British tourist I met had arrived at the same time, pausing for a moment before climbing over a ‘road closed’ sign. He had spotted a couple of police cars nearby, and wanted to not be quite as obvious about clambering over the barriers as we had to be, before spotting it was the only way to the trail for some distance. So we were disconcerted when one of the police cars pulled up right next to the start. This couldn’t be good – were they here to check why so many people were gathering? But no, the officer who got out in full kit is a regular, and had finally got permission to walk the event in uniform. Yes, with gun and taser, obviously – they weren’t brandished, but it might have been a little extra incentive.

We were greeted warmly by several different people, which is the secret to this event’s success in attracting and holding on to large numbers of people – they welcome people, help them feel part of the group, and make sure that walkers know they are as welcome as runners. It certainly worked today, with 309 finishers, their record attendance by just a few.

The route couldn’t be simpler, out and back along the trail, ignoring any side tracks (and jokes, if they’re not your thing – don’t blame me, I was corn this way). It means they can manage it with two marshals, one a few hundred metres in where a crossing goes over a road in the park, and one at the halfway point. For the rest of the route, it’s you and those around you and, before too long, people coming the other way, which will persist for some time, with those ahead and behind all available for thumbs up, “good job”s and any other encouragement you like.

Afterwards we stood and sat on the grass in the sun, by now into double digits and comfortable. It being thanksgiving, the usual post-event meeting place wasn’t open so we went back down the road towards the metro to Bagels and Grinds, which offered a delicious breakfast so long as you could navigate the bewildering array of choices, and a view over the road to the University of Maryland over the road. The latter had meant I picked up wifi via Eduroam on my stroll to the event, which would have been useful if I had got lost. If I had to offer thanks, it would be to my fellow participants, who gave such a warm welcome, and to the joy of being dropped back into more balmy November than I’d left in Ireland.

Results from College Park parkrun event 258, 24/11/22; 309 finishers.

Erris parkrun, Co. Mayo, Ireland

There is land in Ireland (and other countries) to the West of it, so it may not remain so, but this is currently the most Westerly parkrun in Ireland and in Europe. It isn’t actually right on the coast, but the wind is pretty unrestricted in blowing into your face as you step out of a car, holding the door carefully to avoid that banging open. The rain, too, is going to go with whatever direction the wind blows it. It rained before the start, stopped for most of the run, and threw it down while walkers were finishing off – by luck more than judgment, I was back in the car by then.

Map showing Erris parkrun route, a clockwise route round a lake, not quite forming a loop
Erris parkrun route

As you can see from the route map, there’s a gap between start and finish. That short walk, up and over a dune, made it even luckier that I had made it back to the car before the rain really started again. Only when my teeth were chattering after a visit to a supermarket on the way back did I realise that the drizzle – probably horizontal, if unshowily so – I had been out in had made me pretty wet in any case. This was also my first run of the colder season in a hat. And I very rarely wear a hat.

Group photo, lots of people looking cold and trying to shelter from the wind just before the parkrun start
Group photo at the start. Wind not pictured, but you get the idea.
Me, pictured next to the permanent sign that marks the start of the parkrun, overlooking the lake which is lapping at the grass
Me, attempting to look as delighted as I would on a sunny day

This being Ireland, I was given a warm welcome. And with it being a small group of people, almost all regulars, I was able to speak to many of the people there, even though we didn’t hang around long at the end.

There are many things worthy of mention about this parkrun. Parking is free, just find a spot next to the route. There are no other facilities at all. The views are great, and you are very exposed to the weather, whatever it may be. It’s Westerly. The people are wonderful – just for being there, but also for the warmth of the greeting that helps a visitor feel a part of the community. One thing immediately obvious as a contrast to England is that although this is in rural Mayo, and accessible down small roads, I didn’t hit a pothole. Not one, honestly. I know! 2022, and roads without potholes? No one will believe it possible in England.

That is also true of the route, which is run along the road around the lake. That road serves a few houses only, but looks brand new in a way I had forgotten is possible. It’s a great surface, and the only car we saw, pulling in just after we set off, turned out to belong to a park runner who started late and still caught many of us up, and so was very careful in picking his way through the runners and walkers.

A single runner - a local taxi driver, I found out later - ahead of me on the road. Tall grass at the side of the road leans against the wind.
The route mostly looks like this.
Long straight road ahead with grass down the middle. The finish is near but can't be seen.
Terrible photo, included because this is under 300m from the finish, but you can’t see it, at all.
Finish is painted on the road, with volunteers sheltering by a car but still managing the finish line perfectly.
Brilliant volunteers shelter behind the car whenever people aren’t finishing.
Permanent sign says "In Memory of Mike and Nellie Togher, parkrun every Saturday morning @ 9.30"
Never far from a reminder of the community
Cows are grazing in the field to the side of the road, while I'm running to the finish, smiling to pretend it's really no effort at all
Me, finishing
Cows graze in the field behind the finish, while a permanent sign marks the spot
The Finish line is easy to spot when you’re near
View of the start point and the coast, from the dune you walk over to head back to the start
View over the dune, back toward the start. I’m constantly behind the man in yellow in these pictures, but actually finished ahead of him, and we found time to chat without me shouting from this far behind
View from the dune, back towards the finish.
View of the finish from above. You can see how the road bends close to the finish
A coastal view of low waves crashing in to a small bay, just a few hundred metres down the road
Weather not great, views magnificent

Given this was autumn, I can only wonder at how ragged the conditions might be in winter, but this is a lovely event no matter what the wind throws at you. Just take some warm clothes, and change wet clothes afterwards rather than relying on a car heater to dry you off. I was still very glad I’d picked this run, as I’m sure the chat can’t be beaten, even if other places in Ireland might equal it. Completing it also marked my 10th event in Ireland, which means I’ve run at least 10 different events in each of 10 countries, a nice round number to hit.

Results from Erris parkrun, event 275, 19/11/2022. 23 finishers.

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