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.
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.