By Alexandra Radovic

Every Saturday morning of the year, hundreds of people lace up to run a 5k. But instead of running side by side, these participants are now using Zoom, Facebook and other online platforms to share how they are keeping active during the pandemic.

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Runner Malik Al-Jame (left) and parkrun founder Colin Phillips hit the trail together.
Courtesy of Colin Phillips

Andrea Zukowski and her husband Colin Phillips founded the city’s parkrun group in 2016. While their interest in running came from different places — Phillips has been running competitively most of his life, and Zukowski only began running when she was 49 — the couple was inspired to organize runners after seeing parkruns in the United Kingdom.

Janice Bernache, Colin Phillips, Andrea Zukowski, Dwayne Hudson and Aaliya El-Amin start their parkrun at a socially responsible distance. Credit: Courtesy of Zoe Phillips.

Since taking parkruns virtual, about 130 to 230 runners and walkers are using an online platform each week to stay connected and share photos and logs of their fitness accomplishments. 

Parkrun is a worldwide movement promoting free 5k events that are open to all. Participants can walk, run or jog. There are no time limits. The parkrun is all about community, activity and having fun; as the website says, “no one finishes last.”

“I’ve run through rain, heat, snow and on some beautiful days, and I began to develop friendships with other Parkrunners.  Even with the Parkrun on hold during this COVID pandemic, I gather weekly with a small group of Parkrunners to run on Sunday mornings, and new friendships have been most welcome.”

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Carlos and Diana Gough (holding her dog Ruby) are regular parkrunners and volunteers.
Courtesy of Diana Gough

 New Carrollton Mayor and parkrunner Duane Rosenberg 

I was a habitual gym goer before they shut down and all my kids’ sports seasons tanked. …  Having a Virtual parkrun gives another push to get outside and exercise … being connected electronically [shows] that, while we’re all separated, the community still exists.”

parkrunner Misha Bernard 

“With the start of the virtual parkrun, I was motivated to get out to exercise more – even during the week. … The wonderful idea of a joint distance goal has even had me recruiting other friends and family members who have never participated in parkrun to be a part of our ’journey across the US’ in May and our ’civil rights trail’ in June.”

parkrunner Anna Tinnemore

“Someone wrote a ‘Happy Birthday’ message to my 4-year-old daughter on her trail, [and] she got cheers from the team on Zoom. … The whole point is fun, there is no judgment.”

parkrunner Erin Schneider

“It’s been so nice to have the virtual connection with the parkrun group. … Now that we are doing the virtual trips together, it’s given us some good homeschool lessons as well.” 

parkrunner Tara Mease

“The joys of the [virtual] trail are the miles, mother duck and her ducklings, the frog chorus concerts, the gifts of Mother Nature and the greeting of an occasional fellow virtual park runner,”

parkrunners Bonnie and Mike McClellanl (80 and 83)

We first ’traveled’ across the country as they logged our collective distance, and we got to hear about ’stops’ along the way, and we are currently following a US Civil Rights history trail and getting wonderful historical geography lessons about the civil rights movement. This is an extraordinary thing to see in from a group that is essentially taking a weekly walk/jog in the park.”

parkrunner Clark Ridge 

People say “thank you for giving us our saturday’s back.”

Coordinators Andrea and Colin Zukowski