The air finally had a nip in it last weekend and the encouragement of friends lured us to Fletcher’s Cove, on the C&O Canal, early on Saturday for “parkrun” - a free, weekly, timed 5K. We were assured this was not a race, rather a meetup of folks who desired community and exercise. Volunteers corralled seventy-ish people to the side of the path to welcome newcomers, acknowledge tourists (one from Australia!) and recognize milestone runs (10 runs, 50 runs!) for regular attendees. A paper barcode, a shared path and a timer made a little run in the park that lifted spirits.
Paul Sinton-Hewitt started parkrun “in 2004 when 13 runners got together on a blustery day in Bushy Park, Teddington, UK” according to the organization’s website. Volunteer-led, it now hosts runs in more than 20 countries all over the world. It is a simple format - register online, print a barcode, show up at any location, any time you want. Its vision is inclusivity and creating a happier, healthier planet. The scene is welcoming, relaxed and life-giving. Runners, walkers, high school cross-country team members, dogs on leashes, groups of middle school friends and more come together to complete a 5K.
Our closest parkrun is Saturday mornings at Fletcher’s Cove on the Chesapeake & Ohio Canal Towpath, where it feels like time stopped half a century ago. A gravel drive leads down to the Abner Cloud House, one of the oldest houses on the canal, dating back to 1801. Across the canal is Fletcher’s Boathouse where canoes, kayaks and boats for rent draw people from busy city life to relax and enjoy the beautiful, powerful Potomac River. Locals flock here on weekends to boat, run, bike, fish and picnic by the water’s edge.
The parkrun at Fletcher’s Cove combines an international vision for health and happiness, a local meetup and a beautiful historic setting. In a town often divided, overworked and on overdrive, it is a shared breath taken together, a little motivation and support and a great way to enjoy a simple run in the park.