If trying to do a parkrun in Ann Arbor, Mich., doesn't quite work out, well, why not experience it for the first time in Milan?
But Randleman's Joyce Wolford liked her experience in Italy and elsewhere so much that she's bringing parkrun, which originated in England, to Creekside Park in Archdale, beginning with a practice run at 9 a.m. Saturday and another on Sept. 11 before an official launch of the Creekside parkrun 5K on Sept. 18.
Participating in parkrun – and it's one word and lowercase -p, for the record – gives runners and walkers a chance to exercise and socialize in a low-stress environment.
And get this: All parkruns are free.
"Different parkruns take on their own personality," Wolford says. "Some have more avid runners who are just looking to run as much as they can and improve their times every week.
"Some parkruns take on the personality that they're just all out here to have fun, 'we're going to walk and not care about our time.' It's really just getting some exercise and being outdoors and having the social aspect."
Even though the runs are timed, you're guaranteed to not finish last. That will be the job of a designated volunteer. And you can show up to the same parkrun, or a different parkrun, every week, needing to register only one time and receiving a barcode that can be used at any event.
Where: 214 Park Dr., Archdale
When: 9 a.m. Saturdays. Test events on Aug. 21 and Sept. 11; first official event 9 a.m. Sept. 18.
Learn more: firstname.lastname@example.org | parkrun.us/creekside | Facebook
The Creekside parkrun, which Wolford coordinated with Archdale Parks & Recreation, will be the second in North Carolina. Durham's Southern Boundaries Park, at 8 a.m. Saturdays, hosts the other.
Durham resident R.L. Bynum is a veteran marathon runner who also participates in Durham's parkruns.
"It's an easy way to beat the high cost of racing," Bynum writes via Facebook. "The parkrun is no frills with few spectators, but it gives you a chance to test your fitness level on a 5K course against fellow runners. The folks who put on the Durham parkrun are so welcoming, as well. Every week, you get an official time and they put photos on their Facebook page most weeks.
"It's hard to find free races with free photos these days. Unlike most 5Ks, once you register and print your card, you never have to register for a parkrun again. I don't mind big crowds, but you know what you're getting in that regard with parkruns."
The parkrun movement began in 2004 when 13 runners gathered at Bushy Park in Teddington, about 12 miles southwest of London's Buckingham Palace. You can find parkruns in 20 countries, including Canada, South Africa, Australia, Japan and Russia.
"We have courses that are on beaches in Australia, in forests in South Africa, and on mountains in Scotland," Euan Bowman, the North America territory manager, writes via email. "When you experience a U.S. parkrun, you get all the benefits of the event but tied with the American experience. For example we have Canyon Rim Trail parkrun, which is located next to a jaw-dropping canyon; Roosevelt Island DC parkrun is surrounded by history; and Clermont Waterfront around a lake in Florida."
And now the United States will welcome parkrun to Archdale, about 20 minutes southwest of downtown Greensboro and about 30 minutes southeast of downtown Winston-Salem. At 214 Park Dr., Creekside Park is flanked to the west by I-85 and to the east by I-74, so it's easily accessible.
Wolford is in need of volunteers for Saturday's practice event, and the Creekside parkrun will require about five volunteers each week.
But back to Ann Arbor: Wolford intended to take part in a parkrun in the city where daughter Brooke completed her doctorate at the University of Michigan. And that didn't work out. But on a family trip to Italy – Joyce Wolford's husband is Jerry, a former News & Record photojournalist and a former colleague of mine – the Wolfords found a piece of Europe at the Milano Nord parkrun that they wanted to bring home.
"The focus is on building a healthy community, encouraging people to get outside, to exercise and have social time with each other," Joyce Wolford says. "It's open to anybody. People walk, people run, people walk with dogs or run with dogs, people run with strollers. Kids can participate. ....
"It literally is for everybody."