Hundreds of people came together this weekend for the College Park Cares 5K, all with slightly different reasons for being there.
“I think we do have a really diverse group that turns out for it,” Race Manager Mike Bearman said after the event Saturday morning, which attracted a record 250 registrants.
Take Katie Becker, a teacher and assistant coach for the cross country teams at Rockbridge Academy in Millersville, Md. Coming from a running family, she’s always dabbled in the sport, but Saturday she was there to be a leader for the high school club team that was competing.
And then there’s Jim Parsons, of College Park, who ran alongside his 9-year-old son, Thomas, in his first 5K; and Effie Baldwin, of Laurel, who used the race as an excuse to visit the city she moved from in 2008.
Perhaps the most impressive story I came across on Saturday, though, is that of Nancy Puffett.
The 73-year-old College Park resident said she was the oldest runner in the race.
That’s why I’m wearing No. 1, she said, pointing to her bib number.
“I just decided I would do this [race] instead of my usual 4-½ mile run,” she added.
Why don’t you tell her a good story, her son, John, asked his mother as she talked with me. He explained: Turns out Puffett fractured her knee in April when she fell during a run. Now she’s back to running seven days a week.
“Running is real and relatively simple – but it ain’t easy,” Mark Will-Weber, an accomplished long-distance runner and coach from Pennsylvania once said.
So why does something as challenging as a race have the ability to draw together a crowd with diverse backgrounds, ages, goals and abilities? Why did so many show up for a 3.1-mile run around Lake Artemesia on Saturday – voluntarily – and pay a registration fee to do it?
For me, it has something to do with the motivation that comes with accomplishing something together. Runners are always drawing parallels between our sport and life, but it’s a reasonable comparison. Most challenges we face in our lifetimes are easier to overcome together.
I don’t think I’m the only one to notice this power in camaraderie. Or at the very least, to appreciate it.
“I feel like the race has grown since last year in size and in sophistication,” said one racer from Cheverly, Erin Castelli,“but it still has the hometown feel.”