Free weekly 5K welcomes all types of runners

Ready, set … go!

As a whistle shrills through the brisk morning air, more than 100 people in neon running gear stampede along the C&O Canal for the weekly Fletcher’s Cove 5K.

But this race is not your ordinary 5K. The run is free and occurs every Saturday morning at 9 a.m. at Fletcher’s Cove, just a short walk from the Mount Vernon Campus – making it far cheaper and more communal than an organized road race.

The 5K, which started in January 2016, has already attracted some well-known faces. D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser ran in the first event, and Ward 3 D.C. Council member and GW law professor Mary Cheh has also participated.

The event welcomes all ages – last Saturday, students from high school and professional runners ran side by side along the canal. At the end of the race, a cheering crowd of volunteers and guests greeted the runners. Down a flight of wooden stairs at the park stood a table with a plethora of snacks and breakfast treats, including cinnamon rolls.

Dan Owen, an employee at the World Bank Group, finds the run “a useful antidote to office work.”

Owen went to the event last weekend accompanied by his dog Gifford, who ran beside him the whole way.

“It is without all of the pressure and formality of a normal race, but at the same time it is timed and is well-organized,” Owen said. “It is informal but very well-structured, and I think that combination is quite exciting.”

Runners who want to be competitive can also use the event to train – runners get a barcode at registration to track their runs online.

Darrell Stanaford, co-event director of Fletcher’s Cove, said his favorite part of the event is the wide variety of people.

“It’s all volunteers and many different people participate, from internationally competitive runners to people who are walking a 5K for the first time after 60 or 70 years of living,” Stanaford said.

Fletcher’s Cove 5K is part of “parkrun,” an international running society focused on making the sport fun and social. Parkrun started in the U.K. in 2004 and now has about 800 runs across the world with just fewer than 1.5 million registered runners.

While parkrun has spread globally, there are only five events held within the US. The Fletcher’s Cove event is one of the newest in the U.S.

D.C. resident Cody Talmadge, who was at the race on Saturday, said the best part of the run was its “great combination between informal and organized.”

“Parkrun portrays itself not as a race but as a friendly run between people where you’re competing against yourself,” Talmadge said.

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