Canton’s first-year parkrun offers free, friendly fitness opportunities

 Canton’s first-year parkrun offers free, friendly fitness opportunities

Canton Lower Rouge Trail parkrun participants take off on a 5K run Saturday, June 24.

Winning isn’t the only thing when it comes to the weekly Canton Lower Rouge Trail parkrun, a 5-kilometer run/walk on picturesque wooded trails.

In fact, finishing first is not even on the recently-launched local event’s radar.

What’s important is that parkrun participants have fun, meet new friends and soak in some fitness while enjoying the township’s natural beauty — regardless of whether they’re running to set a personal record or going out for a leisurely walk.

Started in 2012 in Livonia, parkrun has spread to over 60 locations throughout the United States.

Bringing parkrun to Canton

Thanks to Canton High School senior-to-be Devansh Shende, Canton is now home to a weekly parkrun, which is scheduled to run every Saturday morning throughout the year (winter months included) on the Lower Rouge Trail (just north of South Canton Scholars Charter Academy, 3085 S. Canton Center Road).

Devansh Shende scans Dearborn resident Mike Golombek's chip following the June 24 Canton parkrun.
Devansh Shende scans Dearborn resident Mike Golombeks chip following the June 24 Canton parkrun

Parkruns are free; however, first-time participants are encouraged to register on the organization’s website.

Shende, a cross country and track-and-field distance runner for the Chiefs, said he came up with the idea to start a parkrun in Canton after learning of the concept in 2022.

“I’ve lived in Canton my whole life and our community didn’t have a parkrun, so I thought it would be a good way to give back,” said Shende, when asked about his inspiration to organize the weekly events.

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“I had been running every day for two years, but I wasn’t real fast. I love the parkrun concept because it takes out the competitive aspect of running.”

In search of a trail

A Canton parkrun participant heads toward the finish line June 24
A Canton parkrun participant heads toward the finish line June 24

Once Shende committed to forming a Canton parkrun, the next step was to choose a location.

“Initially, I was thinking Heritage Park,” he said. “Myself and a group of other people — including some of the Livonia parkrun regulars — tried out different locations for about six weeks before finally landing here.”

Shende said he loves how parkrun provides people an opportunity to focus on fitness growth, not necessarily registering fast 5K times.

“After my first parkrun, I left it feeling healthier and feeling good, regardless of my time,” he said.

Steady growth

Since the Canton parkrun launched in May, it has drawn close to 30 participants on a weekly basis.

More established parkruns in Livonia and Ann Arbor average close to 70 runners/walkers on a weekly basis, Shende said.

“I would like to get our numbers up, but I don’t want to set a goal or ceiling in terms of how many people I’d like to get out to our parkrun,” he said.

Parkrun USA supplies organizers with a kit to help them kick-start the events.

Shende and a group of volunteers arrive at the Lower Rouge Trail site at approximately 7 a.m. on Saturdays, one hour before the event starts, to set up cones, register individuals and answer questions for first-timers.

Participants are encouraged to meet at Sweetwaters Coffee & Tea in Canton immediately after the events for coffee and conversation.

Dearborn resident Mike Golombek has been involved in 187 parkruns — most in Livonia — and he left Saturday’s event impressed by the work Shende has put in.

A map of the Canton parkrun course
A map of the Canton parkrun course

“It was well-organized, the course is nice,” said Golombek. “I run throughout the week and then use Saturdays as a weekly test. There are usually at least a few people who run the same pace as me, but I’m basically running against myself.”

Jacob Weber, who will be a freshman at Michigan State University in the fall, said he loves the diversity of people who show up at the parkrun.

“It’s free and anybody can show up — it doesn’t matter how slow or fast you are,” said Weber. “It’s a good place to meet people and hang out with friends.”

To register and gain access to a scannable barcode so that your weekly times can be processed by Shende, click here.

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