Parkrun, Harvard and MIT

Years ago, I heard the Bee Gees song about going back to Massachusetts and trying to hitch a ride to San Francisco. I never dreamt I’d ever go to those places myself.

This trip in the US has been an incredible, joyful and relaxing experience. The places I went to showed me a different side of the country than the one we hear about on the news and social media. I have found Americans friendly, helpful, and engaging. Undoubtedly, my experience reflects the liberal places I visited and the fact I’m a tourist with a British accent. There’s almost a charming innocence about the people I met. I feel sad about what’s happening in the country: the people deserve better. Regardless of how politics pans out, it’s worth knowing that most people’s daily lives are affected more by US state politics rather than federal politics.

When I was in San Francisco, I did a parkrun there. Yes, that’s the same 5K parkrun that happens up and down the country on Saturday mornings in the UK. It has spread to other countries.

At the San Francisco parkrun, I had a small runner’s backpack with a water supply and someone came up to me and, by way of an introduction, said that he wasn’t sure all that was required for a three mile run! (I was carrying my camera and other valuables.) We got talking and he turned out to be the head of a venture capital firm and almost certainly a billionaire. We talked more about running and his love of London, especially his annual trips to Wimbledon’s central court. I could relate to him.

Fast-forward several weeks and I found myself at my second American parkrun – in Boston. Like the San Francisco one, it was full of British runners. The British are conquering the world one parkrun at a time.

After the run, I looked at my parkrun records online. Within a few months, I’d done parkruns in London, Birmingham, Lydney, Berlin, San Francisco, and Boston. That must be a unique combination!

Boston might be unique in having not one but two of the top universities in the world. I visited both. They lived up to the image I’d formed in my head. Harvard was full of history, had green leafy grounds, and seemed a bit staid.

In contrast, MIT had breathtaking architecture and sculptures. It seemed more relaxed and open. They let you walk into many of their buildings. Although renowned for technology, MIT has a strong architecture heritage.

It may be that Harvard is more appealing to those of a conservative temperament and MIT is for geeky liberals. That may explain why I felt more at home at MIT and found the people friendlier.

Leave a Reply