parkrun UK future hangs in the balance after hesitation from local landowners

parkrun UK has written to over 600 landowners requesting permission to return 5k events across England on Saturday June 5.

As at Tuesday 11 May 2021, only 125 have granted permission, leaving the future of the weekly 5k community events hanging in the balance.

As part of the Government’s roadmap, and with approval and support from the Minister of Sport Nigel Huddleston MP, as well as the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Support (DCMS), Sport England and public health experts, parkrun events have had permission to return since March.

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Wanting to proceed with caution and sensitivity, the organisation set a date of Saturday June 5 to return. With indoor dining and hospitality due to return from Monday May 17, many of the roadblocks to return currently feel unreasonable, with red tape and internal administrative processes standing in the way.

As at Tuesday 11 May 2021, only 125 have granted permission, leaving the future of the weekly 5k community events hanging in the balance.

As an organised sports participation event, operating under an approved COVID-19 Framework, and with significant success restarting the junior 2k event series, as well as the vital need for people to be active and social outdoors, the time is now right for the return of Saturday morning 5k events.

However, with 32% of landowners still yet to respond or acknowledge receipt of request to restart, the return is now in question. Due to demand, geographical spread, and 300,000 people participating on a typical weekend, the vast majority of events need to restart on the same day if events are to return.

parkrun are now working towards a date of Friday 21 May to make a decision on plans for Saturday 5 June.

A growing body of independent research demonstrates the low risk of transmission outdoors, and a recent groundbreaking infection modelling study shows parkrun to be safe and exceptionally low risk, with those risks falling further and further every day.

The evidence is already clear, from a previous survey of more than 60,000 parkrunners, that the mental and physical health benefits of walking, jogging, running or volunteering at parkrun are incredibly high.

It is now more important than ever that people have access to free, regular, and inclusive physical activity opportunities in their local communities, as the nation starts to rebuild following the pandemic.

Local landowners have a vital role to play in the restart process, and in supporting their communities.

parkrun ask for a sensible and speedy response, as we work towards the safe and much needed reopening of the 589 5k events across England.

Sports Minister Nigel Huddleston MP said: “parkrun events were allowed from 29 March as part of Step 1 of the government’s response to the Covid-19 Roadmap.

"I welcome the extra care and caution which you have taken in delaying your return until rates of infection have further reduced and more people have been vaccinated, and I note that you have also had encouraging preliminary results of research which you commissioned to help understand the risk of transmission [at] your events.”

Dame Sally Davies, former Chief Medical Officer for England, and current Master of Trinity College, Cambridge University said: “parkrun communities should take confidence from the findings that walking, running, jogging or volunteering at parkrun is likely to be very safe. Now, more than ever, we need parkrun to improve our nation’s public health and happiness. Our wellbeing, physical health and mental health depend on us being active and being together, in line with the government’s guidelines and parkrun’s COVID-19 Framework.“

Nick Pearson parkrun Global CEO said: “The benefits, particularly now, of getting active, together, far outweigh the close-to-zero risk of virus transmission in outdoor settings. As we look toward the summer, it is vital that we do everything we can to welcome back parkrun events, and get the nation back on its feet, positively impacting the health and happiness of ourselves, our friends, our family, and those around us.”