Athletics: Disappointment as Parkrun return cancelled

THERE was disappointment for hundreds of Harlow park runners as the planned restart of the Saturday 5k run across the country has been postponed.

An update on the planned restart in England from parkrun Global Chief Executive Officer Nick Pearson.

Sadly, after significant consultation and discussion, circumstances outside of our control have dictated that parkrun cannot return in England by the end of October, as we had hoped. We know that many people will be disappointed to hear this news, and that it is likely to add further to existing anxieties and frustrations. Please do know that we will continue doing everything we can to support our parkrun family, and we remain committed to reopening parkrun events as soon as circumstances allow and local stakeholders are comfortable.

Since we announced our intent to reopen in England, from an incredibly positive position and with support from DCMS and the Deputy Chief Medical Officers, things have changed. The Government has introduced new restrictions on social gatherings, local lockdowns have been implemented in several regions, and, earlier this week, the Prime Minister suggested that more stringent measures could be in place right through the winter. Understandably, local public health leaders are anxious about groups of people gathering, and, whilst events such as parkrun are exempt from the six person rule, we feel, at this moment in time, that it would be insensitive to push forward with reopening.

Whilst we reluctantly accept this reality, parkrun’s absence will come at a cost. As we head into winter and face the many associated seasonal health issues (both in terms of COVID-19 and other mental and physical illnesses), we believe parkrun has an incredibly important role to play in supporting public health. We also strongly believe that, as existing and emerging evidence suggests, and contrary to popular opinion, that there is little or nominal risk of COVID-19 transmission at outdoor physical activity events such as parkrun. Increasingly, we are seeing outbreaks traced to indoor work and social environments, yet to date there is little if any evidence of outbreaks directly resulting from participation in outdoor physical activity events.

The health of our nation is facing its greatest challenge in decades, inequalities are increasing, and disadvantaged communities are suffering disproportionately. It is absolutely critical therefore that decisions to restrict activities, particularly where there is a demonstrable public health benefit, are based on robust evidence. And whilst caution should always be taken, where evidence is lacking it should be rapidly developed such that where risk is sufficiently low, activities can be supported to return.

It is essential that, as we map out the coming weeks and months of our collective efforts to get back on our feet, we look beyond baseless assumptions and a culture of fear, and move toward evidence-based interventions. We must act now if we are to avoid irreparable damage to the health and happiness of our communities.

Nick Pearson
parkrun Global CEO

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