Olympic marathon runner Mara Yamauchi supports Harlow park runners who want their records restored

Athletics / Sat 17th Feb 2024 at 11:41am

EARLIER this month, the organisers of parkrun decided to stop publishing its fastest finishers after a row over trans-athletes holding female records.

The organisers emailed local organisers informing them that statistics such as course records, most first-place finishes, and age grade records would no longer be published.

Historic data outlining the identity of the fastest male and female athlete to complete each 5km course has been hidden from view for participants.

The free event sees thousands of athletes of varying ability take part in runs through parks and athletics courses across the UK every Saturday morning. 

Harlow’s takes place in the town park. It has been running since November 2014.

But it has been mired in accusations it is unfair on women over its controversial entry rules allowing biological men to self-identify as females. 

One of the most high profile critics of this policy is former Olympic marathon runner, Mara Yamauchi. Ms Yamauchi also won team bronze at the World Marathon Champs in 2005.

At the heart of her campaign is one of fairness. There is an argument that you can have fairness or inclusivity but you cannot have both.

Her whole sporting life has been about fairness. But she also makes important points about what would have put her off running and sport as a child.

Your Harlow spoke to Ms Yamauchi about her campaign.

We referenced a number of female Harlow parkrunners who over the years, have worked very hard to bring their times down only to see their records deleted.

The interview is below.

We woudl like to thank Mara for giving YH her time (in what is a very busy schedule) to speak to us.

The petition below is about the removal of the course data that was displayed on the parkrun website, such as ‘Age Category Records’ ‘Fastest 500’ ‘First Finishers’ and ‘Sub 17 and Sub 20’ (5k parkrun) for each individual parkrun and junior parkrun.


We have also included this speech by Mara to the Oxford Feminist Union where she chronicles her sporting life and her philosophy. If you get time please watch this video as it ids an important “explainer” regarding Mara’s whole approach to sport.

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13 Comments for Olympic marathon runner Mara Yamauchi supports Harlow park runners who want their records restored:

2024-02-17 12:23:54

Biological men that identify as females,should 100% not be allowed to compete in womens races,i am shocked that this is even being allowed to happen. Its always the women that suffer,this is not fair and it is not right.Transgender women should compete as men or in a transgender group,but they should never compete against women.NEVER!!

Matthew Kirkbride
2024-02-17 12:46:48

Cheryl is 100%. They are biological men. Full stop. It is an assault on women's hard fought rights. Either compete as men (which is what they are) or with other transgenders, but never with women.

2024-02-17 13:59:27

It's a park run, it's not a race. People know what time they ran why do you need everyone else to know and what everyone else did. The gender issue is irrelevant as far as the park run is concerned. if you're going to get precious about times other people did amd need everyone to know how you did stick to competing in races. It's not the Olympics. The idea of the park run seems to have got lost

Mary Peare
2024-02-17 15:37:29

Parkrun is not a race. There are no officials. Courses are not ratified. It is a free time trial for anyone who wants to come and have a run or walk in their local park, whoever they are , however they want to identify themselves. It is just not practical for a free event to start policing gender or indeed anything else. We are all parkrunners or walkers trying to enjoy a bit of Saturday morning exercise with each other with perhaps a cup of tea or coffee afterwards. That's all.

2024-02-17 17:23:53

Couldn’t agree more with Resident and Mary. When taking part in the Parkrun you challenge yourself, sometimes to even just get there and sometimes to go for a PB. If fairness and inclusivity can’t go together (which is debatable) then surely for the Parkrun it has to be inclusion that wins.

2024-02-17 21:47:51

Look. A Trans woman is a man! End of! They cannot be in a Women's category. End of! Understood!

2024-02-17 23:45:26

Biological males have NO place in female sports

2024-02-18 10:49:51

Its a fun run, it's not a race why are you getting so upset. Competitive races yes it's an issue. A park run, that is non competitive, no. If people are so upset about it don't do the parkrun and leave it to the people who aren't bent out of shape over broadcasting their times. . Sigh.

2024-02-18 14:00:33

It is an issue Resident, Mary and I must respectfully disagree. If it just a fun run parkrun need to do away with letting you know your gender position and any other stats in your post run email. For many born females, finishing first female or first in their age category is a proud moment they have worked hard for and to learn that they (and every subsequent born female finisher) have been displaced by a born male in their category is the very opposite of inclusion. Sure, it’s not the Olympics, but grass roots sport is so critical for girls! Where do we expect the next generation of Paula Radcliffes, Sally Gunnells and Jess Ennis-Hills to come from if they see they aren’t in with a shout from a young age? Expecting born females to compete against runners who have had not just the benefit of male puberty but also retain a male born skeleton (no child bearing hips, typically longer levers) and who don’t have to deal with running when menstruating is excruciatingly unfair. We run with our bodies not our feelings, however desperately unfair that feels to some people.

2024-02-18 17:18:58

It's a park run for people that enjoy running and keeping fit. It's not the Olympics

2024-02-18 17:34:57

Sam if you're that concerned about placing and times against others there are plenty of races out there. I'm 100% for fair competition but as I have said, this does not apply to the park run. It's not a race and was never intended to be a race. The idea if it had always been to run against yourself, you know your own times and you know if you're improving or not. Forcing parkrun to incorporate trans categories etc as a free inclusive self development event is just ridiculous snd could ultimately result in the collapse of the event itself or force it to be a paid event. Accept it for what it is , A fun run, and focus your efforts on fair categories in official competitive events of which there are significant numbers. The park run is one of a kind and should remain that way. It will have zero impact on biological females and their training, progression. To claim that is ridiculous

2024-02-18 18:51:21

Resident, surely by the very meaning of the word inclusivity, parkrun should be allowed to mean different things to different people? To the top club runners challenging for the records to the back of the pack parkwalkers who may be starting exercise for the first time or returning from injury. Everyone’s experience of it and interpretation of that experience is valid. Otherwise it’s not inclusive. It’s trying valiantly to be all things to all people. Only recently the BBC was reporting that the women’s course record had been broken, if that doesn’t smack of a competitive event I don’t know what does. If the idea of parkrun was only ever to run against yourself then why provide all the stats it does? Why tell you where you placed in your age/gender category or list out the participants in finish order? Such stats proved interesting and valuable for many and some people are motivated by this to spur them onto improve and track progression. For what it’s worth I don’t think a trans category is the solution, it’s hardly fair or inclusive either. Just email people a finish time and be done with it. It’s clear parkrun means an awful lot to many people hence some incredibly heated discussions about it. It’s great people care so much, thank you for your reasoned debate even if I don’t agree. The divisiveness I could do without. I think parkrun HQ could make a lot of it go away by clarifying things once and for all.

2024-02-22 18:08:05

I would love the parkrun stats to be restored, because as a woman in my 50s, striving to maintain my fitness, I find it inspiring to see, in particular, older people running great age grade percentages. But not at the expense of trans women being banned or vilified. parkrun is a timed run but not a race, not a competition, and should remain inclusive and welcoming for everyone.

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