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parkrun in England will NOT now return next month

PUBLISHED: 20:18 24 September 2020 | UPDATED: 10:17 28 September 2020

Happier times: runners and walkers assemble before the start of the weekly Sizewell parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Happier times: runners and walkers assemble before the start of the weekly Sizewell parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Archant

It was hoped that parkruns across Suffolk and Essex, and the rest of England, would be back up-and-running again by the end of October, but those plans were shelved last week.

Runners and walkers congregate for the run briefing before the start of the Great Yarmouth North Beach parkrun on March 14, the last time any parkrun has been held in the UK. Picture: CARL MARSTONRunners and walkers congregate for the run briefing before the start of the Great Yarmouth North Beach parkrun on March 14, the last time any parkrun has been held in the UK. Picture: CARL MARSTON

Nick Pearson, the parkrun Global Chief Executive Officer, issued a statement last Thursday evening which revealed that parkrun would not be returning within the next month, as had been previously hoped, in light of the recent resurgence of Covid-19 infections.

The response has, predictably, been mixed, with the parkrunning community facing up to potentially several more months of waiting for a return of the free weekly 5K events up and down the country.

The last parkrun weekend in the UK was more than six months ago, on March 14.

But I think it’s fair to say that the majority are in favour of the most recent decision to halt the return of parkrun, in the wake of the increasing infection rates of the Covid-19 pandemic, especially when taken into account the vast number of volunteers who are involved in the staging of each event, from the handling of finishing tokens to the marshalling en route.

The finishing funnel at the Kesgrave parkrun. Picture: RACHEL EDGEThe finishing funnel at the Kesgrave parkrun. Picture: RACHEL EDGE

I have trawled a few parkrun-orientated websites to collate the contrasting opinions and comments from within the parkrunning community (I have omitted the individual names). And the views are divided.

Here’s a selection:

IN FAVOUR OF THE DELAYED RETURN OF PARKRUN

Waiting for the start of the weekly Norwich parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTONWaiting for the start of the weekly Norwich parkrun. Picture: CARL MARSTON

- ‘Not a surprise really seeing as though the infection is climbing fast again’

- ‘It took me 18 months to recover from pleurisy. I don’t fancy my chances with COVID. I’m happy to wait for the return of parkrun when it’s safe to do so.’

- ‘parkrun relies totally on volunteers. Who would want to give up their spare time to basically have to organise a logistical nightmare? Will probably see Parkrun return in 2021 at the earliest.’

- ‘To be expected in the current pandemic’

Festive cheer: Runners and walkers listen to the run briefing before the Catton parkrun, at a late December event. Picture: CARL MARSTONFestive cheer: Runners and walkers listen to the run briefing before the Catton parkrun, at a late December event. Picture: CARL MARSTON

- ‘Given that races with clear Covid safety plans were cancelled, it is hard to see how parkrun could have gone ahead.’

- ‘I was shocked hearing they had started to make plans of returning in October. The decision not to do it is just the right decision, even though there is nothing I want more than parkrun to return!’

- ‘We’ve just got to keep on running until we can all get back to it on a Saturday morning.’

Runners approach the finish to the Thetford parkrunRunners approach the finish to the Thetford parkrun

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AGAINST THE DELAY

- ‘The volunteering and the contact parkrun provides is important to a lot of people, not just the runners’

- ‘I suffer from depression and parkrun is my motivation. I know I could go running every day but some days I struggle to leave the house’

- ‘What is most frustrating to me is that people who believe it (Covid-19) is to dangerous for them (which is a fine feeling) are keen to stop anyone else getting the benefits of parkrun.’

- ‘The benefits of parkrun far outweigh the very low risks of any transmission from outdoor exercise.’

A mixed bag, then, but I must add that the bulk of comments were broadly in favour of the delayed return of parkrun, which now seems unlikely until next year.

In last week’s parkrun update, CEO Pearson explained:

‘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’d 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.’

There are 11 parkruns in Suffolk, all starting at 9am on Saturday mornings.

Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Brandon Country, Sizewell, Thomas Mills (Framlingham), Felixstowe, Great Cornard, Haverhill, Lowestoft, Clare Castle and Kesgrave.

parkruns across neighbouring Norfolk include Norwich, Lingwood, Brundall, Catton, Sloughbottom, Great Yarmouth North Beach, Gorleston Ciffs, Colney Lane, Mulbarton, Sheringham, Blickling, Holkham, Hunstanton Promenade, King’s Lynn, Swaffham Loch Neaton (Watton) and Thetford.


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