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The return of parkrun in England could be “delayed indefinitely” because of the reluctance of many local authorities and private landowners to grant approval for the free 5km runs to come back, organisers have warned.
It had been widely expected that the popular event, which attracts more than 200,000 people every week, would return on 5 June given the easing of Covid-19 restrictions. But in a downbeat assessment, organisers warned that was now unlikely as fewer than a third of adult parkruns in England had been granted permission to return.Sick of the same old route? 14 fabulous ways to get out of your running rut Read more
A final decision will be taken on 21 May, but a senior parkrun source told the Guardian they were “not optimistic” as they were “finding it difficult to convince many local authorities that returning was safe, legal, and ratified by the government”.
So far only 161 of 589 adult parkrun events have been given landowner permission to return, and organisers fear if that figure does not rise substantially it could be months before the Saturday morning runs come back.
“As things stand, the return of the free, weekly, community events hangs in the balance, with organisers confirming that the number of permissions must increase significantly over the next seven days for any of the events to return on Saturday 5 June as planned,” a parkrun statement said.
“Despite legal permission to return and widespread support from government, Public Health England and Sport England, a combination of obstacles including misunderstanding the government’s roadmap, reluctance, hesitation and unnecessary red tape threatens to delay the return of parkrun indefinitely.”
What particularly frustrates organisers is that parkrun events have had permission to return since March, as part of step one of the government’s roadmap out of lockdown. But while some junior 2km events returned last month, they have found it difficult to persuade enough landowners it is safe to come back.
On Friday morning the Conservative member of parliament David Davis wrote to all MPs across the house where landowners have yet to give parkrun permission to return to say it would be a “national embarrassment” if parkrun did not resume on 5 June.
“None of us would want to put our communities or councils under undue pressure at this time,” he said. “However, the illegitimate barriers of bureaucracy being created seem bizarre when our communities have never needed parkrun and its health and local cohesion benefits more.
“At present it is likely that we will see the reopening of pubs, clubs, casinos, large scale indoor events, and others ahead of this national public health initiative. That is nonsensical. As a result, I am asking for your urgent help.”