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- First Minister of Wales (born 1954)
Parkrun, an organisation that hosts 5k runs in parks and open spaces around the world, is an exercise initiative where it really is the taking part that counts. It’s about a sense of community – every Saturday morning, parkrunners (yes, the name is styled with a lower case 'p,') lace-up to join their parkrun family, so it’s no surprise that many are gutted to hear that Wales has cancelled all parkrun events from 1 January 2022.
The news came after changes to Covid restrictions were announced by the Welsh government on Boxing Day, when First Minister Mark Drakeford shared that Wales would move to alert level two restrictions.
As part of that, 50 is the maximum number of people who can gather at an outdoor event. The Welsh government initially advised that parkruns could go ahead with 50 people, but parkrun shared that as of the new year, all events in Wales (apart from junior parkruns) would be cancelled.
Parkrun UK shared a statement reading: ‘Unfortunately, the Welsh Government has also announced a gathering limit of 50 people, from December 26 onwards.
‘Whilst this does not include children, and therefore does not impact junior parkrun, it does mean that we have no choice but to suspend all our 5k events from January 1 onwards.
‘We know that some Welsh parkrun events regularly have fewer than 50 people attending, however it would take a very small influx (at what is typically a very busy time of year) for them to exceed the limit.’
Junior parkrun events are unaffected, so children aged 4 to 14 years old are good to go.
When will parkrun return in Wales?
Sadly, no end date has been set for the new restrictions in Wales, but Drakeford has said he wants them in place for the shortest possible time.
Parkrun, meanwhile, added in their statement: ‘We understand that this news will be incredibly disappointing to many Welsh parkrunners, and we’d like to reassure you all that we will do everything we can to bring parkrun events back across Wales as soon as these restrictions are lifted.’
UK government Health Secretary Sajid Javid is also in favour of parkrun’s return.
In response to a blog post by parkrun which referenced the ‘exceptionally low’ infection risks and ‘incredibly high’ health benefits of outdoor events, he tweeted: ‘Parkrun has helped so many people improve their health across the UK. I can’t see how restricting outdoor exercise in this way is justified or proportionate.’
Parkrun has helped so many people improve their health across the UK. I can’t see how restricting outdoor exercise in this way is justified or proportionate. https://t.co/GUyryHo91N
— Sajid Javid (@sajidjavid) December 28, 2021
Parkrun added: ‘It is our intention therefore that wherever parkrun events are legally permitted to operate they should do so.’
Here’s how parkrun is operating amid Covid elsewhere in the country.
Parkrun restrictions in England
There are no restrictions either in place or due to be implemented, according to parkrun’s blog post. Any events you had pencilled in over the coming weeks should be going ahead as planned.
Parkrun restrictions in Scotland
While the Scottish government has announced that outdoor gatherings should be limited to 500 people and adhere to one metre social distancing, all parkrun events in the nation fall within this framework, and so events here are also going ahead as normal.
Parkrun restrictions in Northern Ireland
Like England, there are currently no restrictions either in place, or expected to be implemented, and so all scheduled events should go ahead as normal.
How was parkrun affected during lockdown?
Parkrun events across all four nations (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) were first cancelled in March 2020. They only resumed in England 16 months later in July 2021, in June 2021 in Northern Ireland, and in August 2021 in Scotland and Wales.
The pandemic has been a huge kick in the teeth for both organisers and participants, particularly when you consider the mental health benefits of getting your endorphins pumping with friends during what has been one of the most stressful times many of us have ever experienced.
Parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt CBE reflected on the past 12 months of parkrun events in another blog post.
‘As this year draws to a close, it does so with a familiar feeling of uncertainty. Sadly, some of us face new or continued restrictions that will close our events. It is deeply frustrating that, nearly two years on, we are still living with the consequences of the pandemic. But as I look back on this year and think about the year to come, I do so with cautious optimism,’ he wrote.
‘I’d like to thank every single person who had a hand in ensuring the return of our local community events. Seeing others take on our cause so vehemently, including the likes of Lord Seb Coe, London Mayor Sadiq Khan, and political figures from all sides of Parliament, including the UK Prime Minister, was humbling to see.
‘It also gives me great hope for the future. To know our movement is cherished, to know it is recognised and celebrated now as a public health initiative that benefits the physical and mental health of so many, and that it should be protected at all costs. It’s clear that parkrun really is no longer just a run in the park.’
He concluded: ‘So as this year draws to a close, I am reflecting on a difficult yet rewarding 12 months.
‘But I’m also looking ahead. Together we have achieved so much. In the most challenging times we have pulled together and we are stronger for it. I am immensely proud of you all, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.’
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