Seb Coe says we ‘risk losing parkrun forever’

·2-min read
Photo credit: Ian Gavan - Getty Images
Photo credit: Ian Gavan - Getty Images

Seb Coe has warned that we ‘lose risking [parkrun] forever’ if decision-makers fail to back the return of the free weekly 5km event.

The World Athletics president wrote in a tweet: ‘We should be proud of how parkrun has helped make the world healthier and happier. It is now time to ensure it has a future. We must act to save this great health and wellbeing charity.’

Parkrun has been suspended since March 2020 and organisers say that plans to resume the event in June ‘hang in the balance’ as only half of its venues have thus far granted permission.

Since its inception in 2002, parkrun has grown exponentially. Before lockdown, it was taking place in hundreds of parks across the UK and in 22 countries around the world.

Part of parkrun’s appeal is that its free to enter and is billed as ‘a run not a race’, making it less intimidating for newcomers than the traditional race format.

While parkrun has been given permission by the UK government to return on the 5 June, this is depended on also getting approval from local councils and landowners – something that is proving difficult. Parkrun organisers say ‘a combination of obstacles – including misunderstanding of the roadmap [out of lockdown], reluctance, hesitation and unnecessary red tape - threatens to delay the return of parkrun indefinitely’.

Of the 729 venues across the UK at which parkrun is in operation, it’s understood that more than 300 are yet to approve the resumption of the event. And there’s a fear that if this number does not increase significantly by this Friday (21 May), the plans for parkrun’s return will have to be shelved.

In an open letter, Coe referred to be parkrun as ‘one of the greatest public health initiatives of the 21st century’, adding: ‘As more of everyday life returns, we must not forget about the things that quietly, efficiently (perhaps almost without us noticing) offer some of the greatest benefits of all.

‘If we can shop, eat and drink inside restaurants, visit other families in their home, watch live sport, go to the gym, play centres and the theatre, then putting on an organised community running event in our parks is really a "no brainer".

‘Maybe we have taken parkrun for granted. Quietly and unassumingly, parkrun has become part of the fabric of everyday life. But unless we get behind it now, we risk losing it forever.’

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