Parkrun’s return home is on the line as the weekly 5km event faces bureaucratic hurdles and stumbling blocks, with organizers at more than half of the venues in England awaiting permission to continue .
The community-run race says at least 90% of its events must come back at the same time to keep local participants and numbers in check.
The event has its strong supporters, including Seb Coe, president of World Athletics, who urged policymakers to support the initiative or “risk losing it forever”. London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Dame Sally Davies, master of Trinity College Cambridge and former chief medical officer of England, added their voices to call for Parkrun’s return.
Meanwhile, the event was held at over 700 venues around the world this month, attracting 66,000 runners and volunteers. Others are expected to take place on weekends in the United States, Poland, Denmark and South Africa.
The main parkrun, which started in London 17 years ago and is held every Saturday at 9 a.m., is set to resume events in England on June 5 after a 14-month lull against the coronavirus. The event takes place in the gardens of stately homes and in prisons as well as in parks, outbuildings, woods, playgrounds and beaches and attracts millions of runners every week.
But organizers say they have yet to get permission from more than half of the landowners who allow it to be held on their property. The 2km junior parkruns resumed on April 11.
Organizers said this week that they have full or partial permission from landowners representing 237 events, are working with 270 other landowners and are waiting to hear 63 more events. They are due to update the figure on Friday.
Still, they raised the voices of more than 70 landowners in a week, after saying on Friday that the number of permits needed to increase “dramatically” to 161 of 589 events for any of the events to return on June 5.
“Parkrun has been considered one of the greatest public health initiatives of the 21st century,” Olympic gold medalist Coe said in an open letter on Thursday.
Khan called Parkrun a “London success story” by urging borough councils and other landowners in the capital to join him in supporting his return.
The risk of Covid-19 infections is minimal during outdoor running, according to a report released two months ago by the Office for National Statistics.