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Concerns for the future of parkrun in the UK grow as decision day looms

Lord Coe calls the return of running events to our parks as other lockdown restrictions ease a 'no brainer'

The World Athletics president Lord Coe has added his voice to those of other high-profile figures from the worlds of sport, public health and politics desperate ‘to ensure parkrun has a future’ in this country.

parkrun is currently battling against the clock to secure the required permissions to return its free, timed 5k events to the UK. 

As of last week, only 161 of parkrun’s 589 English events had landowner permission to return. According to parkrun, that number needs to rise ‘significantly’ for any events to return as planned on 5 June. 

Discussions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are at earlier stages, but there is no reason to expect the situation there to be much different. Landowners and stakeholders across the UK must now consider not only the pandemic-related health and safety implications of holding events on their land, but must also balance much greater demand for access to the same space from other members of the public who have come to value it more over the past 12 months. 

Earlier this week, David Davis MP (@DavidDavisMP), former Olympic champion Greg Rutherford (@GregJRutherford) and coach Martin Yelling (@myelling) also voiced their concerns on twitter, urging the public to get in touch with their local representatives and decision-makers.  

In an open letter published on his twitter account (@sebcoe) last night, the former UK Olympian wrote that ‘sport is an incredible force for good’, which provides us with an opportunity to ‘make us better’ after a year full of the ‘deep physical and emotional scars’ caused by coronavirus.

He wrote, “As we tentatively look forward, and take those first steps back to normality, grassroots sport can, if we let it, offer the perfect remedy that I know so many individuals and communities are desperately looking for.”

“We desperately need to find ways of getting fitter, stronger and more resilient. And we need to do it in a way that embraces and includes as much of the population as possible.”

In Lord Coe’s view, that is exactly what parkrun already offers: “But unless we get behind it now, we risk losing it forever.”

“Because the true legacy of parkrun is not what it has achieved already, but the tonic it could prove to be in the years ahead.” 

parkrun will be deciding tomorrow (Friday, 21 May) when – or possibly even if – the events can return to England, with news on the other home nations likely to follow. 

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