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‘Return to sport’ not an easy decision for older or vulnerable runners

Risks of group running outweigh benefits for some vintage runners

A short interview given by one of Scotland’s oldest parkrunners has reminded us that for many runners, the decision to return to any form of racing or parkrunning in the COVID era is much harder than just being able to find one that hasn't been cancelled.

While most of us are chomping at the bit to challenge ourselves at a parkrun or local race, many runners – including older athletes and those with medical conditions or vulnerable family members – will be carefully weighing up the pros and cons of heading out to any event, regardless of the assurances and best efforts of the event organisers to minimise risk.

For many, the mental and physical benefits of competition, volunteering or parkrunning cannot be outweighed by the very real risks to health – and life itself – COVID can pose. 

For some runners, participation in group events won’t even be a question until a vaccine is discovered. 

Andrew Grant, an 82-year-old veteran of over 350 parkruns, made his personal view on the matter clear during a recent interview with the BBC.

He told The Nine: “I think at the moment, and this is a personal view, I wouldn’t come back down for a while because age comes into it well. It tends to be our age group that’s getting most of the deaths actually.

“I can understand all the benefits of a parkrun. I mean I’ve benefitted it from it myself by just keeping running, which I which I would never had done had the parkrun not been here.

“I don’t think I’d like to come back to a parkrun at the moment. If they got a vaccine, I’d be back in a minute.”

Sadly for Grant, a vaccine is not likely to be approved any time soon – nor, for that matter, will parkrun be coming back to the UK in the next few weeks.

Recent increases in the rate of infection make parkrun ‘unlikely’ to return to England at the end of October as planned. 

During an online Q&A session on Friday, Tom Williams, the Chief Operating Officer of parkrun said: “In the space of 9-10 days there has been a dramatic shift in the situation in the United Kingdom.

“Our feeling is that with the direction of travel of the virus in the UK it looks much less likely that we’ll be able to achieve a late October opening.”

A statement on the UK situation is expected from parkrun HQ on Friday.  

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