Every weekend, thousands of runners get up early and gather at green spaces around the UK (and the world) to take part in parkrun. Founded by a community of runners, parkrun hosts free, timed 5k runs in local parks and green spaces. The idea? To get people moving. The initiative has proven to be a lifeline for many wishing to make a change in their life, be that losing weight, spending more time being active with the family, or even escaping mental health issues.
But yesterday evening, the decision of one local council threatened to change the whole dynamic of parkrun. A motion was voted through by Stoke Gifford parish council to charge parkrun for use of the space, much like a football club. The decision has sparked outrage in the local, running and parkrun communities, with health campaigners, politicians and sports stars alike criticizing the move.
The organizers have even been forced to cancel this week’s event amid safety concerns if a larger-than-usual number of participants show up in protest of the council’s decision. This marks a fundamental shift in the essence of the movement; free, no-strings-attached exercise- with no agenda other than to bring people together and get them moving.
What does this mean for the future of parkrun? It’s all up in the air at the moment, but it’s honestly a dire state of affairs. I feel so strongly that free exercise should be encouraged, especially when combined with the sense of community that parkrun brings to runners (and supporters) of all ages and from all walks of life. The fact that this could be threatened is in my opinion, diabolical.
Lots of love,