Mark Armstrong: Will parkrun come back on June 5?

The Norwich parkrun in Eaton Park. Organisers have reluctantly banned dogs from the event.

The Norwich parkrun in Eaton Park. Organisers have reluctantly banned dogs from the event. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Simon Finlay

As she charges towards the finishing line with rosy cheeks and a big smile on her face, I feel immensely proud. 

Not only has my daughter, Lara, beaten her personal best for the third weekend running but she stopped twice to help her friend as she completed her first junior parkrun.  

The magic of parkrun is back…for the juniors at least.   

Whilst parents breathe a sigh of relief at the ability to wear out their children on a Sunday morning at this free 2k event (even if Lara is insists on getting a doughnut immediately after), the future of adult parkrun on Saturday mornings remains unclear.  

The planned return is June 5 but with so many parkruns yet to confirm they have the landowner’s permission this may jeopardise this date as organisers fear the demand will be so great, runners will flood confirmed events.  

The data backs up that running outside in groups has minimal risks of transmission but it’s only right we take every precaution and do our bit in the fight against COVID-19. However, to delay parkrun further has its own risks.     

For so many people parkrun is the highlight of their week, whether it’s a chance to get out the house and socialise, burn off the week’s stresses and start their weekend the right way, or to achieve a new personal best.  

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Over the years my wife, Alison, and I have used parkruns in many different ways. Sometimes it’s a PB hunt, others a tempo session within a long run each side and sometimes a gentler one helping another runner reach their own potential.  

Even the slightly hungover ones on New Year’s Day were never regretted and many were finished with a delicious coffee and breakfast pastry…after all we have earned it.   

For others, it can be the first time they have completed the distance, a huge milestone and an achievement to be hugely celebrated. The parkrun ethos of the tail runner ensuring no one ever finishes last along with the distance makes this so accessible to new runners. Figures for couch to 5k downloads reached their highest ever during lockdown last year. Hopefully, this means a whole new breed of park runners for the future.   

Legally all events have permission and support from public health bodies. However, organisers say that confusion around the government’s roadmap, combined with hesitation and red tape, means that many landowners are reluctant to grant permission for the events to go ahead. 

In this region we have already lost Mulbarton as they were unable to gain the necessary permission whilst other big parkruns like Gorleston Cliffs are also still awaiting confirmation. Holkham, Blickling and Sheringham haven’t committed either at the time of writing. 

Norwich (Eaton Park), Sloughbottom, Colney Lane, Catton Park, Brundall have all said yes to a return whilst outside the city, King’s Lynn, Lingwood, Loch Neaton and Lowestoft are also ready to return. 

Yet unless 90 percent of parkruns across the country get the go-ahead then the June 5 start will be postponed and who knows when it will be put back to. 

An announcement from parkrun is expected to be made today (Friday, May 21) but it seems inevitable that start date will have to be put back. 

The future of parkrun is at stake and I would encourage any landowner to please allow them to come back for the physical and mental wellbeing of our nation. 

Parkrun is something that should endure for generations and we need to make sure it comes back so it’s there to be enjoyed by everyone for years to come.