Parkrun is back: Popular community fitness event returns after 16 months of virus-induced closure

Parkrun is back in more than 500 parks and green spaces across England – 16 months after it was suspended due to coronavirus restrictions.

Parkruns are free Saturday morning events where many thousands of people of all levels of fitness can walk, jog or run 5km together.

Chief Operating Officer Tom Williams told Sky News: “It means such an incredible amount to be able to reopen today.

“Over the last 17 years, Parkrun has had the most amazing impact on people’s health and wellbeing.

“Our mission statement is to make the world healthier and happier.”

Mr Williams said that before Parkrun was suspended in March last year, it had gone 16-and-a-half years without missing a weekend.

Now, after missing 70 consecutive Saturdays, it was “good to be back”, he added.

“For every month we were closed during lockdown, we lost about a million instances of participation for people walking, jogging, running, or volunteering.

“It was not uncommon for people to tell us pre-COVID that participation in Parkrun had saved their lives, so we’ve really missed that while we’ve been away and we can’t wait to get back into parks later this morning.”

Parkrun welcomes walkers, runners, volunteers, spectators, and even dogs and buggies. Registration is free online.

Mr Williams said: “Parkrun is successful because I think all people have an inbuilt need to be active and outdoors and social, and probably the most important is to be social.

“That’s something we’ve found harder to do in the last year-and-a-half.

“I think that coming together in the great outdoors and moving together as part of communities is so important and it’s so great to have that back.”

Mr Williams said that Parkrun’s journey to reopening had been a “rollercoaster”.

They had come close to reopening in September after a summer which saw low virus case numbers, but that plan was quashed at the last minute when cases rose again.

The government’s roadmap towards reopening was revealed in December, allowing Parkrun to resume from late March this year.

But Mr Williams said they wanted to wait for “communities to be comfortable with large groups of people congregating in their parks and open spaces”.

Parkrun resumed in Northern Ireland on 26 June and work is under way to resume in Wales and Scotland on 14 August.