parkrun: why we need it more than ever

A personal appeal by the author of How parkrun changed our lives.

As we edge closer to the re-start of parkrun, those with fears and anxieties or the privilege of good health might, please, consider that parkrun is much more than a fun way to spend a Saturday morning.

For some it was their ONLY social contact of the week. Imagine that? Imagine how they are feeling now, 15 months down the line? For some, those with work and family responsibilities, it was the ONLY opportunity for time to do something for themselves. For some it was the ONLY way to be motivated to take exercise in a safe and familiar environment. For some it was the ONLY respite from grief, from depression, from anxiety. For some it was the perfect way to spend time together as a family, exercising together.

For all these people, every day of delay is further torture. We are way beyond the simplistic question, why can’t they just go and run anyway?  We know that parkrun is much more than just about running.

And for the GPs, and not JUST those in the 1500 parkrun practices, who were prescribing parkrun for a range of physical and mental health conditions, the immediate return of parkrun is crucial. Would they tell a patient, sorry your medication is still not going to be available, after 15 months..?

The outdoor environment is safe. It’s as safe now as it’s ever going to be. It has been safe all the way through this pandemic. Many scientists have now proved and explained that outdoor transmission of the covid virus is negligible. But there’s a more serious pandemic building up among those falling ill, becoming overweight, unable to deal with diabetes , in danger of heart disease.

Some say, we should wait a few more weeks until it’s safer to mix with others. By all means, don’t put yourselves under strain of anxiety if you are feeling those fears. This is a voluntary experience. You don’t HAVE to run, or marshal, or scan barcodes, until you’re ready; return when you feel comfortable.But please, think about those for whom such involvement is imperative, as soon as possible.

There are landowners with their own codes of operating, who talk about the safety of ALL their visitors, at “peak” times. ALL their visitors, parkrunners or not, are safer in an outdoor environment. The scientific evidence applies to everyone. And “peak” times are not really 9am on a Saturday morning. At many parks, the runners have gone, all trace of the event disappeared, before most of the visitors start to arrive.  In holiday areas, it’s acknowledged that Saturday morning is a quieter time, being the traditional “handover” day as families arrive and depart.

What they, what we all, need to consider is what’s best for others, not just best for ourselves. What does another few weeks matter, you might ask? For many people it matters a great deal. To borrow from Bill Shankly, parkrun isn’t a matter of life and death. It’s much more important than that.

Eileen Jones is the author of How parkrun changed our lives


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