13 April 2016

Have you ever been on a parkrun?

parkrun

The UKFast team enjoying a run in the park with Diane Modahl.

The ‘parkrun movement’ is an extraordinary thing. Every week, at locations across the country, runners take to the park for a timed run, completely for free.

Great, right? Free organised and competitive exercise? And the sign-up rates are incredible. Hundreds of people attend each run. There are reportedly more than 850 locations across the world.

Now, however, the council have made a move to charge the organisation because of damage to the park. The first, a parish council near Bristol is to charge for use of the public space, stating that it is wrong for residents who do not run to have to foot the bill.

Whilst I agree that residents shouldn’t have to pay for the repairs, charging a fee for this enormously popular exercise is extremely shortsighted. The council’s immediate gains are far outweighed by the potential savings on the NHS, for example.

Surely the impact of hundreds of people, in hundreds of locations across the country boosting their fitness is going to have a massive impact on the overall health of the nation and the demand on health services?

The COO of parkrun, Tom Williams, posted a statement on the parkrun website saying that he was extremely disappointed at the decision, highlighting parkrun’s “unprecedented success in engaging the least active and encouraging them to exercise regularly”.

He’s absolutely right to be disappointed! In arranging these sessions, the parkrun team have got people off the sofa and away from screens, back into the fresh air. Surely this is a great thing?

Yes, the residents shouldn’t foot the bill – perhaps the parkrun team, which is already made up of volunteers, could volunteer to help the maintenance of the parks?

It’s a questionable precedent to set. Does this mean that parenting groups with prams will be charged for the damage they do to the footpaths? What about cyclists? School trips to the park?

We should be actively encouraging this type of community exercise not raising the barriers for getting involved.

What do you think?

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