Parkrun has lost its race to restart on time after almost 300 landowners failed to give it the green light.
One of Britain’s greatest public health initiatives finds itself left on the start line despite Lord Coe joining Olympic champion Greg Rutherford, government ministers and the Mayor of London in calling for all obstacles to be removed.
As of last night organisers had received 250 permissions out of a possible 589 – way short of the “80 to 90 per cent” critical mass required to relaunch the parkrun nationally.
They have pushed back the start date to June 26 in the hope that by then the remaining venues will have agreed – but there is no guarantee of that.
Parkrun boss Nick Pearson said: “It’s a feeling of deflation and frustration.
“There should be a question around how important is the health of the nation and have we learned anything over the last 12 and 18 months? At the moment we’re not learning those lessons.”
Rutherford’s plea, in Wednesday’s Mirror Sport , for the nation to rally behind parkrun, was brought up in parliament yesterday by Jo Stevens, Shadow Secretary of State for Digital Culture Media and Sport – and echoed by Secretary of State Oliver Dowden.
“I will shortly be sending a very clear message and signal in writing to local authorities about our expectation that those events should proceed,” Dowden said.
Lord Coe, boss of World Athletics, warned: “Quietly and unassumingly, parkrun has become part of the fabric of everyday life. But unless we get behind it now, we risk losing it forever.”
In a statement parkrun explained: “With more than three million registered parkrunners across England, and around 300,000 people taking part on a typical weekend, opening a small subset of parkruns is not viable.”
Pearson and his team will make a decision on June 11 as to whether the new start date is feasible.
“Somewhere along the line there’s got to be a popular level commitment to investing in everybody’s health,” he added.
“If I’m frustrated by anything it’s the conversations that say ‘well you can just go for a run, why do you need parkrun?’
“We’ve spent 17 years demonstrating that that’s not the case, that the success of parkrun is significantly down to the fact people need other people.
“They need social contact, the regularity of it, the informality – all the things that come with a free Saturday morning appointment, if you like.”