Parkrun was postponed in March 2020 following lockdown restrictions. More recently, plans were unveiled by the government to ease lockdown, leading many to ask: “When will Parkrun start again?”
In the absence of Parkrun, many runners have embraced the #notparkrun movement and have gone for a run at 9am on a Saturday morning and posted their results on social media. This just goes to show the popularity of the event.
With over 7 million people registered as Parkrun participants in the UK, Parkrun really has become running’s biggest success story. Not only that, Parkrun is held in over 1,000 locations and over 30,000 volunteers support Parkruns across the country.
Shortly after the government announcement in February 2021, Parkrun unveiled its plans to resume races again in April and throughout the summer. According to the Parkrun UK website, their plan is for the 2km junior Parkrun to start again from Sunday 11th April. The full 5km Parkrun will return from Saturday 5th June.
There will be new guidelines when Parkrun starts again to ensure the health and safety of all its participants and volunteers. When I first read these guidelines I was a bit skeptical as to whether Parkrun could even work during times of social distancing.
Here are five things you need to know about the return of Parkrun.
Related: What to expect at your first Parkrun
When will Parkrun start again? 5 things you need to know about the return of Parkun
All runners must pre-register
Before lockdown, you could choose not to register for a run but this would mean you wouldn’t receive a recognised, named time on the final race results. The new guidelines mean all runners must pre-register with a valid email address so they can be easily contactable for test and trace.
Runners will be asked to minimise travel to part in events
Runners will be encouraged to arrive on foot, bike or car and told to minimise travel on public transport to take part in Parkrun. Some Parkruns there are hundreds of participants so I think this is a good move, but will undoubtedly mean some Parkrun locations are full of cars.
Pre and post-run gatherings won’t be allowed
Before the pandemic, Parkruns were seen as a social event as well as a sporting event. Many people would make plans to run together then go to a coffee shop or pub after the race.
However, with the introduction of these new guidelines, runners will be asked to minimise the time spent at the start line and races will begin promptly so runners don’t congregate which was so often the case before.
The pre-run briefing is also affected. Social distancing measures will apply and each briefing will be limited to two minutes.
All may not be lost though. According to recent research conducted by disease experts, the risk of contracting Covid-19 at a Parkrun event is ‘relatively low’. The research found that Parkrun events are overall likely to be ‘very safe’.
Courses may be made longer
Where permitting, courses may also be made longer so to maximise space at the start and finish line. Distances could now range between 5km up to an additional 500 metres.
The start and finish lines at some courses may also be moved to maximise available space.
During the run, runners will be asked to avoid bunching and use all available space. Runners will also need to informally ‘seed’ themselves, with the fastest at the front and the slowest at the back.
There will also be a ban on spitting which isn’t a guideline that I’m against!
The finish procedure will change
Perhaps one of the benefits of the post-lockdown Parkrun, is that the finishing process will go contactless. Volunteers will use a virtual app from their phone to record finishing positions before runners hand in their token.
Runners will also be asked to maintain social distancing once they have finished and asked to avoid all non-essential post-race gatherings.
There will also be a ban on high fives, which will be strange to police on the day. I feel sorry for any volunteer that has to tell someone off for high fiving!