News - 8th September 2020

The time to act is now


We face the prospect of living in a world where being apart becomes normal, and where the risk associated with social interaction and participating in physical activity is deemed to outweigh the benefit.


parkrun’s Global Head of Health and Wellbeing Chrissie Wellington tells us why the time is now for resuming parkrun.


Following the declaration of a global pandemic earlier this year, governments around the world rightly scrambled to safeguard their citizens, while desperately trying to understand the threat posed by an unknown virus.


Yet, as the number of daily hospitalisations and deaths continue to drop in most parts of the world, we are now sleepwalking towards another health and wellbeing catastrophe.


And that impact is not being felt evenly across our society. Some people are still active, they can afford nutritious food and maybe even have it delivered to their door. They can connect with friends and family. They have green space, the ability to work from home, and the capacity to care for their children. But this simply wasn’t, and still isn’t, the case for millions.


Swathes of our population have experienced hardships like never before, with profound and long-lasting impacts.


It is those who can least afford to bear the additional burden that are being hit hardest: Older people who are more likely to live alone, young people due to disrupted education and the increased risk of unemployment, women who are more likely to take on caring responsibilities, those of Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic groups, people living with disabilities or long term health conditions, those with reduced communication abilities, those within the criminal justice system and the unemployed or those on low income.


It is these people, who traditionally have the most to benefit from parkrun, who are disproportionately affected by its absence.


The elephant in the room has become the question of whether the medicine is worse than the disease, and whether more people may ultimately suffer ill effects as a consequence of being cut off from their social support networks, from a lack of movement and from spending vast quantities of time within four walls, than from the virus itself.


It is clear that restrictions have slowed the spread of the virus and may still be needed as we move forward. However, in many locations, the current state of existence is unsustainable.


We face the prospect of living in a world where being apart becomes normal, and where the risk associated with social interaction and participating in physical activity is deemed to outweigh the benefit.


This scenario contradicts what parkrun has demonstrated over many years, which is that people have an innate need to be with one another. To talk, to laugh, to support, to share experiences.


Through parkrun, we’ve also come to understand the significant health benefits of being physically active, together, in the great outdoors. It boosts our self-esteem and mood, increases sleep quality and energy, builds immunity, reduces the risk of developing many diseases, and promotes quality of life.


Every week without parkrun exacts a cost on the health and wellbeing of hundreds of thousands of people.


The UK government’s ‘Return to Recreational Sport’ guidelines were a welcome first step in recognising the important role community-led physical activity will play in reconnecting society and addressing health inequalities. parkrun’s framework has been accepted by the UK Government and we are now working towards reopening parkrun events in England by the end of October.


As a global movement dedicated to creating a healthier and happier planet, it is a watershed moment for parkrun to drive change.


parkrun can help turn the tide of growing ill health and of inequity. which means parkrun must always be there when someone needs it. Each parkrunner will know when the time is right, when they are ready, but the important thing is that the opportunity exists.


We need parkrun now more than ever.


Chrissie Wellington OBE is a four times Ironman world champion and parkrun’s global lead for health and wellbeing

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