Parkrun organisers will announce on Friday afternoon that it can return on 26 June in England following a huge rush of late approvals over the past 24 hours, the Guardian can reveal. The news will delight the 300,000 regular participants in the free 5km-timed event, and marks a significant victory for organisers who had feared an impasse that would take months to settle.
As of Friday morning, parkrun now has permission from 506 out of 589 local councils and landowners across England. That figure is markedly up from last month, when just 250 had granted permission, forcing parkrun to postpone its planned return by three weeks. Crucially parkrun now has enough events in major cities, including London, Manchester and Newcastle, to resume without fears of overwhelming some parkruns.
Organisers had feared the worst as late as Thursday morning, given that in the north east there were 100,000 parkrunners registered to events that did not have permission. But in the space of 24 hours that figure came down to 8,000. Meanwhile London now has 37 approvals from 56 events – when it had just three in mid-May.
The one major caveat to a resumption on 26 June is that some landowners’ permission to resume are dependent on the government moving to stage four of the Covid protocols on Monday. So if there is a delay, with no exemptions for outdoor events, parkrun may well have to follow suit.
However, one parkrun insider told the Guardian that it would be a small price to pay given the wider context that the event would definitely be back soon. “The big news for us is that the fears we had about parkun being in jeopardy no longer exist,” they said. “We now have enough permissions to come back. So whether it’s June 26, or a little later, we will be back to help communities across Britain.”
Insiders also praised a cross-party alliance of politicians, including the culture secretary Oliver Dowden, London mayor Sadiq Khan and Tory MP David Davis for helping parkrun overcome a combination of obstacles including misunderstanding the government’s roadmap, reluctance, hesitation and unnecessary red tape.
A crucial intervention from World Athletics president Seb Coe, and the support of the public and media, also played its part. It was Coe who warned last month that the future of parkrun was under threat if it didn’t resume this summer, adding: “As more of everyday life returns, we must not forget about the things that quietly, efficiently, (perhaps almost without us noticing), offer some of the greatest benefits of all.”