London’s parkrunners are just about jogging on the spot waiting to get back out there on Saturday mornings.
The national free weekly Saturday morning parkruns were due to resume on June 5 but just as runners were strapping on their shoes, Parkrun UK delayed the national return until Saturday, June 26, to give more venues time to approve it.
Many London venues are already delighted to be welcoming runners back though including Wimbledon Common, Richmond Park and Osterley.
Nationwide more than three million people from newbies to experienced runners are signed up to take part when runs resume.
Keen runner Andrew Finnerty has clocked up hundreds of km at the 80 parkruns he’s joined in London. He’s also run 26 marathons and mentors other runners.
He also volunteers at the South London parks he races in.
“It’s free, it’s inclusive and you get to meet friends and build up a community,” he said. “You just turn up and run.”
Mr Finnerty, works for soft drink maker Square Root and Little Faith brewery in Deptford.
He’s a regular at his parkruns in Dulwich, Brockwell and Forest Hill parks. And he’s also run at Liverpool and Cheltenham.
“It’s like a bedrock – you know it’s there. You can use it when you want to use it. Some people use it every week,” he said.
During lockdown he ran with a friend and said it was invaluable to help each other through this past year.
“The return of parkrun will be great. It’s a shared experience – we have not seen pretty much anyone in the last few months,” he added.
Helpfully, London mayor Sadiq Khan who is a keen runner himself, has urged landowners to support the event.
“London’s borough councils and other landowners have played a crucial role in keeping Londoners safe, maintaining the city’s green spaces and carefully supporting the return of safe grassroots sport. I hope they will join me in supporting the return of parkrun,” he said.
The Covid-secure rules for runs now include maximising space between runners and widening finish points to give people more space. Runners will be encouraged to go to their local event and stay at home if they have Covid symptoms.
Spitting is not allowed and runners and volunteers must keep their distance before the race starts. Any equipment, such as marshals’ bids and finishers’ tokens have to be washed after each event.
Under the Covid roadmap, the event could have resumed in March but many councils wanted to wait until after June 21 when the lockdown ends completely.
Former Olympian Lord Seb Coe has made a well-publicised call for the event to return.
He said: “We desperately need to find ways of getting fitter, stronger and more resilient. And we need to do it in a way that embraces and includes as much of the population as possible.”
The City of London Corporation which owns north London beauty spot Hampstead Heath is talking to organisers about the return of the event from late June.
And Hammersmith and Fulham council says it supports the events.
Runners used to take part at the award-winning Bishop’s Park in Fulham and at Wormwood Scrubs.
The council is also asking residents if they support a new parkrun at Ravenscourt Park.
When asked about the return f the events, Parkrun UK said: “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.”
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