Yesterday thousands of parkrunners across Scotland recieved the news they were dreading: each and every parkrun in the UK was to be called off with immediate effect, at least until the end of March.
As parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt put it bluntly: “This coming Saturday, for the first time in 15 years, we will wake up to a world where there is no parkrun to go to.”
Following a week of race cancellations, stern government advice and a raft of recommendations for race organisers and clubs from scottishathletics, the news didn’t exactly come as a shock. On Friday, the list of countries where parkrun was cancelled stood at 15; by Tuesday it was 17; by Wednesday it was all 22, including the UK.
runABC Scotland online spoke to one Scottish event director soon after the news broke on Wednesday morning. While clearly devastated by the closure of his local event, there was also a sense of relief.
He said: “We welcome the fact that the decision was not left to individual event directors to make the call, as that would have led to ‘on’ events being swamped with ‘parkrun tourists’.”
He added: “At our parkrun, we’re asking our runners NOT to show up at 09.30 this Saturday morning, but not discouraging folks from pulling on their trainers and getting some fresh air and exercise.”
Most parkrunners have taken the news of their local event being called off for the foreseeable future with good grace, but some remain unmoved.
There are social media reports of runners planning to gather in numbers at their usual events, in defiance of the closures and government advice – and, most disappointingly, against the express wishes of parkrun.
Paul Sinton-Hewitt today pleaded with runners to respect the closures: “We understand that remaining physically active is critical, but the need for social distancing at this time is paramount. Please can I ask that you respect this guidance and do not organise gatherings either officially or unofficially at your parkrun venue (or elsewhere) for the duration our events are suspended. Doing so will risk the good reputation of our parkrun communities.”
The parkrunners runABC Scotland online spoke to today had much more positive ideas for coping without ‘the best part of the week’ than risking their local event by pretending the world hasn’t changed.
These particular runners were planning to do some ‘freedom runs’ – running the usual parkrun route but at a different time, and in accordance with current social distancing guidelines – scoping out routes for new parkruns, fundraising for equipment and park amenities, working on building their volunteer rotas and devoting the time they would usually have spent at their parkrun to helping those vulnerable or in need during the current crisis.
That’s the true spirit of parkrun. For free, for everyone, forever: just not right now.
Image courtesy Ruchill parkrun