Harrogate Parkrun ready to run on New Year's Day as pressure grows on Welsh Government to lift its ban there

Hundreds of Harrogate runners are looking forward to taking part in Parkrun on New Year's Day as the charity's Harrogate-based boss renewed his plea to the Welsh Government to lift its ban on the event there.

Friday, 31st December 2021, 12:42 pm
Harrogate-based Tom Williams, the chief operating officer for Parkrun Global, told BBC Breakfast News that there was no evidence the free-to-enter 5km Parkruns put anyone at risk.

As volunteers across England prepared for tomorrow's Parkruns, Tom Williams, the chief operating officer for Parkrun Global, reiterated his case on on BBC Breakfast News this morning that there was strong evidence the free-to-enter 5km Parkruns were safe events and the Welsh authorities' stance would impact on people's health going forward.

Yesterday Mr Williams had told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the charity had written a joint letter to the Welsh Government, with Welsh Athletics, asking for the rules to be reviewed to enable the volunteer-run events to take place in Wales tomorrow, Saturday.

Sign up to our daily Harrogate Advertiser Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Mr Williams said: "For a lot of people, particularly those most in need of physical activity, if they don't pick up a good positive activity habit in January then they're probably going to be impacted for the whole year.

"The longer that we have to keep Parkrun closed in Wales, the more impact there's going to be not just in the short term but in the long term."

The 5km (3.1 mile) Parkrun events, usually held every Saturday at 9am across Britain's parks and green spaces, are billed as a chance for people - regardless of age, gender or ability - to regularly run, jog or walk together in a positive and community spirit.

The first Parkun in Harrogate took place in 2012 on the Stray.

Other local Parkruns include Conyngham Hall in Knaresborough, Fountains Abbey near Ripon and Wetherby Sports Association at Boston Road in Wetherby.

During yesterday's interview on BBC Radio 4, Parkrun Global's chief operating officer Tom Williams also said there had never been a single reported case of virus transmission at any of Parkrun's 50,000 events, involving one million people.

Mr Williams said: "Parkruns are really, really safe, there's lots of mitigations in place, and as a charity with a responsibility for public health, health and wellbeing, increasing activity, it's important that we champion that.

“Where physical activity is restricted without evidence, we ask for that evidence to be presented, and hopefully the decision can be changed."

The Parkrun boss's appeal comes after Parkrun was forced to cancel its runs in Wales because of the country’s coronavirus restrictions.

The Welsh Government's decision has been criticised at Westminster by Health Minister Sajid Javid, who said that he “cannot see how restricting outdoor exercise is justified or proportionate”.

Parkruns have been one of the many areas of life hit particularly hard over the last two years by the pandemic and the ever-changing rules and restrictions on Covid.

At one point, no Parkruns had been able to take place for 70 weeks.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson's lifting of lockdown in July of this year saw the event's return with jubilant scenes in Harrogate and elsewhere as thousands of joggers and walkers turned out.

For more information, visit www.parkrun.org.uk/harrogate/