The return of parkrun in England has been pushed back until the end of next month at the earliest after organisers failed to persuade enough venues to allow it to resume on 5 June.
The news will come as a huge disappointment to the 300,000 people who take part in the free timed 5km event on a typical weekend. However organisers decided they had no choice after just 250 of the 589 venues granted approval – which risked overwhelming those events that had received the go-ahead.
The problem was seen as particularly acute in London, with only three out of 56 events having permission to reopen. However the parkrun chief, Nick Pearson, is now cautiously optimistic that the ‘magic number’ of around 80% of venues can be reached in time to allow it to restart nationally on 26 June.
“We’re obviously disappointed not to be back on 5 June,” said Pearson. “There’s deflation and frustration. But we will do everything we can to ensure events restart on 26 June.”
A decision regarding the new date will be made on 11 June.
Parkrun was initially given permission to return by the government in March having worked for months alongside the DCMS, Public Health England and Sport England to produce a framework for its safe and legal return. However it found that permission requests to landowners and local councils got caught up in red tape and lengthy internal bureaucracy at a local level, with many reluctant to give the go-ahead.
Crucially since parkrun revealed last week its return could be delayed indefinitely there has been a significant swell of press and public support – as well as interventions from culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, and the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, that have publicly supported its return.
“We do understand local authorities are under pressure and light on resources, which is why we did the work to present a national framework for our return and got it signed off by national organisations,” said Pearson.
“But there has been significant cross party support and the intervention of the culture minister in committing to resolving issues at the local level makes us much more optimistic,” he added.
On Wednesday Lord Coe became the biggest name yet to call for parkrun to return, warning: “We risk losing it forever” and suggesting it was unfair for parkrun to wait while pubs and restaurants had reopened.
“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,” he wrote.
“If we can shop, eat and drink inside restaurants, visit other families in their home, watch live sport, go to the gym, play centres and the theatre then putting on an organised community running event in our parks is really a ‘no brainer’.”