Parkrun hit the national headlines a few back when Stoke Gifford Parish Council decided to charge parkrun for staging the free weekly 5km runs there. Because the ethos of parkrun is to provide free timed runs weekly to anyone that wants to participate, the event was cancelled.
Parkrun is a network of 5km timed runs that are free and open to everyone. They begin at 9am at various locations across the UK.
The idea started out in Bushey Park, the brainchild of Paul Sinton-Hewitt in 2004, and has spread round the world:
and for a while at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.
Parkrun isn't a charity, it's a social enterprise receiving grants from charities, public funds and some commercial sponsorship. It's these grants that enable it to allow people to take part free of charge.
Stoke Gifford Parish council may be the one to hit the headlines, but our own North Herts District Council has blocked parkruns across the district. For 2 years I worked with parkrun to try to get a route agreed in Letchworth, but NHDC consistently refused, saying that they couldn't afford the upkeep of the paths that would be used. A team led by some of the members of the Hitchin Running Club tried to get one up and running in Hitchin, but NHDC again blocked.
I understand the argument: there's no question that having a couple of hundred people turn out every week pounding the same 5km stretch of trail will increase maintenance costs. At a time of austerity, when across the UK park budgets in district councils have been cut to 45% of what they were previously, there's a real issue there.
Personally, though, NHDC's refusal to allow parkrun makes me question what the council is for in the first place. Isn't local government there to improve the quality of life of local citizens? Far from blocking people wanting to take up activity and become healthy, I'd have thought NHDC would want to leap at the opportunity to promote well-being.
Fortunately there are other councils who aren't as narrow-minded, short-sighted or just plain stupid as North Herts. There are 2 new parkruns starting up close-by in the next fortnight.
Next saturday, 21st May 2016 sees the inaugural parkrun at Ellenbrook Fields, part of the sports village of the University of Hertfordshire, at Hatfield.
The course is a loop of the field on fairly flat ground, so will be a good intro for those doing a parkrun for the first time.
Like all parkruns, it starts at 9am sharp!
A week later, on Saturday 28th May 2016, the inaugural Stevenage parkrun at Fairlands Valley Park begins.
The course is 2 laps of the park, running clockwise, alongside the lake.
Do give them a go, they're a great way of motivating yourself to get fit and stay fit.