Runners gather in Cardiff to protest ‘crazy’ Covid rule banning parkruns

After ParkRun canceled its popular weekly event, runners angered by strict outdoor COVID restrictions ran an alternative group in Cardiff.

About 15 people took part in a 5-km run at Bute Park on Saturday morning. Organizer Andrew Fairclough said the purpose of the ‘Not a ParkRun’ event was to send the message to First Minister Mark Drakeford that “health and fitness is paramount”.

ParkRun has canceled its 5k run in Wales as rules prohibit gatherings of more than 50 people. Although the Welsh government did not specifically ban parkruns, the organizers felt that they could not ensure a limit of 50. Hundreds of people usually attend the Cardiff event.

Read more: Mark Drakeford gave all the answers to why the restrictions are staying in Wales

Mr Fairclough, who has done the weekly parkrun since 2017, said he does not understand why people can meet in pubs in Wales but not run together in large groups in the open air.

The 43-year-old from Pen-Y-Lan said: “I’m asking Mark Drakeford to give us some evidence. People want some understanding. They say they haven’t banned ParkRun, but it just demonstrates the disconnect. It does. It’s a community where Cardiff has 600 to 700 people every week. It drives me home that he doesn’t understand what a parkrun is.”

The Not a Parkrun program on Saturdays at 9 a.m. covers the same course as the official ParkRun. Mr Fairclough said if more than 50 people came, he would divide the runners into groups to avoid breaking the law.

Andrew Fairclough

“I am a law-abiding person,” he said. “The intention is certainly not to rebel in any way. This is to highlight the importance of group exercise.”

The dad-of-two, who works in the pharmaceutical industry, said: “I believe the restrictions around the game are fundamentally wrong.

“During the pandemic I believe, from what we have been told about the coronavirus, that the effects, in terms of outcomes, are better for fitter and healthier people.”

Among those participating in the Not a Parkrun was Dave Koebner, former Director of Sport at Cardiff Metropolitan University. The 67-year-old retiree said there was “no rationale” for restrictions on the sport.

runner warm up
Not a park run. Runner-up for Warm Up

“Thousands of people will be attending sporting events across the border in England today, sitting side by side,” he said. “Exercising in the open air is one of the best things you can do for your mental health, physical health, and general well-being. I’m very supportive of the cause.”

James, one of the runners, said: “I think it’s a little crazy actually. We’re out with a lot of distance between each group [of runners], There’s no reason why we can’t all be out to do our exercise.”

Another runner, Christie, said: “I agree with most [the Welsh Government’s restrictions], But I think with things like parkruns, where everyone’s out there and everyone’s distance while running, I think that’s a shame and it’s going to affect a lot of people’s health.”

Mr Fairclough plans to continue the Not a Parkrun every Saturday while restrictions remain in place. He has invited Mr. Drakeford to attend to see the benefits of the programme.

In a statement on 22 December, ParkRun said: “The evidence is clear that the infection risks presented by outdoor events like ours are exceptionally low and the public health benefits of staying open are incredibly high. Therefore, we intend that those Even if Parkrun events are legally allowed to operate, they must do so.

“The Welsh government has also announced a gathering limit of 50 people. This means that we have no choice but to postpone all our 5k events from January 1. We do know that some Welsh ParkRun events regularly take part in fewer than 50 people. However, there will be little inflow for them to cross the border.”

not a park run
Runners Begin Not A Park Run

UK Health Secretary Sajid Javid posted a tweet criticizing the Welsh government’s stance: “Parkarun has helped so many people across the UK improve their health. I can’t see why outdoor exercise like this How is it reasonable or proportionate to restrict?

A spokesman for the Welsh Government said: “Nothing is prohibited, but ParkRun has made the decision to cancel adult events in Wales as a precaution, but are still running junior meets here.

“The Welsh Government is in close contact with organizers in Wales to explore how Parkruns can be operated within a maximum of 50 people allowed to attend outside events.

“Unfortunately, ParkRun as a global initiative has been unable to adapt its model for one country and thus have decided to temporarily cancel adult events here.”

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