Hundreds looking forward to Harrogate Parkrun's return but stakes remain high as Boris Johnson strikes note of caution

The stakes are high for everyone come the July 19 'Freedom Day' for England next week - but spare a thought for health-promoting events such as Parkrun which have been unable to operate since the first lockdown in March 2020.

Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 9:47 am
Updated Tuesday, 13th July 2021, 9:48 am
Tom Williams, Parkrun’s global chief operating officer, who lives in Harrogate, confirmed last week that the free to enter weekly 5km run would be returning on Saturday, July 24.

Tom Williams, Parkrun’s global chief operating officer, who lives in Harrogate, confirmed only last week that the free to enter weekly 5km run would finally be returning on Saturday, July 24.

After several previous restart dates had to be cancelled as Covid rules evolved and lockdowns came and went, Harrogate Parkrun organiser Ted Welton told the Harrogate Advertiser that, all being well, the free event would be back on the Stray that day, too.

That positive note also meant runners - there are 536 Parkruns held nationwide each week on Saturday mornings at 9am in normal times with with three million registered participants - could also look forward to the return of Knaresborough Parkrun at Conyngham Hall and Ripon Parkrun at Fountain’s Abbey.

But last night's press conference by Prime Minister Boris Johnson has thrown up more questions than it has answered as he confirmed the Covid unlocking date would still take place in just six days time while, at the same time, urging caution all round.

The PM stressed the end of legal restrictions to combat the pandemic on Monday, July 19 did not mean the pandemic was over and he would be keeping all the data under review into next year.

And, he added, if a new variant emerges that was causing problems "then we must rule nothing out".

Mr Johnson said: "We are confident if we go slowly we can proceed with the roadmap. We will not hesitate to use the means we have at our disposal to protect the public."

Some Conservative MPs now believe some Covid restrictions will return in the winter.

After a year of many false dawns, an additional concern for the volunteers who organise Parkruns is that previous attempts at a relaunch were scuppered by the reluctance of a substantial number of landowners, including a number of local authorities, to grant permission to use their land for the 5k races during lockdown.

Harrogate Borough Council has been supportive this year of the various attempts to restart Parkruns in this district and the July 24 date became a realistic option when almost all other landowners fell into line across the country.

Volunteers behind Harrogate Parkrun had been all set to go on the original date of June 5th after securing the approval of Harrogate Borough Council, but they were forced to delay by the national situation.

Recent hopeful signs have included in Northern Ireland where the full return of all 5k Parkrun events was achieved on Saturday, June 26.

Junior Parkruns, a 2k run for children aged four to 14 years old, have already kicked off across all of the UK with more than 10,000 children taking part recently in 228 events supported by more than 4,500 volunteers.

In total, the UK has held 167,109 Parkruns since the first event in October 2004.

Since Harrogate Parkrun started in 2012, a total of 16,670 runners have completed the 5k course on the Stray.