March 18, 2020 / 10:05 AM / 16 days ago

Mass participation parkruns cancelled in UK

FILE PHOTO: Runners take part in the Northwich parkrun in Northwich, Britain - Northwich, Britain - March 14, 2020 - Action Images via Reuters/Jason Cairnduff/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - The parkrun movement, where around a quarter of a million people worldwide take part in weekly, free, 5km runs organised by volunteers, has become the latest coronavirus victim, as all 675 UK events were put on hold on Wednesday.

Organised sport, both at professional and grass roots level and including all organised athletics events, has almost ground to a halt in the UK after government advice to limit public gatherings.

“In line with public health advice, we have taken the decision to close all parkrun events across the United Kingdom with immediate effect,” parkrun’s chief operating officer Tom William said in a statement.

“Initially, this closure will be in place until the end of March, however this is largely to bring all parkrun countries into the same time frame and we very much expect closures to continue through April at least.

“Please rest assured that we are working hard to develop our strategy so that we are able to support the health and happiness of parkrunners around the world during this difficult time.”

Parkrun began as a group of 13 friends in a south-west London park in 2004 and has grown into a worldwide phenomenon.

In the UK, around 140,000 usually take part in events each week, with another 15,000 volunteering. There are more than 1,300 events worldwide, with another 288 junior events and the movement has been widely credited with having a beneficial impact on the mental and physical wellbeing of attendees.

Reporting by Mitch Phillips; Editing by Giles Elgood

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