It has been reported tonight that Little Stoke Parish Council have decided to charge runners to use their park for the local Parkrun. The great outdoors is special because it’s the only place where we can be guaranteed our freedom to follow our natural and historical instinct to exercise freely, without charge. Our need to run is a primal instinct and should not be constrained.
A park is a public space, paid for by taxes, looked after by the council, used by the public. To charge to use a public place is surely wrong?
Consider the health crisis that this country is currently going through. There has been a rise in obesity and diabetes levels in the last few years which has left medical professionals clamouring for people to get more exercise. The NHS recently reported that the UK topped Europe’s obesity league, a league where it is better to be at the foot rather than the head of the table. That same report outlines the importance of a healthy lifestyle to the maintenance of a healthy body. Yet Little Stock Parish Council seems intent on charging people to use their park to do just that! To exercise doesn’t just provide physical benefits but social ones too for those who attend regularly and become a part of the community. Like with any group of like-minded people, an activity becomes more enjoyable when done together. Organisations like Parkrun don’t just allow people to exercise together but encourage people to exercise in the first place. A solo run through your local streets may not be an attractive proposition but one done alongside a friendly group of people in the local park becomes a more appealing prospect. There is an added safety to being part of an organised group of runners, for a start there is less of a chance of getting lost and becoming disorientated in unfamiliar surroundings. You are running alongside other people making the prospect of being accosted by unwanted company less daunting. And, perhaps most importantly, it is fun to run and compete with like-minded people.
I have been to my local Parkrun at Heaton Park on a handful of occasions and have found the camaraderie and the opportunity to run alongside other runners for one session a week, really enjoyable. It provides the opportunity to better yourself by running the same course week-on-week or catch up with the members of the Parkrun community who you haven’t seen for a few months. Through Parkrun and other, local free running communities, I have met other like-minded runners who have become friends.
Parkrun pride themselves on providing ‘free, weekly, 5km timed runs around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in’. They are all-inclusive, it doesn’t matter who you are or whether you have been before, everyone is welcome. The best thing about Parkrun is that they are not confined to one part of the country, Parkrun events can be found across the world in 395 locations. To achieve such a level of organisation and participation is a fantastic feat.
Last night Parkrun released a statement about the decision which can be found here.
I hope that the Parkrun community at Little Stoke Parkrun appeal this obscure decision and support the freedom that we all should have to exercise together, as a community in a public space. After all, exercise should be actively encouraged, especially when organised in such an inspirational way…