Health Secretary Sajid Javid has said he “cannot see how restricting outdoor exercise is justified or proportionate” after Parkrun cancelled its running clubs in Wales because of the country’s coronavirus restrictions.
Mr Javid hit out as he tweeted a statement from Parkrun, which outlined how restrictions in the UK would affect events going forward.
So far, Parkrun has cancelled its free, 5k runs taking place in Wales, as restrictions there mean gatherings cannot happen if more than 50 people attend.
In the statement, published on its website on December 22, Parkrun said: “With increasing uncertainty about impending restrictions and how they might impact Parkrun and junior Parkrun events, we’d like to take this opportunity to update our communities around the country.
“The evidence remains clear that the infection risks presented by outdoor events like ours are exceptionally low and the public health benefits of remaining open are incredibly high. It is our intention, therefore, that whatever parkrun events are legally permitted to operate they should do so.
“The Welsh Government has also announced a gathering limit of 50 people. It does mean that we have no choice but to suspend all our 5k events from 1 January onwards. We know that some Welsh Parkrun events regularly have fewer than 50 people attending, however it would take a very small influx for them to exceed the limit.”
The spokesman said that all Parkruns scheduled to take place in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland will still happen as they are in line with restrictions in those countries.
As he posted the link to his Twitter page, Mr Javid tweeted: “Parkrun has helped so many people improve their health across the UK. I can’t see how restricting outdoor exercise in this way is justified or proportionate.”
Parkruns in England for adults only returned in July this year when coronavirus restrictions were lifted.
Many said they were glad to attend Parkrun again in July.
Wes Ball, 42, from Buckinghamshire, said: “When you get there it is one of the most uplifting things you can do. It’s never a race, it’s always a chance to go running with friends.”
Cameron Dockerill, 24, added: “It has been a lonely time for a lot of people with lots of lonely training miles, solo runs, along with virtual and cancelled races.
“It is good to have people cheering you on. I think this (Parkrun) makes a difference not only to someone’s physical health but also to their mental health as well.”