Parkrun is an increasingly popular weekly event wherein hundreds of runners will descend on their local park to run a timed 5k with other local residents.
Parkrun organises 850 runs in 12 countries and its ethos is for the event to be free and open to everyone. The UK is currently experiencing an epidemic of inactivity, with government figures showing the cost of physical inactivity to the UK taxpayer as £7.4 billion a year, with 48% of women and 37% of men failing to achieve the UK Chief Medical Officer's' recommended 150 minutes of physical activity per week.
However, Stoke Gifford Parish Council said it was "unfair" to expect non-running residents to pay for path maintenance and have suggested the runners pay for their park usage. The parish council said in a statement it: "cannot and will not stop people from using the parks for exercise and running but when it comes to an organisation with paid directors, fundraisers and sponsors it would be unfair to expect the residents to pay."
Within hours of the news being released, the parish council faced oppression from celebrities such as world record holder Paula Radcliffe, double gold medalist Kelly Holmes, former tennis star and television presenter Sue Barker, the sports minister and the mayor of Bristol, as well as tens of thousands of the general public.
Despite the outrage, the parish council stood by its statement, suggesting that Parkrun has become a victim of its own success. The chairman of the parish council, Ernest Brown, conceded it was not possible to evaluate the cost of the runners’ impact on the park, but said: “Three hundred feet pounding the paths every Saturday morning does cause extra wear.”
"The parish council has only recently paid out £55,000 from public funds for resurfacing the car park and with the additional 300-plus runners per week, will shortly need to replace/repair the path at an estimated cost of £60,000, so as Parkrun are significant users of the path on a regular basis they should contribute towards the upkeep," they said.
Tom Williams, Chief Operating Officer for Parkrun, said: “Parkrun has successfully moved nearly 60,000 previously inactive people into regular healthy activity. The key to this success has been a focus on removing barriers to event delivery as much as barriers to participation."
In their latest statement Parkrun claim: “Following on from last night’s decision by Stoke Gifford Parish Council to impose a charge at Little Stoke Parkrun, we intend to appeal the decision and are investigating whether there is a legal basis to do so.”