Joggers and walkers enjoy first Parkruns in England since lockdown ended

PhD student Cameron Dockerill, 24, took 16 minutes to become the first person to complete the Southwark Parkrun.

Joggers and walkers enjoy first Parkruns in England since lockdown ended

Joggers and walkers have said they are delighted after taking part in the first Parkruns in England for adults since coronavirus restrictions were lifted.

The free 5km runs, which take place in parks, were suspended during the pandemic.

They are billed as a chance for people – regardless of age, gender or ability – to regularly run, jog or walk together and enjoy their local park.

Lots of people stayed behind to cheer on Paul Williams, 63, who was the last of the 293 finishers at the Southwark Parkrun in south-east London.

Paul Williams was cheered on at the Parkrun (PA)

He took an hour and 16 minutes to walk around the course and said he has “missed” the Parkruns during the Covid-19 pandemic.

After finishing his 78th park walk, Mr Williams, who has volunteered at over 30 Parkruns which included cheering on runners from an adapted chair, said: “I have been stuck indoors for about a year because I have got diabetes and I wasn’t allowed to go out. There was no exercise. I have been meeting everyone again and seeing everybody.

“It gives me exercise, helps me lose weight. I like to keep myself fit and to talk to people.”

Coronavirus – Sat Jul 24, 2021
A runner passes two deer as he takes part in the Parkrun at Bushy Park in London (Victoria Jones/PA)

He said: “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 again. I think this (Parkrun) makes a difference not only to someone’s physical health but also to their mental health as well. It has been quite a lonely time and to come here is quite uplifting.”

Lawyer KC Lloyd, 32, ran with her 11-month-old daughter Edie Cameron in a buggy, who was not born the last time the run was staged.

Coronavirus – Sat Jul 24, 2021
A runner pushes her buggy during Parkrun (Victoria Jones/PA)

“It has just been so lovely to be with all of our friends again and seeing everybody. It has been part of our Saturday and our community that has been missing for the past 16 months. It is so nice to be back.”

She said she thinks her daughter, who was smiling and quiet, was “probably overwhelmed because she has not seen this many people before”.

Parkruns are now part of the weekly calendar after lockdown was lifted in England on July 19, allowing outdoor running events to return.

Coronavirus – Sat Jul 24, 2021
People take part in the Parkrun at Bushy Park in London, one of many runs taking place across the country for the first time since last March (Victoria Jones/PA)

They included a wider starting point on the grass, a longer finishing area to aid social distancing along with an app to record people’s times.

He said: “A lot of the runners and volunteers here, we are seeing for the first time since lockdown. They have all been saying ‘thank you’ and ‘I hope there is not another lockdown because I have missed Parkrun so much.’

Mr Moemere, who is an NHS wellbeing adviser, said the organisers looked at how they could support people who might have anxiety about being in a crowd for the first time in a long while.

He said there are lots of measures in place to help keep people safe, adding: “I know people who have struggled to come out. I have had friends that I go on long runs at the weekends who during Covid-19 have been anxious about it. I tell them to wait until they can build up confidence.”

Parkrun returns
Wes Ball runs with his son William at a weekly Parkrun event in Buckinghamshire (Wes Ball/PA)

He 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.”

During lockdown, he and other fellow runners held virtual Parkruns on Facebook where people undertook challenges or posted selfies to keep the community spirit alive during lockdown.

Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, of the Local Government Association, said: “These popular events are incredibly valuable for many people in supporting both their physical and mental health and wellbeing.”

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