Charge for Parkrun? Has the world gone mad?

Regular readers will know that I’m addicted to Parkrun. Every Saturday morning I possibly can, I’m running 3 miles (or 5k if you’re modern) around the park, usually with my daughter, teenage son and husband in tow.

Parkruns are run in towns, cities and suburbs across the UK, every Saturday morning at 9am, as well as another 11 countries around the world. And they’re ALWAYS FREE. That’s the principle of Parkrun. It’s essentially a run with friends. It’s people getting together, enjoying the fresh air and running (or walking) a manageable distance before they get on with their weekends.

Parkrun is for everyone – super-fast competitive runners, small children, families running together, older people, overweight people, people running with their dogs, people running pushing buggies (even double buggies). Everyone is welcome. It doesn’t matter if you run it in 16 minutes or walk it in 45 minutes. You’ve all got yourselves up and out of bed and covered the distance.

For some people, it is the first step towards a healthier lifestyle. For some people it is the only exercise they get all week. Without Parkrun, they may not get any exercise at all.

And that is why it is so important.

So the news that Stoke Gifford Parish Council, just outside Bristol, is planning to charge for Little Stoke Parkrun has come as huge shock to the Parkrun community. Because you can’t charge for Parkrun. If the Parish Council insists on charging, the Parkrun will cease to exist.

The council claims the Parkrunners are damaging the surfaces and it is unfair on other park-users.

The Parkrunners are already paying for that park, through their council tax. Parks exist so that people can get fresh air and exercise. What is better exercise than running three miles?

Parkrun, Running, 365, 366

By doing that exercise, they are getting healthier. They are saving money on other public services, particularly health services.

But what about the football teams? They have to pay!

Football teams are paying to use a pitch, they are paying for exclusive use of an area of the park. Parkrunners do not have exclusive use, they are using the park like anyone else would do who was running or walking in the park. The Parkrunners are not getting in anyone’s way. They always give way to other park-users.

I’m pleased to say that people have come out in their droves against this council and in support of Parkrun and all it stands for. I really hope that this isn’t setting a precedent which will snowball and spell the beginning of the end for Parkrun.

Because Parkrun is so important for so many people and has so many health and social benefits. Parkrun has to continue as it always has done – free to runners.

I was asked to go on BBC Radio Gloucestershire this morning to talk about the importance of Parkrun and why it should always be free. Want to hear me? I’m here talking at 1 hour 38 and it’ll be there until 12th May.

Daughter, Running, Parkrun, 365, 366

Author: Sarah Mummy

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27 Comments

  1. Quick question – which has been bothering me for 24 hours whilst mulling this over (also as a parkrun fan)… do Parish councils actualy receive money from the Council Tax funds (in the same way town and borough councils do) or are they expected to fund everything from Parish funds?

    My fence sitting stems from the fact that parkrun IS a free event, held locally for me however the other community running group that I volunteer for has to book its Celebration Runs one year in advance and DOES have to pay for the use of the park for the three hours that the event is held (even though we don’t pay for park use during the 9 week programme). It just feels like these charges spring up irregularly, don’t they?

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    • Parish councils do get a very small amount from council tax.
      There isn’t much logic to what is and isn’t charged for – it does seem strange to have to pay for your celebrations runs!

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  2. It seems to me that local councils should be doing there best to encourage fitness not discourage it. These people can run together or separately and it will make no difference to wear and tear to parks. There’s something not right about charging for something which is run by volunteers and does no harm to anyone.

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    • Absolutely! There is no reason to charge at all and every reason to encourage people to exercise.

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  3. Totally agree with Erica above, its volunteer led, if you start charging wouldn’t that incur extra costs like health & safety stuff as it’s a paid event. My teen loves running it’s a perfect opportunity for him to get out in a safe place. I can’t wait to volunteer.

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    • Good luck! I’m sure your volunteering would be very much appreciated. They do need a lot of volunteers and I’m sure volunteering regularly would be great fun.

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  4. This makes me so cross. Hundreds of people trying to do the right thing by looking after their physical and mental health, staying active and being sociable. And done mindless bunch of wallys come along and spoil it by making it about money. Well done for sticking up for park run.
    Nat.x

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    • Thanks very much! I hope the parish council now realise just what wallys they’ve been! Their decision really does make no sense at all and they clearly had no idea how important Parkrun is to people and what the health benefits of it are. x

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  5. It wouldn’t even be so bad if they were saying that the volunteers needed paying as they couldn’t afford to give up so much free time and so there was a voluntary donation – but wear and tear of the park is ridiculous!

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    • It really is ridiculous! There’s always going to be wear and tear on a park, whatever people are doing. That’s what parks are for!

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    • Thanks very much! That’s such a lovely thing to say 🙂

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  6. Why all of a sudden the change? Why do councils have to keep changing things that have worked perfectly well as they are? They certainly picked the right person to interview!

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    • Thanks very much! It was a great honour to talk about it.
      This was clearly a very short-sighted decision by this council and I really hope they’re regretting it now!

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  7. Sarah,
    The logical next step [!] would be a licence for pedestrians, to pay for the wear and tear they cause to the pavements.
    There’s a lot to be said in favour of a market economy, but nowadays we live in a market society.

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    • Absolutely! And do we charge heavier people more? Do we charge double for dogs or buggies? 😉

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  8. I thought of you when I heard the article on the news
    Well done, nicely said and defended.
    Do you know the ones that annoy me that really really chew the parks up? The bikes and horses make one hell of a mess. They seriously chew up paths and make a lot of muddy mess.

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    • Thanks very much! It’s amazing how many people thought of me 🙂
      Bikes and horses certainly make a lot more mess than runners.

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  9. Typical something positive happens and the council come up with a way to ruin it, what a load of tosh!

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    • It certainly is a load of old tosh! I’m pleased that this council has no support whatsoever, so hopefully this will be just one isolated case.

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  10. You would think a Parish council would see that there are huge benefits of having a healthy and happy community by allowing free Parkruns. Next they’ll be charging kids to climb trees – or perhaps they already ban that too? Well done you for raising your voice. It’s thanks to your posts on Parkruns that I’ve even checked out if there’s one near us.

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    • Thanks very much! Nice to know I’ve inspired you to look for a Parkrun 🙂
      It’s incredible how short-sighted this council are being. You would think they should see that the health benefits far outweigh anything else.

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  11. I’ve never heard of this before and think it’s an utterly fantastic idea to get the nation out of bed and get that oxygen pumping at the weekend! You’re right, it should be free because yes, we do already pay for the upkeep of the park and as you say, I’m sure Parkrunners respect their environment. Hope the campaign does the trick…

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    • Thanks very much! It’s massively raised the profile of Parkrun and got so much support. I’m not sure if they will be able to save this particular Parkrun, but I’m sure this proposal won’t spread to any others because of the weight of the opposition!

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  12. This is absolutely ridiculous! What are they trying to achieve? Don’t they realise that it will just backfire on them? I think it is a world gone greedy!

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    • Thanks very much, I think you’re right! They clearly didn’t realise it would backfire on them or I’m sure they wouldn’t have done it! They’ve ended up on the national news, they obviously had no idea that would happen.

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  13. What a completely bonkers decision and it sounds so knee jerk to charge for it. What happened after all that? Did they back down? I hope so! Just on a huge catch up now after my week off 🙂

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