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World Athletics and parkrun unite in health and fitness drive

World Athletics president Seb Coe and his son Harry Coe join hundreds of runners at a bespoke parkrun in London (by Ian Gavan/Getty Images for Vitality)

World Athletics has reached an agreement with mass participation events company Parkrun through which they will seek to combine their resources to grow the sport of athletics and deliver health and fitness benefits for communities around the world.

Parkrun was founded in the UK in 2004 and has since expanded to 20 countries over the past decade, with more than three million participants globally taking part in free, weekly 2km or 5km organised runs at their local parks.

World Athletics, which has 214 member federations, will seek to promote Parkrun, while the latter will leave community health legacies in the host countries of World Athletics Series events by creating a series of permanent Parkruns in the host cities and countries of world championship events, including the 2022 and 2023 World Championships in Oregon and Budapest, respectively. To that end, World Athletics will facilitate government/city support for these events.

World Athletics chief executive Jon Ridgeon said: “We have just approved a strategic plan that has the main objective of using the power and accessibility of athletics and our athletes to create a healthier and fitter world. One of the ways we are doing this is by developing strong new partnerships where our common cause is to get the world moving.

“We know that many more people have taken up running during the lockdowns around the world, which makes sense because our sport is the most universal and accessible of all sports, and we want to encourage those people to keep up their new fitness routines as life returns to a more normal footing after the pandemic. Doing a weekly Parkrun is an excellent way to stay motivated and find a local running community once mass events are possible again.

“We’re also determined to leave tangible community legacies in all of our future host cities and countries, and there is no better way to do that than by helping to improve the health of their citizens.”

Parkrun suspended its events in March due to the Covid-19 outbreak, but its New Zealand division announced last week that it will be able to resume on July 4, with measures in place to allow contact tracing of participants.

Parkrun chief executive Nick Pearson said: “This partnership offers Parkrun a fantastic platform to demonstrate the role, relevance and value of community health and wellbeing initiatives and to highlight that sport and physical activity is accessible to all.

“We believe that finding positive ways to connect grass roots and community activity with elite sport has multiple benefits and builds stronger sporting foundations and broader engagement. Exercise and physical activity is more accessible and sustainable where sports organisations collaborate and work towards mutual goals.

“Encouraging the social and community participants to engage with and experience a more competitive sporting environment will help to build a stronger sport and expose pathways to more sporting opportunities.”