Hopes that Solihull parkruns could resume at the start of June have been dashed, due to hold-ups in other parts of the country.
The running events, which are held locally in Brueton Park and Babbs Mill, at Kingshurst, came to an abrupt halt when the Covid crisis struck last spring – with no races staged since March 2020.
Reaching agreements to restart the UK-wide programme has been challenging – a planned return last autumn was scrapped and talks have proven tricky even as the latest lockdown has eased.
Last week ParkrunUK confirmed that Solihull Council had been among the landowners to have given the green light to a restart.
But tentative plans to hold the first local races on June 5 have been dropped, because more than half of venues nationwide are yet to grant permission.
Organisers argue a “critical mass” of the 729 registered events need approval, in order to avoid the risk of overcrowding at certain sites.
Cllr Joe Tildesley, the council’s cabinet member for leisure, tourism and sport, said he had been discussing local arrangements in recent weeks.
“From my point of view I’m desperate for it to start again,” he told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS).
“The parkrun that takes place in Solihull centre – at Brueton Park – has to be one of the largest in terms of the number of people.”
Just weeks before the first lockdown he had attended an anniversary event – to mark Brueton’s 500th contest – with almost 750 people tackling the course.
Cllr Tildesley said the events were “so important” in terms of public health and has voiced hope that the programme will eventually be expanded to other parts of the borough.
But, for now, reluctance in other areas has meant that getting underway within the fortnight has been ruled-out.
Updating local runners on Friday, organisers of the Brueton event said: “The hoped for restart date has now been delayed.
“The next important date for your diaries is June 11, when a decision will be made on their next intended start date of June 26.”
Parkrun’s national team has described the three-week delay as “disappointing” but said it was still “optimistic” about being able to start again soon.
Cllr Tildesley pointed out that the end of next month would fall after the date at which it is hoped remaining coronavirus restrictions would be lifted.
Although he said it would be down to government to give a steer on whether, for example, participants would be asked to take rapid Covid tests before running.
While outdoor sport was one of the first things allowed to resume when the latest lockdown began to ease, the sheer number of participants at parkruns – some can attract more than 1,000 people – had caused some uncertainty.
Some politicians and public figures have nonetheless been highly critical of the red tape and wrangles blamed for the hold-up.
Retired long jumper and Olympic gold medallist Greg Rutherford had said: “If we’re all allowed to go and pile into restaurants and pubs again, why on earth would we not be allowed to run about outside?”
The 5k runs through Brueton Park, in central Solihull, have been taking place for around a decade, while a second event, at Babbs Mill, was officially launched in 2019.