Parkrun CEO Stands Behind Record Removal In Open Letter Despite Petition With 15,000 Signatures

The petition to reverse the new "inclusivity policies" has garnered thousands of signatures in just a week

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In a recent development sparking debate within the running community, Parkrun CEO Russ Jefferys has penned an open letter justifying the organization’s decision to stop displaying certain performance-related statistics on its website. 

The decision, which includes the removal of course records, first finishes, and age-grade records, aims to foster a more inclusive environment within the Parkrun community, according to Jeffreys.

The organization claims these efforts are aimed at eliminating potential barriers to participation and registration. Jefferys emphasizes Parkrun’s core mission of inspiring those from all backgrounds to come together for social and active engagement in the great outdoors. 

Jefferys asserts that Parkrun’s primary focus is on community-building and promoting accessibility to physical activity, particularly for those who may not typically engage in traditional sports or fitness activities.

Parkrun CEO Stands Behind Record Removal In Open Letter Despite Petition With 15,000 Signatures 1

Acknowledging the diversity of motivations among Parkrun participants, Jefferys highlights the organization’s commitment to creating a welcoming space for everyone, regardless of their level of competitiveness. 

He emphasizes Parkrun’s role in transforming lives, citing examples such as individuals with long-term health conditions, those combating loneliness, and those seeking free access to exercise opportunities.

While acknowledging the significance of personal statistics as motivators for some participants, Jefferys reassures the community that individual performance data will still be available through weekly emails.

In addressing concerns raised by some members of the community, including former event directors and athletes, Jefferys maintains that the decision to remove certain records was guided by Parkrun’s overarching mission and values

He refutes allegations of a “hidden agenda,” emphasizing the decision was not made in light of transgender athletes topping the records at some Parkrun events.

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In response to Parkrun’s decision to remove records, an online petition was launched on change.org to reinstate statistics for all Parkrun events. The petition, which was created by Mary Taylor on February 9, 2024, has already amassed nearly 15,000 signatures:

“This petition is about the removal of the course data that was displayed on the parkrun website, such as ‘Age Category Records’ ‘Fastest 500’ ‘First Finishers’ and ‘Sub 17 and Sub 20’ (5k parkrun) for each individual parkrun and junior parkrun.

My son, like many other runners, has seen his course achievements vanish overnight. The removal of statistics from parkrun has left a void in the hearts of many participants. These stats are not just numbers; they represent personal milestones and progress that inspire runners of all abilities to push their limits.

Statistics have always been an integral part of parkrun. They provide a tangible measure of improvement and motivate participants to keep striving for better results. For my son and countless others, these stats serve as a testament to their hard work and dedication.

The decision to remove these statistics is disheartening, especially for those who rely on them as motivation or use them as benchmarks for their fitness goals. Without these stats, the essence of friendly competition and self-improvement that parkrun embodies is lost.

We understand that changes may be necessary at times but believe this particular change negatively impacts the community spirit inherent in Parkrun events. We urge the management team at parkrun to reconsider this decision and reinstate these statistics for all participants.

Please sign this petition if you believe in the importance of maintaining records that celebrate personal achievement and foster a sense of community among runners everywhere.

Bring back the stats!

Reasons for signing the petition:

Thank you for all the valuable feedback from those who have already signed. It is humbling to see why these stats means so much to so many different people, across every part of our community. The main points coming through strongly are:

  • Strong disagreement with the removal of age records and certain statistics from parkrun.
  • Belief that statistics, including age-graded records and league tables, are crucial for motivation, inspiration, and personal achievement.
  • Feeling disheartened and disconnected from the essence of parkrun due to the removal of these statistics.
  • Assertion that age records and statistics contribute significantly to the inclusive and communal nature of parkrun.
  • Emphasis on the importance of categorised age records and league tables in creating inspiration for runners of all levels.
  • Concern that the decision diminishes the joy of the event, discourages self-improvement, and makes parkrun less inclusive.
  • Emphasis on the need for transparency, consultation, and consideration of the majority opinion within the parkrunning community.
  • Belief that the restoration of age records and statistics is essential for the continued enjoyment, motivation, and inclusivity of parkrun.
  • Call for parkrun to reconsider the decision and reinstate the removed age records and statistics.”
Parkrun CEO Stands Behind Record Removal In Open Letter Despite Petition With 15,000 Signatures 3
Photo via Parkrun

Despite the controversy surrounding the decision, Parkrun remains steadfast in its commitment to providing free, accessible, and welcoming events for participants worldwide. 

Jefferys expressed hope that the Parkrun community will understand and support the organization’s efforts to promote inclusivity and remove barriers to participation, reaffirming Parkrun’s status as a beacon of social health initiative in communities around the globe.

You can read the full letter from Parkrun CEO Russ Jefferys below:

Dear parkrun community; ambassadors, event teams, and all participants. To the people who come along every weekend to be a part of the feel good phenomenon that is parkrun, to the occasional parkrunners, and to those yet to experience the magic.

When I took up my post as CEO, just over two years ago, I knew I was taking on the best job in the world. Because parkrun matters. It matters to me, it matters to millions of people around the world, it matters every single weekend, fifty two weeks of the year.

What I also knew when I took up this role, is that there would be plenty of challenges that would need to be faced head on. I knew that there would be big calls to make, and I knew that ultimately, I would be the person responsible for making them. 

With that said, I want to take full responsibility for what has happened over the past week surrounding the changes to the way we display performance related statistics and information on our websites.

And I want to take this opportunity to explain to you, the parkrun community, why we took the decision that we did.

Parkrun only exists to inspire people, from any background, to come together, to be social, and active, in the great outdoors. That’s it. There is no other motive.

To do this we have a sharp, unwavering focus on removing the barriers to participation which persist for many people, especially for those whom physical activity may not be the norm, those who may never engage with traditional ‘sports’, or be able to afford gyms or other subscriptions, or find any inclusive and welcoming spaces for movement.

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Photo via Parkrun

I say it again: parkrun only exists to bring people together. It is one of the world’s great levellers, a social health initiative, a sanctuary each weekend, right in the heart of local communities in more than 2,500 locations around the world.

People come to parkrun for many reasons. To be part of the amazing community they are welcomed into, to see their friends old and new, to get some fresh air, to catch up in the cafe afterwards. 

The parkrun barcode does not simply register a time, or log a volunteer credit, it is anyone’s ticket into one of the friendliest and most welcoming communities I believe exists in the world today. And that ticket is free, for everyone, forever.

I understand that not everyone feels the same, and that others will attend parkrun motivated by competition. That’s fine; everyone is welcome. 

But we must remember why parkrun exists, and where its true power lies. We must remember parkrun’s incredible ability to change the lives of those who may need it most: those with long term health conditions and those who’ve never found a place that believed in them before. 

Those struggling with loneliness, or many of the other myriad of challenges modern day life throws at us. Those who truly need free, regular access to physical activity, to community, to healthy habits, but may not have found it yet. And those who may feel intimidated, or afraid, or be convinced that places like parkrun aren’t for people like them.

We have dedicated parkrun’s more recent years to showing more and more people that they do have a home at parkrun. Analysing data, conducting surveys and focus groups, gathering insight, doing everything in our power to become as inclusive as possible. 

Adding in tail runners that later became tail walkers, introducing parkwalkers, and recognising volunteering as an equal form of participation.

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Photo via Parkrun

Arguably, parkrun has succeeded in changing the wider narrative about what it even means to be physically active, what you have to wear, or look like, who you need to be. At parkrun you can be anyone. You are welcome. Everyone is welcome.

I truly believe that we have an obligation to continue identifying and removing the barriers that stand in the way. Records were one such example. The fear of finishing last, of being the ‘slowest’, of not being celebrated, of not being as good as everyone else, or not even able to finish at all. 

None of these things should be a barrier to joining parkrun, but it certainly wasn’t helpful that we were providing prominent links to a considerable amount of data from our home pages that was clearly performance related.

I have never advocated taking the easy option if it isn’t the right thing to do. In this instance, it was obvious we needed to modify our websites if we were to be true to our mission and values.

It is as simple as that. There is no hidden agenda at play. I want to be extremely clear on that.

We know that personal statistics matter, that they can be huge motivators. Many of you will have seen already that this data has not gone away. The information we email out every week, to hundreds of thousands of parkrunners, remains the same. 

Volunteers will still time the course, you still have the chance to record a personal best (I envy those of you who still might!), and you can still see your age grading if it matters to you.

We recognise everyone. Everyone matters at parkrun.

I hope you, the parkrun community will be able to understand why we have chosen to take this action. Being responsible for an organisation that changes the lives of millions, means being at risk, every time we make a change, of hurting people we care about.

The strength of feeling in response to these changes is evidence of how much people care about parkrun.

But we must bring it back to why parkrun exists, all it has achieved, all we have learnt, and all we must do to put the charity in the best possible position to truly unleash its potential as we continue along our ambitious five year strategy – more parkruns, more people, more lives changed, more lives saved.

I hope this offers you, the parkrun community, the explanation you deserve. That far from marginalising groups with this action, the idea was only ever to continue on the road to becoming a more inclusive and welcoming community for everyone, forever.

Russell Jefferys

Russ Jefferys
CEO parkrun

Photo of author
Jessy has been active her whole life, competing in cross-country, track running, and soccer throughout her undergrad. She pivoted to road cycling after completing her Bachelor of Kinesiology with Nutrition from Acadia University. Jessy is currently a professional road cyclist living and training in Spain.

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