Subscribe to our complimentary sports newsletter to stay updated on the latest updates in a variety of sports, including cycling and boxing.
Register for our complimentary sports newsletter to receive the most recent updates and news.
Even though it may seem ridiculous (and it truly is an absurd action to have taken), my wife shed tears when she witnessed her first Parkrun several years ago.
Not at the fast finishing times, although there were a few; not at the mini internal battles silently encouraging runners to eke out that tiny extra burst of effort approaching the finish line; not at the level of competition, which was so low that it was almost absent. Simply because she was overwhelmed by the inclusive nature of a community event that truly embraced everyone.
A communal event that embraced, supported and did not criticize. Open to everyone: regardless of age, speed, ability or willingness.
After a few weeks, she started participating in the event, occasionally aiming to surpass her previous records and other times simply enjoying the release of endorphins during a Saturday morning run, jog, or walk (choose one). While the tears have stopped, the initial feeling remains: this free event, with a global participation of nine million people, is undeniably beneficial.
The answer to this question varies depending on who you ask. Recently, activists have been expressing their opposition to Parkrun through both physical protests and social media posts. They are considering demanding that the funding provided by Sport England be taken away. This is due to Parkrun’s decision to gather data from participants based on their gender identity rather than their biological sex. This sensitive issue revolves around transgender rights in the world of sports.
Upon registering with Parkrun, individuals are prompted to identify their gender from a selection of four options: female, male, another gender identity, or prefer not to say.
Campaigners, including the conservative think tank Policy Exchange, argue that this policy allows transgender runners to compete in women’s sports, which they believe undermines the integrity of women’s athletics.
In December of last year, a report from Policy Exchange, backed by several well-known athletes, revealed that there have been “at least three confirmed cases of transgender women (born male) participating in female competitions, achieving new records and affecting female rankings.”
As our society becomes more intolerant towards transgender individuals, this attitude has permeated into all areas of our lives. As a result, the opposition to Parkrun has grown stronger and on Thursday, the organization took action. Despite demands for a separate category for transgender records in their results, Parkrun decided to remove various statistics from their website, such as gender, course, and age records.
Parkrun wanted to present itself as a health-focused charity and community gathering, rather than a formal athletic event or competition. They stated that their decision to remove performance data from their site was not solely in response to the transgender issue, but rather to align with their goal of providing opportunities for a wide range of individuals. However, it should be noted that the records would still be accessible if not for ongoing campaigns.
It is crucial to note that there is a significant difference to consider. Parkrun is not considered a professional sport. While some individuals may use records as inspiration to challenge themselves and others, their purpose is simply to add excitement and encourage more people to participate.
They do not establish Parkrun, a group that has observed a consistent decrease in the average completion times of participants with each passing year due to increased participation.
In high-level or top-tier sports, there are a few transgender athletes who were assigned male at birth and have undergone puberty as a male. This gives them certain physical advantages that could potentially hinder cisgender women from succeeding in their careers, take away opportunities for female athletes, and jeopardize the core principles of women’s sports.
The transgender individuals participating in Parkrun do not pose any of the mentioned threats. There is nothing at risk and there are no prizes or awards to be won. The records that were recently removed hold no significance and only served as a source of curiosity for those who were interested in them.
Similarly, the data did not indicate if an individual had undergone gender reassignment surgery or made any other changes to their gender. It also did not disclose if a runner had the assistance of a determined dog pulling on a leash or was hindered by obstacles such as potholes and hills while pushing a crying toddler in a cumbersome stroller.
The choice to delete the records has not satisfied those who oppose Parkrun. Sharron Davies, a retired Olympic swimmer and activist, criticized the decision as “timid” for not requiring transgender runners to compete in a separate category. She believes that those who have transitioned must be excluded from the positive impact of this community event unless they openly disclose their gender identity.
No winner has been declared. Despite Parkrun’s efforts to promote inclusivity and make a positive impact on a diverse group of individuals, including those who may not typically participate in sports or physical activity, there are still demands for its funding to be removed.
Possibly, they may achieve success and one of the most inclusive, unrestricted, physical movement trends of modern times may be unable to persist. According to its own statement, no one triumphs at Parkrun. However, everyone has the potential to improve. Would that truly be desirable?