Big step forward for return of mass participation sporting events after Reunion 5K

London start

The London Marathon Events reported that runners flocked to a return to racing at the Reunion 5K over the weekend at Kempton Park in a significant step towards the return of mass participation sporting events.

As part of the government’s Events Research Programme, the Reunion 5K saw runners split into two very different races. Race A was held with social distancing measures in place, with runners setting off in socially distanced pairs every three seconds, while Race B was a mass start with no social distancing rules in place at all.

All runners and spectators had to take a Covid-19 PCR test on the day of the event and will be asked to take another test on Thursday as part of the data collection. Everyone entering the Kempton Park venue also had to provide evidence of a negative Covid-19 lateral flow test.

Hugh Brasher, Event Director for London Marathon Events, who took part in the second non-socially distanced race, said: “What an amazing day. It was incredible to be back on the start line, shoulder to shoulder with fellow runners, for the first time for 15 months. This is such a significant step towards the return of mass participation events across the UK – from parkrun to the London Marathon. We all need the joy and inspiration of running together again – it’s so important for the mental and physical health of the nation.”

The first runner to finish in Race A, the socially distanced event, was Ollie Garrod  (handicap -3.5) from Surbiton, who crossed the line in 15 minutes and 18 seconds – the fastest time of both races.

He said: “That was brilliant. It was really well organised, we all felt safe and it’s so good to be back running together. I’ve got a place in the London Marathon in October and this is a massive step towards that.”

The event was organised by London Marathon Events and supported by the Mass Participation Sports Organisers (MSO), a collection of the UK’s biggest mass participation sports organisers including parkrun, Great Run, the organisers of the Great North Run.

London Marathon Events would like to thank DCMS, Public Health England, Surrey County Council and Spelthorne Borough Council for their assistance and to Kempton Park for making the venue available.

LME’s registration system partner njuko provided the entry system at no cost while InEvent branding supplied the start and finish gantries and other event branding free of charge.

As reported on the inews website here

Sports Minister Nigel Huddlestone said the Reunion 5k could help provide “essential data on the safe return of mass participation events”.

He added: “It’s fantastic to see so many runners and spectators getting involved in this event which will feed into policy decisions ahead of step 4 of the road map and hopefully see things like the great London Marathon return with crowds.”

However, Tom Williams, chief operating officer of Park Run, cast doubt on the return of mass running events.

He said some local authorities had said it “might take six months to get approval through a safety advisory group”, with some saying local R numbers would need to be taken into account.

He told BBC Radio Five Live: “If we only open a small subset of our events, then the ones that did open would be overwhelmed with participants from the events that were closed.

“In England we have three million people registered to park run and on a normal Saturday prior to Covid we had about 200,000 people taking part.

“So, unless we get the very large majority of all of our events open at the same time, we won’t be able to open any of them.”