London (AFP) – A local authority in Britain has told a joggers’ group to start paying for the upkeep of the park they use for weekly organised runs or stay away, sparking outrage from British champion runner Paula Radcliffe.
“We have had operational issues affecting other park users. This has caused some friction,” a representative of Stoke Gifford parish council, a suburb of Bristol in southwest England, told AFP on Wednesday.
The council on Tuesday voted six to four in favour of a motion giving “parkrun”, an organisation which stages free weekly five-kilometre (three-mile) timed runs worldwide, until May 28 to start paying.
“What we’ve asked parkrun to do is to contribute to the upkeep,” said the council representative, adding that the runs had expanded from around 60 people a week a few years ago to 300-400 people including many people from outside the village.
Parkrun’s chief operating officer Tom Williams said the decision was unprecedented, adding: “We are extremely disappointed.”
“Parkrun has had unprecedented success in engaging the least active and encouraging them to exercise regularly,” he said in a statement.
“Imposing a charge at one event is something that contradicts our founding principles and would set a precedent that threatens our future,” he added.
Radcliffe, who is the current holder of the women’s marathon world record, said on Twitter: “Am totally against this short sighted decision”.
An online petition on Change.org asking the council to change its mind gathered more than 20,000 signatures.