Parkrun to delete runners’ statistics as it prepares to double down in records row

Parkrun in Bushy Park - Parkrun to delete runners' statistics as it prepares to double down in records row
Parkrun in Bushy Park - Parkrun to delete runners' statistics as it prepares to double down in records row

Parkrun may delete further statistics from its event websites and move towards an individualised model of results where other participants would have to accept you as a ‘friend’ to see their statistics.

After refusing calls to introduce a ‘sex at birth’ category, Parkrun sparked a backlash earlier this year by removing a raft of data from its web pages, notably various all-time records for different genders and age groups.

A petition to reinstate the statistics has since been signed by almost 26,000 people but, in a meeting with campaigners, Parkrun leaders doubled down on the move and revealed that they were considering further change.

“They have visions for the future of removing the ability to see any other runners’ data and results, and in only being able to see your own individual results as well as event results,” said Mary Taylor, who organised the Parkrun petition. “They envisage Parkrun to have a social aspect where you can ‘befriend’ or ‘follow’ other runners, as you might on Facebook or Strava, and mutual friends could view the statistics of their friends.

“They could see results pages eventually becoming just a list of people, without personal details, such as gender, individual statistics, and with volunteers listed most prominently.”

Parkrun stressed that nothing was imminent but a further move away from comparative to individual statistics is understood to be the ‘direction of travel’, largely in an attempt to counter perceptions that it is a race but also because of issues of data privacy and security.

Campaign groups such as Fair Play For Women had highlighted how some female records were held by transgender women and have been calling for Parkrun to amend its gender self-identification policy. Parkrun say that they are not a sport but a free community event which prioritises inclusion.

Saturday’s meeting with campaigners was attended by the Parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt and the current chief executive Russ Jefferys. Sinton-Hewitt, said Taylor, described the numbers of signatures to the “petition” as “minuscule” and said that people could go elsewhere if they wanted something different. Taylor believes that it is perfectly possible for Parkrun to maintain its participation emphasis while keeping the statistics that were such a source of motivation and interest for many runners.

“It was really disappointing that Parkrun show no intention of seeking a way to continue providing the course stats that meant so much to so many,” said Taylor. “Paul conveyed that he has been fighting for 20 years to avoid the consequences of being considered a race…and the fairness for women’s sport [campaign] is one of the current issues.

“It was also disappointing to hear that Parkrun view us as easily replaceable numbers, and is a top-down organisation. It feels very sad that Parkrun do not appear to value us as individuals.

“Our aims have never been to damage Parkrun, but to return the course stats for those who benefited from them. The justification for their removal has always fallen short of adequately supporting the change.”

Parkrun say that they are committed to listening to their community but that they are ultimately a charity overseen by their trustees. There are now nine million registered Parkrun participants at more than 20,000 events around the world.

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