COVID Impact on UK parkrun attendances

Last summer I ran a survey for runners. It showed that 7.6% of runners did not plan to return to parkrun straight away.

Lets see what the actual parkrun attendances say happened 9 months on.

I’ve split my analysis into three time periods:

PERIOD 1: Before COVID - 15 months from 1st Jan 2019 to March 2020 lockdown

PERIOD 2: Starting back - the first 6 weeks after parkrun returning.

PERIOD 3: Date from the 6 weeks back to end of March 2022.

Note the 6 weeks differs in England and Wales and hence the start date of period 3.

I’ve analysed 3 of the biggest events in the UK and also Cardiff (as my home run!).

This table shows the average attendance over the periods, followed by the comparisons.

The first comparison shows period 2 (the initial 6 weeks back) to period 1 (the previous ’norm’), it shows that people certainly didn’t rush back, as it shows attendances were between 61% and 88% of before those before COVID.

The second compares period 3 (the new ‘norm) to period 1, shows that attendance remained low compared to pre-COVID levels.

The final lines compare period 2 to period 3 to see whether there the first 6 weeks had a flurry of popularity or people stayed away, we can see the results are split here, with Bushy park parkrun and Southampton parkrun seeing numbers increase now compared to the first 6 weeks back, the opposite can be said for Cardiff parkrun and Heaton park parkrun.


In summary, attendances look to have taken a real drop, this is highly likely to be due to COVID but there may be other factors like new smaller parkruns starting up nearby taking parkrunners away from these events.

To investigate further I’ve looked at the average total UK attendance over the 6 weeks from Feb to Mid March over the last 5 years, excluding 2021 as parkrun was off! I’ve also removed any weeks that look like low outliers e.g. if there was a lot of cancellation for example due to bad weather.

Looking across the UK as a whole we see a similar trend, it shows large growth in numbers from 2018 to 2019, then stayed relatively flat in 2020. The post COVID numbers see a clear drop from 145,589 to 127,503 which is a reduction of 12%

The questions is what is driving the decreases, who knows? Here are some suggestions but what do you think?

💠 People out of habit?

💠 People lost fitness?

💠 People lost confidence?

💠 People still concerned by COVID?

💠 People have got used to running alone and prefer it?

Let me know what you think in the comments or on my Instagram or Facebook