Anti-trans activists protest non-competitive Parkrun event over trans inclusion

People taking part in a Parkrun in Wales. The image shows many people running on a wet, rainy day by the sea.

Anti-trans activists have staged a protest at Parkrun in Manchester over trans women being allowed to participate – despite the fact that it’s a non-competitive community event that’s open to everyone.

Parkrun is a series of five kilometre events for both walkers and runners which takes place in more than 20 countries worldwide. Unlike formal races, Parkrun is “all about inclusiveness and wellbeing”, its website says. The focus is on enabling “as many people as possible to feel part of a real local community”.

However, that didn’t stop Greater Manchester’s Women’s Rights Network from turning up at a Parkrun in Heaton Park on Saturday (30 September) to protest against trans women taking part.

In a video posted to X, formerly Twitter, a woman involved with the Women’s Rights Network said it was “really unfair” that Parkrun was allowing trans women to run, walk or jog with their local communities.

She went on to claim that there was “a lot of support” for their trans-exclusive stance at the event, but said those who agreed “can’t be on camera for various reasons”.

The group immediately faced criticism on X, where people questioned why the group was characterising Parkrun as a “sport” when it’s actually a community event.

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“But Parkrun isn’t a sport? It’s going for a run in the park,” one X user replied. “You can’t win at Parkrun.”

Runners enjoyThe National Lottery Park Run at Heaton Park on August 13, 2022 in Manchester, England.
Runners enjoy The National Lottery Park Run at Heaton Park on August 13, 2022 in Manchester, England. (Shirlaine Forrest/Getty)

Another pointed out that Parkrun “isn’t a race” and that “anyone can enter it” for that reason.

Speak Out Sister, a group that campaigns for inclusive feminism and liberation, posted on X: “New definition of ‘traitor’ is apparently thinking that organisers of a fun run should be forced to do sex testing as though it was the Olympics. Can anyone remember when a sense of proportion was common?”

In a post on its website detailing its policies on sex and gender, Parkrun points out that its runs are “community-led, socially-focused physical activity events delivered with the aim of improving public health”.

The post explains: “They are not athletic or sporting competitions of the sort governed by national and international federations. This has implications for the categorisation of participants, and the adjudication of performances.”

Parkrun states that it categorises people “based on gender rather than assigned sex” and says that approach is in line with their ethos of “non-competitive socially-focused physical activity”.

In 2019, Parkrun changed its registration forms so people could tick “male”, “female” or “prefer not to say” for their gender. In most countries, participants can tick that they have “another gender identity”, however this is not available everywhere for “legal, cultural and/or safeguarding reasons”.

While Greater Manchester’s Women’s Rights Network apparently wants Parkrun to screen women to ensure they were assigned female at birth, Parkrun’s website points out that it would be neither appropriate nor practical for volunteers to “request proof or adjudicate the validity of a person’s gender identity”.

The protest comes just months after Siân Longthorpe, a trans woman, was publicly vilified by the Daily Mail after she came first in her local Parkrun in Wales.

Speaking to PinkNews at the time, Longthorpe characterised the Daily Mail’s article – which claimed she “smashed to smithereens” a previous women’s record – as “very poor journalism or a deliberate attempt to mislead”.

She pointed out that the category she “smashed” was actually in the female 45-49 category, and that another woman had beaten her time on the day by more than two minutes.

PinkNews has contacted Parkrun for comment.