Parkrun trans inclusion row reignites after organisation allegedly ‘erases’ records
Grassroots organisation Parkrun has apparently stopped showing times for its fastest finishers after they were faced with complaints that trans women were allowed to compete in the female category.
In May 2023, a row erupted when The Daily Mail reported on Siân Longthorpe, who was the first woman to complete the weekly Porthcawl Parkrun, with a time of 18 minutes and 53 seconds. She placed fifth overall.
The Daily Mail claimed she “smashed to smithereens” a previous women’s record, and suggested her win was part of a “row” over self-ID in local events. Longthorpe, who is trans, told PinkNews that, as far as she is aware, other participants were entirely supportive of her win.
“The Daily Mail article is either very poor journalism or a deliberate attempt to mislead in their continued push to marginalise the transgender community,” she said.
“The women’s Parkrun record that I ‘smashed to smithereens’ actually relates to the female 45-49 age category.
“It failed to mention is that my time of 18:53 is more than two minutes slower than the fastest lady at Porthcawl (16:40) and that many other women have run faster than I managed.”
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Nevertheless, the fun runs, which take place around the world, were relentlessly targeted by gender-critical activists in the aftermath of Longthorpe’s achievement.
The latest development is that local organisers recently received emails from Parkrun bosses warning it will no longer publish records on first-place finishers and age-grade records.
What is Parkrun?
Parkrun operates free weekly running events in open spaces around the world. People are able to walk, job, run, volunteer, or spectate – there is no expectation for anyone to act like they’re competing in the London Marathon.
The entire Parkrun course is five kilometres and takes place every Saturday, but they also have a junior version that is only two kilometres long for children between four and 14 years-old and their families taking places every Sunday morning.
The website states that Parkrun is designed to be “positive, welcoming, and inclusive” and that there is no time limit nor does anyone finish last.
The first Parkrun event took place in Teddington, in South-West London, in 2004 and featured 13 participants. Since then, Parkrun has grown to 1,243 events around the world, with more than 3.1 million finishing the run in the last 20 years.
People interested in joining can find an event here and register their interest on its website.
Why are gender critical people so angry with the organisation?
Women in Sport and the Policy Exchange recently criticised Parkrun for allowing entrants to self-identify their gender after analysis by the Policy Exchange in December found that at least three Parkrun female records were held by transgender women.
Policy Exchange said that Parkrun must follow legal protection for cisgender women, and that allowing transgender women in the same category as cisgender women would risk alienating the latter.
The report recommended that Parkrun should only collect data based on entrants’ sex at birth rather and said that “taxpayers’ funding should be withdrawn” if the change does not happen in the next year.
The report, which was endorsed by tennis star Martina Navratilova and former Olympic decathlete Daley Thompson, also wanted all of Parkrun’s current records to reflect the change.
Parkrun allows people registering for their events to choose “prefer not to say”, “another gender identity” or to self-identify their gender.
Sharron Davies, BBC presenter and former Olympian, told The Telegraph that the organisation was “guilty of sex discrimination” and that sport should be kept “fair for both sexes”.
What was Parkrun’s response?
Parkrun refused to make the changes outlined in the Policy Exchange report and said that it was a public health charity focused on inclusion.
In a statement, it said: “What was clear is that there was a disconnect between the performance data displayed so prominently on the site, and our mission to create opportunities for as many people as possible to take part in Parkrun events – especially those who are anxious about activities such as parkrun, but who potentially have an enormous amount to gain.”
“We’ll continue to take steps to ensure that everyone is able to enjoy Parkrun for what it is: a free community event and an opportunity to be active, social and outside in a non-competitive, inclusive and welcoming environment,” it added.
Instead, Parkrun has decided to remove some of its data from its websites, including course records, age-category records, and worldwide records such as ‘most wins’.
It will publish its results page every week after the event with a position, name, gender, age category, and time, and runners will continue to receive personalised results via emails.
Parkrun said this decision was in the works since before the Covid-19 pandemic and that it was not in response to the recent furore over transgender runners at its events.
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