A Parkrun boss has quit over the organisation’s decision to remove all gender, course and age records from its website.
Mick Anglim was the event director for the Brockenhurst Parkrun, in Hampshire, until Thursday when he announced on Facebook he would be stepping down: ‘in response to HQ’s new “inclusive” policy.’
His resignation follows Parkrun’s controversial decision to remove gender, course and age records from its website, which CEO Russ Jeffreys claims has nothing to do with a row over transgender women athletes holding the fastest times in female categories.
Mr Anglim, speaking to the Telegraph, said the removal of the records had reduced ‘the motivation and challenge for all age groups.’
He also claimed to have spoken to other Parkrun volunteers who believed the removal of the age category and age grade records is a mistake.
Despite his very public announcement he was quitting, Mr Anglim said that he won’t abandon the Parkrun event in Brockenhurst completely.
A talented athlete himself, Mr Anglim won the the world duathlon title, an event which involves running and cycling, for the over-75s in 2022.
Russ Jefferys, Chief Executive Officer at Parkrun, said there had been a lot of ‘misinformation’
The free event sees runners of varying ability take part in runs through parks and athletics courses across the UK every Saturday morning (stock image)
Mr Anglim is not alone in his opposition to the changes after a poll of Parkrunners, who gather every saturday at 9am for a 5km run around a local park, found that over 80 per cent disapproved of the changes.
However Parkrun CEO, Mr Jefferys, insisted they had been working on the changes since before the Covid pandemic in order to address the ‘misperception’ that Parkrun is a race, and after hearing from surveys that many people are scared of finishing last.
Speaking on BBC 5 Live this morning, he said there had been a lot of ‘misinformation’, ‘anger and emotion’ over the conversation and that ‘we would all benefit from just turning the heat down and remembering that in the end Parkrun is a free, fun, community event’.
But many women slammed his alleged ‘calm down dear’ response, saying he doesn’t understand that ‘women have a right to records and competition of their own’.
One said: ‘For the record, some women (inc me) are *furious* about parkrun making women & girls accept males & therefore unfairness in the F category. Does he not understand this?’
Many have hit out at Parkrun CEO’s comments on BBC 5Live this morning
Another commented: ‘Maybe he understands but doesn’t care? It’s only affecting girls & women after all. Don’t forget we are the second sex. Of two. No doubt thinks we should all ‘calm down dear’.’
One tweeted: ”Turn the heat down’ and similar exhortations often just mean ‘shush and let me carry on doing what I want to do’. In other words, the only acceptable temperature is ‘silent’.’
Historic data outlining the identity of the fastest male and female athlete to complete each 5km course has already been hidden from view for participants.
Mr Jefferys was challenged on 5 Live this morning, where he was told: ‘The claim is that you have done this as a result of your policy to allow competitors to self identify when taking part rather than compel transgender runners to record their sex at birth which is what some campaigners have urged you to do.
‘The women’s right’s network are saying that “Parkrun would rather stop publishing age category data and rankings rather than allow fair sport for women and girls.” How do you respond to that?’
But the CEO of Parkrun said such accusations were ‘just simply not true.’
He explained: ‘The decision to remove this specific data is just not related to the transgender debate in any way.
‘But what I would say is that there is clearly commonality here because I think the criticism that we’ve faced is down to a total misunderstanding of what Parkrun is – it is not a race.’
Transgender athlete Lauren Jeska who was born a man has held both Aberystwyth’s ages 35-39 record and the outright female record since 2012, with a time of 17.38 minutes
Parkrun had been listing Jeska as Aberystwyth’s female record holder, as this image shows
Asked how he would convince people who don’t believe him that removing data was nothing to do with transgender runners competing at events, he said: ‘For absolute clarity, we’re not removing all results and we’re not going to stop timing events or recording finish times, but we are removing a few things that focused on performance and competition such as most first finishes or age grade and category speed records.
‘I think we need be careful about making serious accusations. Sadly there is just a lot of anger and emotion in this conversation, I know that’s not helped by how these things play out on social media.
‘But I think we would all benefit from just turning the heat down and remembering that in the end Parkrun is a free, fun, community event and a great way to start the weekend.’
The free event sees thousands of athletes of varying ability take part in runs through parks and athletics courses across the UK every Saturday morning.
The decision to remove some data has incensed former British Olympians while some participants have pulled their donations saying they refuse to bankroll an organisation that ‘hides its stats’ rather than ‘correct its gender policy’.
Former British swimmer Sharron Davies blasted Parkrun for being ‘cowardly’ while former marathon star Mara Yamauchi accused the organisation of prioritising men over women and vowed to continue to speak up if males still compete in female categories.
The event has been mired in accusations it is unfair on women over its controversial entry rules allowing biological men to self-identify as females.
Siân Longthorpe – a transgender woman who is biological male – completed the Porthcawl Parkrun in a record 18 minutes and 53 seconds in May in the women’s 45-49 age category
Parkrun’s CEO Russ Jefferys said today he wanted to clear up the misunderstanding ‘because I think there has been a bit of misinformation out there since we made the changes we’re making.’
The Parkrun logo – the event is on Saturdays
‘Over the last 20 years we have witnessed the amazing impact that Parkrun has had on people’s mental health and wellbeing – it’s actually being prescribed by an increasing number of GPs,’ he said.
‘Because of that we’ve worked hard to understand what are the barriers that remain that still prevent people from signing up and taking part.
‘Roughly a third of those who have registered for Parkrun have never participated and that’s about 3million people.’
Asked if he had any evidence that records on the website were off-putting to new entrants or whether they had had any complaints, the CEO said: ‘Not so much complaints, but we do conduct regular surveys and we know that one of the biggest barriers that people tell us to participation is the confusion or the misperception that Parkrun is a race.’
He said they are told by people that they’re scared of finishing last.
‘So we constantly look at new ways to address those concerns.’
Bosses have emailed local organisers warning them that reams of data outlining course records, the most first-place finishes, and age grade records will no longer be published (stock image)
He added: ‘We’ve been working on this since before Covid. It’s long been something we’ve been wanting to address.
Bosses have emailed local organisers warning them that reams of data outlining course records, the most first-place finishes, and age grade records will no longer be published.
Ms Davies, the former Olympic swimmer, described Parkrun as ‘cowardly’ and said the organisation should instead add course records for trans athletes alongside the existing male and female records.
‘Rather than give females their fair sports results from Parkrun … they have removed from public view all records.
‘The vast majority want simple, fair sport for all based on the biological reality of the bodies we run / race / compete with.
‘The feelings of all females should never matter less than the feelings of a few trans-identifying males.’
She added on social media: ‘Keep sport fair for both sexes!’
Ms Yamauchi, a former British Olympic runner, accused Parkrun of ‘choosing to prioritise men who want to run as ‘female’ over fairness for females’.
Parkrun has acknowledged its website was ‘an important source of information’ for participants, in an email to local organisers, seen by the Mail.
But it also said ‘some of the content we share and how we present it can be off-putting or create opportunities for misunderstanding’.
It added: ‘So in the coming days we will no longer publish data such as attendance records, course records, fastest finishers, most first finishes and age grade or category records.’