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Parkrun study: low risk of COVID-19 transmission at outdoor events

By Tom Walker    11 May 2021
Computer models showed that 0.015 per cent of runners would have potentially acquired a COVID-19 infection / Shutterstock/Paul Hanley

A report commissioned by Parkrun has estimated that allowing mass-participation outdoor events carries an "exceptionally low risk" of COVID-19 transmission.

The study, by Professor Clive Beggs at Queen Mary University of London, utilised data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) from March 2021, looking at the prevalence of the virus, alongside antibody levels within the population.

The study found that, on average, if Parkruns had been open in March this year (2020), there would not have been an infectious person present at 30 per cent of events.

Importantly, at events where an infectious person did participate, there would have been an average R value of only 0.057.

For the study (which can be downloaded and read by clicking here) a computer model ran through 10,000 simulations of an average 263-person parkrun event, using worst-reasonable-case estimates for number and duration of human contacts, which resulted in just 0.015 per cent of runners potentially acquiring a COVID-19 infection.

The study also suggests that the risk of infection is even lower at the start line of events like Parkrun, than during the event itself.

This seems primarily due to the significantly lower breathing rate (pulmonary ventilation rate) of participants prior to the event compared to when running, alongside the relatively short time period participants are gathered together.

Study author, Professor Clive Beggs, said: "Our analysis was undertaken using COVID-19 prevalence levels for March 2021, and the results revealed that Parkrun events are likely to be very safe.

"This finding appears to be supported by the evidence from the various road races that have been held around the world during the pandemic, which have been characterised by a noticeable lack of infectious outbreaks.

"Based on this, it would seem to me that running events are probably already safe in the UK, and getting safer every day as prevalence of COVID-19 falls and the vaccine rollout continues."

Parkrun events are set to restart on 5 June.

To read the full research paper, click here.

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