Wales has sparked a rare public clash over Covid rules with the UK government Parkrun running clubs were cancelled.
The Welsh government has banned outdoor gatherings of more than 50 people, and Parkrun has said it had “no choice” but to cancel its events as a result.
Last night the UK’s Tory Health Secretary Sajid Javid waded in to criticise the Labour-run Welsh government.
The Health Secretary tweeted: “Parkrun has helped so many people improve their health across the UK.
“I can’t see how restricting outdoor exercise in this way is justified or proportionate.”
Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland have all introduced extra measures to fight the Omicron Covid variant but England is waiting until after New Year’s Eve.
Wales reimposed the rule of six in pubs and restaurants indoors, and limited indoor gatherings to 30 people and outdoor gatherings to 50 people from Boxing Day.
Last week Welsh Athletics and Parkrun’s chief operating officer issued a joint plea, saying banning outdoor athletics “does more harm than good”.
The pair said they were “disappointed and concerned”, adding: “The public health benefits of outdoor physical activity events far outweighs the public health risks”.
In another statement published on its website on December 22, but circulated widely on Twitter last night, Parkrun said: “The evidence remains clear that the infection risks presented by outdoor events like ours are exceptionally low and the public health benefits of remaining open are incredibly high.
“It is our intention, therefore, that whatever parkrun events are legally permitted to operate they should do so.
“The Welsh Government has also announced a gathering limit of 50 people. It does mean that we have no choice but to suspend all our 5k events from 1 January onwards.
“We know that some Welsh Parkrun events regularly have fewer than 50 people attending, however it would take a very small influx for them to exceed the limit.”
The spokesman said that all Parkruns scheduled to take place in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland will still happen as they are in line with restrictions in those countries.
Parkruns in England for adults only returned in July this year when coronavirus restrictions were lifted.
Many said they were glad to attend Parkrun again in July.
Wes Ball, 42, from Buckinghamshire, said: “When you get there it is one of the most uplifting things you can do. It’s never a race, it’s always a chance to go running with friends.”
Cameron Dockerill, 24, added: “It has been a lonely time for a lot of people with lots of lonely training miles, solo runs, along with virtual and cancelled races.
“It is good to have people cheering you on. I think this (Parkrun) makes a difference not only to someone’s physical health but also to their mental health as well.”