THE future of Parkrun events in Sussex hangs in the balance after only one landowner confirmed permission to restart the event.

In a statement sent to more than three million members of the weekly 5km races, Parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt issued a plea for the public to lobby landowners for a potential return on June 5.

However, the Chichester Parkrun is the only one of more than 20 Sussex sites to confirm it’s ready to return.

While Brighton and Hove City Council said it is looking to support the restart, while following strict government guidelines.

It comes after Mr Sinton-Hewitt said it’s essential the majority of the Saturday morning events return across England at the same time to prevent events becoming overwhelmed with runners.

“That’s why I am calling on the entire Parkrun community to help support our efforts,” he said. “If you can influence and encourage your local landowner to confirm permission quickly, please do so.”

The Argus: Parkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt has connections to BrightonParkrun founder Paul Sinton-Hewitt has connections to Brighton

Mr Sinton-Hewitt said he feared Parkrun, which was established in 2004, would not survive after the UK’s first lockdown.

“As things continue to improve and we gain clarity on the appropriateness of a return in England, we must act now and embrace getting back together again, or risk losing it forever,” he said.

All 589 Parkrun landowners in England have been contacted with a request for their permission to once again hold events on their land.

“In a few instances, the spaces we previously used for events have altered - some have become a temporary Covid-19 vaccine centre for example - and it would no longer be possible to hold our events in the same location,” he said.

“Where this is the case, we are working with local authorities to understand alternative options, or to continue to wait patiently for the situation to change such that we can return.”

Jude Matthews, a Parkrun veteran and member of Brighton’s Phoenix Athletics Club, said her club has launched a weekly challenge to run all five Brighton Parkrun sites in as many weeks in the absence of the event.

Participating at staggered times through the week, the five-week challenge has kept their running spirit alive throughout lockdown.

“The hardcore runners who love Parkrun persisted on their Saturday morning run at the Parkrun courses,” she said.

“But as most of us haven’t been doing any running competitions at all, it’s a bit of thrill for people in the club to be back out.”

The Argus: Seaford's Parkrun launched before the pandemic hitSeaford's Parkrun launched before the pandemic hit

Mrs Matthews, who is due to run the East Brighton Park course this week, said the club still publish members’ race times, albeit in their WhatsApp group.

“But it’s still keeps us motivated for its return,” she added.

A Brighton and Hove City Council spokesman said it was unable to confirm at this stage when Parkrun in the city will recommence, but said making sure the events were “Covid safe” was a priority.

“We are looking to help and support all events to start taking place again, especially those such as Parkrun that have great health benefits to our residents,” he said.

“Our outdoor events team is working on this with our public health team and other partners such as the police.”

The proposed June 5 return date applies only to the events held in England, which make up close to 50% of Parkruns’ total global participants, with plans for its return in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland soon.