World Athletics has announced a new partnership with parkrun ©World Athletics/Colin Phillips

World Athletics has announced a new partnership with parkrun as part of a bid to grow the sport and encourage fitness and health.

Parkrun offers free runs over two or five kilometres in parks around the world, with the concept now boasting three million participants since its launch in Teddington in Britain in 2004.

Runs currently take place on a Saturday in 20 countries, with World Athletics now pledging to encourage people to stay active by signing up for their local event.

In return, parkrun has agreed to leave a health legacy by creating permanent runs in future World Athletics host cities, including Eugene and Budapest which will stage the respective 2022 and 2023 World Championships.

World Athletics will facilitate Government and city support for these events, and it is hoped the partnership will capitalise on the people who have started running during periods of coronavirus lockdown.

"We have just approved a strategic plan that has the main objective of using the power and accessibility of athletics and our athletes to create a healthier and fitter world," said World Athletics chief executive Jon Ridgeon.

"One of the ways we are doing this is by developing strong new partnerships where our common cause is to get the world moving. 

"We know that many more people have taken up running during the lockdowns around the world, which makes sense because our sport is the most universal and accessible of all sports, and we want to encourage those people to keep up their new fitness routines as life returns to a more normal footing after the pandemic. 

"Doing a weekly park run is an excellent way to stay motivated and find a local running community once mass events are possible again.

"We're also determined to leave tangible community legacies in all of our future host cities and countries, and there is no better way to do that than by helping to improve the health of their citizens."

Permanent parkruns will be established in World Athletics host cities ©Getty Images
Permanent parkruns will be established in World Athletics host cities ©Getty Images

Parkrun chief executive Nick Pearson said the link-up was about getting more people running.

"This partnership offers parkrun a fantastic platform to demonstrate the role, relevance and value of community health and well-being initiatives and to highlight that sport and physical activity is accessible to all," he said. 

"It is exciting to see this approach embraced by World Athletics, and we look forward to working with stakeholders in the host countries of World Athletics Series events to support and develop a network of parkrun events.

"We believe that finding positive ways to connect grassroots and community activity with elite sport has multiple benefits and builds stronger sporting foundations and broader engagement. 

"Exercise and physical activity is more accessible and sustainable where sports organisations collaborate and work towards mutual goals. 

"Encouraging the social and community participants to engage with and experience a more competitive sporting environment will help to build a stronger sport and expose pathways to more sporting opportunities."