Parkrun returned to Newark and Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam and Newark MP Robert Jenrick, Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government took part
Hundreds of runners returned for Newark Parkrun on Saturday, the first since coronavirus restrictions were removed to allow a return.
Among them were two familiar faces from the government's televised briefings to the nation on the pandemic — Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer, and the Newark MP Robert Jenrick, who is Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government.
Both men have promoted the resumption of Parkrun because of its mental and physical health benefits.
Mr Jenrick participated as it is the Parkrun of his constituency and Professor Van-Tam, known as JVT, because he is a member of Newark's Notfast Running Club.
Brian Thompson, Newark Parkrun event director and run director for Saturday, welcomed everyone back and thanked both men for everything they had done throughout the pandemic, words that were greeted by a spontaneous round of applause.
At the start line at Sconce and Devon Park, Professor Van-Tam, who has been among the team of leading exerts providing the government with the scientific expertise to help defeat the virus, said: "Outdoor exercise is the safest sort we can have.
"All of us had a very hard time over the last 18 months and have gained weight and lost fitness.
"There's no point in putting it off. It is time for the nation to get fit again.
"Parkrun is something that I enjoy and a great way of getting back out there again and regaining some of that lost fitness."
Of the state of the nation as regards coronavirus at present, JVT said: "Cases remain very high.
"We have had a massively successful vaccine programme so let's keep on going. Younger adults come forward and get yours'.
"Until that happens, and certainly for the next few weeks, although we have got our freedoms back, we must remain cautious. We must remain respectful of people's vulnerabilities and concerns within the community too, and temper what we do accordingly.
"We have a way to go yet and we must carry on doing it together."
Mr Jenrick said: "I'm really pleased that Parkrun is back here in Newark and around the country. I have been working in government to get it going again.
"Parkrun is one of the largest, if not the largest, community fitness events here in Newark.
"Lockdown and covid have meant many of us have had to reassess our lifestyles and have not had the opportunities we would have liked to be out there enjoying events such as this. Our fitness and our health has suffered because of that, myself included.
"We have got to return to a degree of normality but there is concern cases are rising and will continue to do so for some weeks to come, so we need to exercise a degree of caution.
"This is why exercising in the outdoors is, for now, our best option because it offers the lowest risk of transmission."
While Mr Jenrick told Sky News prior to Freedom Day he was looking forward to ditching the face mask, he offered a hint of caution in that area too.
"I continue to carry a face mask and where it in confined spaces or in areas where I am in close contact with people, or where an organisation I am meeting with prefers it.
"It is important to show respect to others who want to continue wearing them, whether they be in our shops, our pubs or our businesses."
Mr Thompson said: "It's fantastic - so good to be back together after 70 weeks.
"There have been so many comments on social media from people saying they can't wait to be back running."
One Parkrun participant, David Gill said: "I used to come quite a lot before the pandemic.
"It's just good to be back."