(Reuters) - Sport England has announced a 3 million pounds investment to create 200 new parkrun events in the country over the next three years to increase participation among women and people from lower socioeconomic groups.
Parkrun allows more than 800 communities in Britain to host free, "socially-focussed" 5km running events every weekend in public areas of open space.
Since parkrun's inception as a low-key local event in 2004, 1.8 million people in Britain have participated in what now number almost 600 events held for all ages on Saturdays and a further 256 2k junior parkruns for 4 to 14-year-olds on Sundays.
The events have been supported by around 250,000 volunteers and have been widely praised for their contribution to improved public health.
"This important partnership with parkrun is part of Sport England's ongoing strategy to help grow new and innovative sporting ideas and broaden their reach into the demographics in society who are least likely to be active," Sport England chief executive Tim Hollingsworth said in a statement.
"The funding will enable parkrun to reach females and people on a low income, who are less likely to be active than the general population."
Sport England invests up to 300 million pounds each year to encourage projects that help people add a sporting activity to their lifestyle.
The funding will boost parkrun's digital platform for registrations, results and event information.
"We know from our research that cost and a lack of local opportunities are real barriers in stopping people being more active, and what parkrun does brilliantly is offer free, community-based events for all abilities," Hollingsworth added.
Parkrun events have seen a phenomenal growth over the last decade as they currently operate in 20 countries across five continents, with around 200,000 people taking part and a further 20,000 volunteering every week.
(Reporting by Hardik Vyas in Bengaluru; Editing by Toby Davis)