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The Unparalleled Parallel London

One month ago, thousands came together to take part in Parallel London’s push/run challenges and free family festival in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, just days before the Rio Paralympic Games.

The atmosphere was electric at the inaugural Parallel London, the world’s first fully accessible and all-inclusive mass participation push/run event. A free family festival ran alongside the challenge events in a national celebration of diversity, supported by Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.

Parallel London called upon the nation to sign up and take part, and they certainly met the challenge.  Thousands of people participated in one or more of the five Parallel London challenges -100m, 1km, 5km, 10km and Super Sensory 1km. Over 40% of the participants took part with a disability, supported by over 500 carers.

Speaking on the day, Andrew Douglass of Parallel London said “Parallel London is a welcoming and accessible environment for people of all ages and abilities, allowing everybody to be independent and active. That is the spirit of Parallel London and I hope today’s landmark event shines a light on the beauty of diversity and potential of a truly inclusive society”.

The event hosted the innovative Super Sensory 1km, a ground-breaking multi-sensory challenge, available to all, but particularly tailored for individuals with profound and multiple learning disabilities, people of all ages on the autistic spectrum and those who need sensory support.  Sound cues, balloon distance markers, a tang of eucalyptus oil and fresh oranges dotted the course, providing an incredible experience for all. Over a hundred people took part in this landmark Super Sensory challenge, demonstrating that if the environment is accessible, more and more people will get active.

The family festival, which was free to enter for the thousands of participants and spectators, featured an array of attractions, entertainment and workshops across six different themed zones. Leading brands including Barclays, Toyota, Cathedral City, innovision and Livability sponsored the festival zones, which encompassed the worlds of food & drink, technology, culture, community, family and active lifestyle. Irwin Mitchell, Gatwick Airport and BP were among the supporting partners.

Parallel London is run as a not-for-profit event and also provides a platform for charitable fundraising, enabling beneficiaries to become benefactors for the first time. Livability and BBC Children in Need were leading charity partners, with many other incredible causes benefiting from the many participants who were fundraising for the very first time.

Charity manager James Lee told us: “I was delighted to have such a diverse crowd join us for this incredible, world-first of an event.  As a disabled person myself, I’ve wanted an inclusive event like this to happen for a long time and I am so incredibly proud to have been able to play a part in bringing something like this to life.  We worked with some great charities, had some fantastically committed sponsors and most of all; we had the support of all of the incredible people who came along to participate at the first ever Parallel London.

We went to a huge amount of effort to make sure that the event would be inclusive and accessible for all.  From laying down flooring to make movement easier for wheelchair users, to having a mobile Changing Places facility and quiet spaces for people who need them; we did our utmost to make this an event that absolutely everyone could attend.  For many of my friends with a complex, multiple or profound disability; leaving their home is not an easy undertaking and they were the people we had front of mind when planning our event.”

With the success of this first event under its belt, Parallel London looks to establish itself as an annual national celebration of inclusivity and to become one of the biggest events in the UK’s calendar.

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