Belfast Telegraph

Clegg demands race axe explanation

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has called for a "full explanation" of how the "farcical situation" at the Sheffield Half Marathon was allowed to happen.

The race was cancelled "due to a problem with the delivery of water", which was met with anger when it was announced by the organisers on Twitter and Facebook.

South Yorkshire Police said that despite the cancellation, a large number of participants still ran the half marathon.

Mr Clegg, MP for Sheffield Hallam, said the "extraordinary scenes" should not tarnish the city's reputation.

"I know thousands of people have trained long and hard for this event, with many running for some outstanding local charities and others coming from around the country to take part or watch.

"I can only imagine how disappointed they must have been when they learned that the race was cancelled as they were on the start line ready to set off.

"Everyone involved deserves a full explanation of how this farcical situation was allowed to happen. Sheffield is an outstanding city of sport. The extraordinary scenes today shouldn't tarnish that reputation.

"The fact that runners who had carried on regardless were still well supplied with water thanks to spectators, tells you everything you need to know about Sheffield people."

Organisers thanked runners and spectators for their "comments and questions" after the cancellation sparked fury on social media, adding: "We'll provide more information as soon as we have it."

The online post announcing the cancellation, which comes exactly one week before the London Marathon next Sunday, said: "It is with huge disappointment & regret that we have been forced to cancel this year's race due to a problem with the delivery of water.

"We would like to express our sincerest apologies to everyone involved in the race who will be affected. We will update you future plans asap".

South Yorkshire Police, which was initially present on parts of the marathon route to assist with the road closures to motorists, said: "Working with the organisers, officers attempted to speak to participants who had chosen to run and divert them on to a shorter route to the finish line.

"However, officers have kept their positions and stance with the initial road closures to motorists to protect all the runners and ensure their safety is maintained."

Rosey Alexander, 38, from Sheffield, finished the half marathon, but said: "It was a farce."

The mother of three said the waiting around gave her cause for concern as she is a type 1 diabetic.

"A group of us were lined up waiting to start the race. We had heard that the race was to be delayed by 30 minutes from the tannoy in the grassy area.

"But as we stood waiting to start, there were no announcements. No officials telling us what was going on. So we waited. And waited.

"As time ticked on to 9.45am I became increasingly worried. I am a type 1 diabetic, and had scheduled my breakfast, my race gels and my sugar levels for a 9am start.

"As time ticked on, I knew that my breakfast energy would be wearing off and I was worried."

She added: "No one ever informed us it was cancelled. When we set off, we were just glad to get running.

"Then someone said there was no timing recording. By one mile in, I heard people saying there was no water on the course.

"This complete lack of information is the real error of the organisers."

Ms Alexander said she has not heard anything about getting a refund.

"I either want a refund or a free go at next year's race," she said.

Angry comments were posted underneath the cancellation announcement on Facebook.

Mel Broadhurst commented: "Absolutely disgusting!!! My friends and I have trained for months some raised a lot of money for charity.

"Terrible lack of communication, won't be doing the Sheffield half again!!!! And I will get my money back!!!!!"

Adam Broadhead wrote: "That is absolutely shocking organisation. You guys have embarrassed the city."

Adam Stern said: "So disappointing for the runners but I also have to say hats off to the Sheffield communities for their efforts in supplying water unofficially to the runners! Proud to be from Sheffield for that, just a shame the organisation and communication of the race was so shambolic!!"

Jonathan Sutton said: "Oh dear, I imagine you'll struggle to get many entering next year and may even struggle to find corporate sponsors. How the hell can this even happen?"

After the half-marathon The Sheffield Marathon Twitter account tweeted: "Those who crossed the finish line with their race number will be timed & we'll be providing a list of all finishers & their times".

Margaret Lilley, chair of the race organisers, told the BBC: "We had a problem with the supply of water.

"The company we had asked to supply bowsers for the route did not arrive this morning.

"We have scoured supermarkets around the city, but unfortunately we have not been able to secure enough water for the medical-and-safety officers of the race to say it is safe to go ahead. We therefore took the very reluctant decision to cancel the race."

Ms Lilley added: "Runners had waited half an hour or more to start. When we made the announcement the runners decided that they wanted to race anyway, and all 5,000 of them set off."


From Belfast Telegraph