Half marathon farce begs question: ‘Was it worth the risk?’

Staff at Costa Coffee in Atlas hand out cups of water to Sheffield half marathon runners
Staff at Costa Coffee in Atlas hand out cups of water to Sheffield half marathon runners
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It’s one of those gloriously modern phrases that says very little but tells you everything.

‘Risk averse’.

Two words that mean you can’t take pictures of your kids playing football, their schools hesitate to take them on day trips and contact sports are frowned upon.

They’re too risky, think of what could go wrong?

It’s also why the Sheffield Half Marathon would have been even more of an embarassment but for the common sense and stoicism of Sheffielders.

The efforts of cafe-owners, shopkeepers and the running man and woman in the street’s ‘keep calm and be a bit thirsty’ approach saved what would otherwise have been a dry run, so to speak.

The health and safety haters will be guffawing at the nannyism of it all and you can’t blame them.

At the other extreme I’m old enough to remember a time when football fans were herded in pens and treated with less respect than diseased cattle - and we’re still dealing with the tragic consequences of that culture at the inquests in Warrington

No-one wants to see those callous attitudes come back, but let’s get a grip.

If no risks were taken there wouldn’t be any sport.

No-one who saw Margaret Lilley, chair of the Sheffield Marathon on TV on Sunday would have anything but sympathy for her.

Imagine the hours of agonising, the emails, texts, phone calls and desperate pleading it must have taken before she and her colleagues - all volunteers - got to the point where the race had to be called off.

Former Sports Minister Richard Caborn ran the 13 miles as did 4,000 of the 5,000 who turned up.

“They should have said: ‘Sorry there’s no water out on the course , anyone who wants to run it can still do so, but they are the conditions,” said Caborn.

“The police put their motorbikes across the road as a barrier but people just ran round them. Some took their race numbers off and said; ‘I’m not running in the half-marathon, I’m just running home.’”

Such independence and ingenuity are traits we like to think we have as a city and as a nation.

Willingness to take a risk is part of sport and a part of life but it has to go both ways.

But how many runners’ families would be looking to blame and claim if runners were seriously ill through dehydration? If we agree to take risks we have to agree to live with the consequences.

Or would we really all rather remain ‘risk averse’?