Water fiasco: Sheffield Half Marathon farce

Confusion at the start line of the Sheffield Half Marathon.
Confusion at the start line of the Sheffield Half Marathon.
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Organisers of Sheffield Half Marathon are under intense fire today - after the event was plunged into chaos and cancelled at the last minute due to insufficient water supplies.

Deputy Prime Minister and Sheffield Hallam MP Nick Clegg is among those demanding answers after the 13-mile run descended into a ‘shambolic farce’.

And thousands of athletes who either could not hear tannoy announcements, or chose to defy officials and set off anyway, today wanted to know if their race fee will be refunded - or if the event will be run again.

All praised the ‘ordinary Sheffielders’ who lined the route as spectators, handing out bottles and cups of water to runners.

Margaret Lilley, chair of the organising committee, said the firm tasked with providing tanks of water for runners to drink at stations along the route had failed to arrive.

Volunteers were reduced to scouring supermarkets to find emergency supplies, but could not buy enough in time.

“For health and safety reasons, we were unable to go ahead without the required number of water stations,” said Ms Lilley.

“We did everything in our power to come up with a solution so the race could go ahead as planned.

“We would like to express our sincerest apologies to everyone involved.”

Deputy PM Nick Clegg said: “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 yesterday shouldn’t tarnish that reputation.

“I know thousands of people have trained long and hard, 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 the race was cancelled.”

Crowds at the starting line on Attercliffe Common - the race was taking place at Don Valley Bowl for the first time yesterday following the demolition of its former venue, neighbouring Don Valley Stadium - booed and shouted ‘shambles’ as the race was declared cancelled.

Police tried to set up roadblocks in an effort to persuade runners to turn back, but more than 4,000 completed the route and made it to the finishing line.

Runner Jamie Windle fumed: “The water should have been delivered the day before, there would have been plenty of room to store it. I’m disappointed the police tried to stop runners and block the course.

“I feel all runners should receive a full refund, or every runner’s entry fee should be donated to charity by the organisers.”

Spectator Alan Robinson, 43, from Beighton, told The Star he felt ‘disgusted’. His stepson Tom Maw, 22, had been training for months and raised £1,000 in sponsorship.

“It’s disgraceful,” he said.

Liz Bryan, 55, had travelled from Thirsk in North Yorkshire to cheer on her daughter Hannah, 22.

“I’ve never known anything like it,” Liz said. “It is a valid reason to cancel it - if you run 13 miles without water you can get very unwell - but it is a shambles.”

Runner Andy Burnett, who completed the course, said: “I will not risk another Sheffield-based sporting event.”

Jennifer Menmuir, 31, from Meersbrook - whose husband Alasdair had been training for six months, criticised a lack of information.

“There were virtually no updates whatsoever,” she said.

“People have travelled an awfully long way to do this - for a lot of people it’s their first race of the season.”

A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “Officers kept their positions and stance with the initial road closures to motorists to protect all the runners and ensure their safety was maintained.”