The SIG Insulations Sheffield Half Marathon was plunged into chaos yesterday and organisers were left embarrassed when water supplies for runners failed to arrive on the course.
Midlands-based Water Direct, who supply water in bulk to a variety of events, had not delivered leaving the organisers with a dilemma.
Margaret Lilley, Chair of the race organisers, and Max McNally, Race Director, decided they were left with no alternative but to cancel the event on the advice of the medical team and the police.
Many of the runners, who were left for around half an hour after the starting time wondering what was happening, thought otherwise and the majority decided to defy police advice and run, albeit unofficially.
The police attempted to block a section of the course, then re-routing a section until a local runner decided to stick to the planned route. The rest followed and the police could do nothing about it.
They did, however, in the interest of safety, keep the original road closures in place even though the race was now “unofficial”.
Margaret Lilley said: “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.”
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.”
Many of the runners carry their own water bottles and locals lining the route came to the rescue giving out bottles of water.
Winner was Toby Spencer of the famous Coventry Godiva club. Spencer, 23, has a best of 67 minutes and this was the first time he had run the Sheffield race. Unimpressed by the chaos, he is not likely to return: “It was a pretty poor show,” he said after coming home in 70:45 well clear of the opposition. “They can’t put on a race of this size, get everyone there and not allow you to run”.
He was also critical of the half hour delay with runners keyed up and waiting to start. Spencer added that he does not take a drink during a half marathon.
Runner-up was Alex Smith, a local man from Nether Edge who is not a member of a club and was running his first half marathon. Third was Rotherham Harrier Gareth Sampson.
First woman was Hallamshire’s Nicola Squires who came home in around 80 minutes. However, it is unlikely that the successful runners will be able to take the prizes for their efforts.