Fury erupted today as Sheffield’s Half Marathon was cancelled because of “insufficient water supplies” for runners, writes Graham Walker.
There were chaotic scenes on the streets this morning as thousands of runners still took part despite organisers announcing it was cancelled at the last minute.
Many of the 6,000 runners elected to run the race anyway.
And crowds who came to watch didn’t just clap and cheer them - many bought bottles of water and handed them to the runners on route.
Reports from the scene suggested the police briefly considered prevented the runners from participating but then decided against it.
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Organisers cancelled the event citing a safety risk and said that a water company did not deliver the required water supplies.
In a statement they said: “It is with huge disappointment and 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.”
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.”
South Yorkshire Police said that despite the cancellation, a large number of participants have still chosen to run the race.
The force, which was initially present on parts of the marathon route to assist with the road closures to motorists, added: “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.”
The cancellation of the race, which was due to take place today, was announced on the Sheffield Half Marathon Twitter account and Facebook page.
Just a couple of hours previously, a tweet was posted by the account calling on people to tweet their race day pictures, adding: “Today is the day!”
The Sheffield Marathon Twitter account has since 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”.
One spectator said: “This year the event set off from near the Arena rather than Don Valley. They announced early on that there would be a half hour delay. Then, they said the race would get underway shortly before updating again saying the race was cancelled.
“However all of the runners just went for it anyway.”
The cancellation of the Sheffield Half Marathon comes exactly one week before the London Marathon which takes place next Sunday.
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The farce sparked an outburst on social media with Sport England tweeting: “We’re very sorry to hear of the cancellation of #sheffieldhalfmarathon. We admire everyone who has trained hard & made it to the start line.”
There was an angry response to the cancellation on Facebook.
Mel Broadhurst commented underneath the official post: “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!!!!!”
Craig Reed wrote: “It’ll be the nail in the half’s coffin. And are you refunding all of us?”
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?”
On Twitter the anger continued.
LisaCox @lisacoxHC: I am not a runner but I have lots of friends who have prepared ages for this. I am embarrassed...to be from Sheffield
Rachel Ferla: what an absolute joke - wouldn’t happen in Manchester or Great North Run
@KerryMarstonGir: what an amazing thing the spectators have done. #givingwatertorunners #communityspirit
#Sheffield Adv Film Fest @showroomcinema: trying to get water jugs ready @SheffieldStar @GW1962 for #Sheffieldhalf runners @RadioSheffield
@SheffieldStar all taken numbers off and still going #power to the people! #Shameful #Sheffield organisers
Lea Lee @Miss_Lee1982 @letour they’ll be cancelling due to pot holes! #disgrace
Jill Beech @QualityJill: @letour Stage 2 cancelled due to no bikes -Sheffield fans bring out tricycles and the stage is completed
Jez @jazzteabeer: it sounds like the water suppliers messed up, so surely any blame lies there?
Jez @jazzteabeer: it’s not good but: 1) you can only learn from mistakes 2) won’t it be different organisers for @letour?
Biddy BT @Biddybt: rubbish!!!!!!!! Andrew @Wroe_Tweet: I will give you tomorrows headline for free “no h2o leaves runners no where togo”
Debbie Grainger: my friends have come up from London to run in this. Fiasco.
Lissa Cook @Heason_Lissa: we are totally confused at #ShAFF2014 Tons of #sheffieldhalf runners going past @showroomcinema
Owlstalk.co.uk great advertisement for Sheffield. Won’t be long before we mess the Tour De France up as well #scc #embarresing
Jane Lynes @JanieL24: I’m sorry, but April Fool’s day was Tuesday. Not funny. Runners and charities suffer because of incompetence.
Kerry Marston-Giroux @KerryMarstonGir: embarrassed to be a Sheffield runner today
nathan westlake @west1492: how can they not get enough water. They managed before .
Robert White @RobertRobWhite: well there still running and we have water
Laura Jameson @laurastrong1985: Watching the Sheffield half marathon? Go to the shop and buy a few bottles of water - help the runners out!