Sheffield’s legendary community spirit once again came to the fore today with members of the public and local businesses coming to the rescue of ‘rebel’ marathon runners, providing water along the route after the event was cancelled due to “a problem with the supply of water.”
The half-marathon was initially delayed for 30 minutes when problems with delivery of water emerged. Organisers were unable to resolve the issue and made the decision to cancel the popular event.
Disappointed runners decided to run anyway and set off to complete the course on their own.
Upon hearing the news spectators along the route bought hundreds of bottles of water to keep the rebel runners hydrated despite the lack of official water stations.
Several runners set off to run the course despite announcement Sheffield Half Marathon was cancelled pic.twitter.com/x7TjLpJStA— Rob Staton (@robstaton) April 6, 2014
There were initial reports of police attempting to block the unofficial half-marathon participants, with a South Yorkshire Police spokesperson later saying: “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 [original] positions and stance with the initial road closures to motorists to protect all the runners and ensure their safety is maintained.”
In a statement following the event cancellation, the Chairperson of Sheffield Half Marathon Margaret Lilley said: “For health and safety reasons, we were unable to go ahead with race without the required number of water stations throughout the race route.
“As soon as we learnt of the problem, we did everything in our power to come up with a solution so that the race could go ahead as planned. But, we didn’t want to keep runners and spectators waiting any longer, so we took the decision to call the race off.”
Lilley added: ““We would like to express our sincerest apologies to everyone involved in the race who has been affected. But we have made the decision based on the best interest of runners and spectators.”
Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister and Sheffield Hallam MP, has called for a 'full explanation' from organisers: "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."
Clegg was also keen to point out the remarkable community spirit shown, adding: "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."
A number of people took to Twitter to complain about the cancellation, with many bemoaning Sheffield City Council. However, council representatives were keen to point out that it wasn’t responsible for the half-marathon.
Concerns have also been raised that charities could miss out on vital sponsorship, but a number of Sheffielders have promised to honour their pledges despite the cancellation.
To all the guy's we sponsored for #sheffieldhalfmarathon please send the money to your charities anyway :-)— New Barrack Tavern (@NewBarrack) April 6, 2014
Half Marathon organisers have promised to supply timings and a finish list, saying: “With the majority of the race infrastructure in place, many runners decided to run the route as planned. Those who crossed the finish line with their race number will be timed and we will be providing a list of all finishers and their times.”