Probe into Sheffield Half Marathon cancellation UPDATED

They're off, or are they? Sheffield Half Marathon competitors set off despite the race being officially cancelled due to lack of water.
They're off, or are they? Sheffield Half Marathon competitors set off despite the race being officially cancelled due to lack of water.
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Organisers of the Sheffield Half Marathon have started a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the cancellation of the 2014 event.

They did not say if those caught up in what Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg called a “farcical situation” would receive refunds. That is due to form part of the investigation.

They're off, or are they? Sheffield Half Marathon competitors set off despite the race being officially cancelled due to lack of water.

They're off, or are they? Sheffield Half Marathon competitors set off despite the race being officially cancelled due to lack of water.

Yesterday’s race was cancelled “due to a problem with the delivery of water”, which was met with anger when announced by the organisers on Twitter and Facebook.

South Yorkshire Police said that despite the cancellation, a large number of participants still ran the event.

Organisers said the investigation will examine the key issues, including lack of water delivery, which informed the committee’s decision to cancel the race.

They said: “The race organisers will also be looking into the communication at the start line which appeared to leave some runners completing the race unaware that it had been cancelled. However every effort will be made to ensure that the event’s 10 official charities still benefit from the thousands of pounds raised by runners’ fundraising.”

Margaret Lilley, chairwoman of the organising committee, said: “Our internal investigation into the situation will specifically focus on the circumstances which contributed to our suppliers failing to deliver the water bowsers as expected.

“The requirements for an official race dictate that there is an appropriate amount of water available at every three-mile interval on the course.

“At previous events we have always taken delivery of the water on the morning of the race and our suppliers have proven very reliable in this respect. However, this was not the case for the 2014 event and ultimately it was the key factor informing our decision to cancel the race.

“To compound the situation it appears that many runners did not fully hear the announcement we made at the start line cancelling the event. As a result many of the participants proceeded to run the course. So, once they had set off, our number one priority was to ensure their safety along the length of the route.

“We are extremely grateful to runners for the patience they have shown so far. Indeed as part of our investigation, we will take on board any comments and questions we receive.

“The outcome and findings from our investigation will be made publicly available in due course.

“After many months of planning and hard work by our team of volunteers to put on an event with the ultimate aim of raising vital funds for local charities, it was incredibly disappointing to cancel the event.

“Our committee is a not-for-profit group of volunteers, who are 100% committed to the local community through the delivery of an event that raises money for charity - and one of the only races left where all money goes to charity.

“In the 33 years of running the event, we have brought significant financial benefit to the local economy and businesses by increasing the footfall of people into Sheffield for this popular event.

“Once again, we apologise to all the runners, their families and friends and anyone else who has supported the event. We are committed to carrying out a thorough and comprehensive investigation examining all the key issues including water delivery, communications issues and refunds for runners.

“The Sheffield Half Marathon has been a key Sheffield sporting institution for 33 years over and we’re hopeful the event will return in 2015.”

Mr Clegg, MP for Sheffield Hallam, said yesterday that the “extraordinary scenes” should not tarnish the city’s reputation.

“I know thousands of people have trained long and hard for this event, 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 that the race was cancelled as they were on the start line ready to set off.

“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 shouldn’t tarnish that reputation.

“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.”

The online post announcing the cancellation, a week before the London Marathon, said: “It is with huge disappointment & 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. We will update you future plans asap.”

Rosey Alexander, 38, from Sheffield, finished the half marathon, but said: “It was a farce.”

The mother of three said the waiting around gave her cause for concern as she is diabetic.

“A group of us were lined up waiting to start the race. We had heard that the race was to be delayed by 30 minutes from the tannoy in the grassy area. But as we stood waiting to start, there were no announcements. No officials telling us what was going on. So we waited. And waited.

“As time ticked on to 9.45am I became increasingly worried. I am a type 1 diabetic, and had scheduled my breakfast, my race gels and my sugar levels for a 9am start.

“As time ticked on, I knew that my breakfast energy would be wearing off and I was worried.”

She added: “No one ever informed us it was cancelled. When we set off, we were just glad to get running. Then someone said there was no timing recording. By one mile in, I heard people saying there was no water on the course.

“This complete lack of information is the real error of the organisers.”

Ms Alexander said she has not heard anything about getting a refund.

“I either want a refund or a free go at next year’s race,” she said.

Angry comments were posted underneath the cancellation announcement on Facebook.

Mel Broadhurst said: “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!!!!!”

Entry to the event cost £24 before March 25, and £3 more after that date, a spokeswoman for the organisers said.