Thursday 12 December 2019

On your marks, get set...hang on: Sheffield Half Marathon cancelled by health and safety officers over failed water delivery

Adam Withnall

The organisers of the Sheffield Half Marathon have been forced to cancel the race over health and safety fears after a delivery of water failed to arrive on time.

The announcement was made at the starting line after an initial delay of 30 minutes, with around 5,000 runners waiting to begin the race.

Thousands chose to run the route regardless – and there were chaotic scenes as police at first attempted to blockade roads in order to prevent them doing so.

Officers eventually allowed the runners to proceed, and have kept road closures along the route in place.

Volunteers have also committed to helping people complete the race regardless, and there have been many reports on social media of members of the public in Sheffield buying water in supermarkets to hand out to runners.

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Pictures posted to social media showed both runners and volunteers participating despite the announcement (Twitter/Sachin Salvi)

The race organisers issued a statement on the Sheffield Half Twitter and Facebook pages, which read: “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.”

Speaking to BBC News, the organisers’ chair Margaret Lilley said that “all 5,000” participants had “wanted to race anyway” once the announcement was made.

“We had a problem with the supply of water,” she said.

“The company we had asked to supply bowsers for the route did not arrive this morning.

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“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.”

Inspector Neil Mutch, from South Yorkshire Police’s Organisational Planning Unit, said that after officers attempted to “convince” people not to race, in the end it was decided it was “a lesser risk” to let them through.

He later tweeted: “Despite cancellation of race, runners have decided to run regardless. All road closure remain in place for safety.”

Sport England received a number of messages on social media from would-be runners who had spent months training and fundraising for charity.

The organisation tweeted: “We're very sorry to hear of the cancellation of #sheffieldhalfmarathon. We admire everyone who has trained hard & made it to the start line.”

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