No water? No problem!
In short, the Sheffield Half Marathon was cancelled an hour after the race was due to start, because there was not enough water to ensure the safety of the competitors. What followed can only be described as a city of good hearts, true community spirit, and wonderful memories.
I don’t quite know where or when to start. I think that was also the problem for the 5,000 eager runners (or should I say Rebel Runners) ready to take on the Sheffield Half Marathon last Sunday. The chaos, the confusion and the true spirit of the Sheffield people ensured it was a day which won’t be forgotten in a hurry. The water may still not have arrived by then.
I maybe should have trained a little harder, perhaps a little longer, but I was still ready to take on my first half marathon. Just over thirteen miles of pure human endurance, the Sheffield Half Marathon has been one of the highlights of the Sheffield sporting calendar.
For the past thirty three years, without incident, the marathon was centred on Don Valley Stadium. With the stadium’s subsequent destruction, the marathon has been moved to some grass just next door.
Don Valley Bowl is a nice little area, but lacks the grandeur of what was once the second largest athletics stadium in the country. In true Olympic style, the half marathon would direct runners into the stadium for a grandstand finish, with roaring crowds, and a backdrop to match. Disappointingly, this year, we had to settle for much less. And I am talking about more than just the stadium.
The starting line was overly busy. Runners were forced to stand for an hour, with nowhere to go. I was, at that point, frantically going through every stage of the race in my mind. A half marathon is a mental process, on equal terms with the physical aspect of every long distance run.
It was 9:00am, I was ready. I was anticipating some sort of klaxon, or some sound loud enough to reverberate to all the runners. But this was to be the start of a number of failings that left Sheffield crawling out from under a cloak of embarrassment. Or did it?
The PA system (If I can call it that) was barely loud enough to mask the sound of a pin dropping on cushions. The realisation that there was a half hour delay in proceedings was only communicated to me and thousands of others through nothing other than word of mouth. And so it began.
The 9:30am delayed start time came, and then quickly went. It was minutes later that the first rumours of the cancellation first trickled through the crowd of runners and on lookers. I found it unlikely a race of this stature and nature would be so inadequately prepared for, that the organisers would have no choice but to cancel the event at such a late stage. But no, they most certainly did.
Were there technical issues, a medical emergency? It was nothing of the sort. Actually, there just wasn’t enough water. To which many runners thought they’d run anyway, which has contributed to the year of the Rebel Runners.
I ran the entire race, thinking it was a race. I finished the race. But yet, it wasn’t a race. It was just a lot of determined and good willed people going for a rather long run on public highways. Not that many of us knew that.
I’ve heard many stories about the events of that day. There were reports of police trying (and failing) to stop the runners who had set off. To which, they soon realised the task of forcing 4,000 people to stop charging towards them was probably near impossible. So, in the spirit of community, and in the spirit of the show must go on, South Yorkshire Police allowed runners to complete the course. It was an extremely bizarre order of events.
For now, forget about the shambles that was the Sheffield Half Marathon. What happened next was truly remarkable. It made me extremely proud to be part of something wonderful, and something unique.
To be continued….