Water-a chaos at Sheffield Half Marathon

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A Ryedale man has spoken of the chaos surrounding a major sporting event after it was cancelled due to a lack of water for runners.

Dave Ward, of Thornton-le-Dale, was among many of the 4,100-strong field who decided to defy organisers of the Sheffield Half Marathon and run the race anyway on Sunday morning.

It was not until the first water stop three miles into the course that Mr Ward 
noticed there was a problem – with race officials “shaking their heads, saying they had no water.”

The experienced marathon runner said: “I have been on events before where they have had other problems, I have been on events where there is extra water provided by the general public, but never had an event where they said at the beginning it was cancelled and everyone set off.”

At first, South Yorkshire Police had considered putting up road blocks to stop the race but later decided the safer option was to let the runners complete the course.

Organisers later said they had been “let down” by the company who was meant to supply their water.

Mr Ward, a paramedic with the Yorkshire Ambulance Service, said he and many others could not hear the tannoy announcements from organisers about the cancellation on health and safety grounds, so when his fellow athletes set off - amid a chorus of “loud boos” - he decided to run the 13 mile course.

“It was weird,” he said. “I got there not knowing anything and half an hour before the start I got ready. Then we heard a message saying it was going to be delayed by an hour - no one said why.

“We couldn’t hear the tannoys at all. I heard some people saying it had been stopped, then some loud boos and everyone started running. I thought ‘let’s go with it,’ and started running as well.”

Thankfully, around six miles into the race, Sheffielders’ young and old began to come to their rescue.

Armed with anything that could carry water - plastic pint pots, sauce pans, cardboard cups and plastic bottles - they lined the route and handed out water to the parched runners who would then pass it backwards to their fellow race-goers.

“Their response was brilliant,” he said. “People were buying water for us which I thought was phenomenal. We couldn’t thank them enough for what they were doing.”

Mr Ward, who has completed three marathons and several half marathons during the five years he has been running, did not beat his personal best on Sunday, instead opting to “run a bit slower” to conserve his energy due to the conditions which saw a few people collapse.

He finished in around two hours.

Mr Ward said: “It is a race I will never forget for all the right reasons - for people power.

“It was how people came together in Sheffield to make their event, the Sheffield Half Marathon, happen. I don’t know what happened or who was to blame, so it was the day the people of Sheffield rescued us.

He is now unsure about whether he will return to Sheffield next year, believing that the organisers may have lost the faith of the running fraternity.

“I think there is a lot to be found out and discovered, a lot of runners’ confidence needs to be brought back and assurances that it won’t happen again. I am going to wait and see.”




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