Unbelievable, wonderful and brilliant.
That’s how half marathon runners praised the people of Sheffield for doing their city ‘proud’ and stepping in to give thirsty runners water along the route.
Residents, spectators and workers handed out bottles and cups to those who defied the cancellation – or in many cases had not even not realised that the event had been called off – during Sunday’s confusion.
And runners have heaped praise on those that saved the day, describing them as ‘unbelievable’ for cheering them on.
Retired bank manager Chris Morgan, aged 67, of Bradway, said: “It was wonderful coming through Ecclesall Road. Normally when you are towards the back people have gone home but they were still out with water and food, giving us a really good cheer.
“By the time I went around there were gallons of water around, you could have drowned in it.
“The spirit of Sheffield was brilliant, and really shone through.”
Staff at the Costa coffee shop in Atlas handed out more than 3,000 cups of water.
Manager Jasmine Grant said: “The paramedics had a meeting in our store and just outside was going to be a first aid station.
“So it was one of them who told us the runners had set off, but they had no water.
“We have some sample cups so at first we used them, but there were only 300, then we started using espresso cups and got through another 3,000! I have to count them every week, so I can be exact!
“We even started using a kitchen hosepipe that we use to wash pots because the bar wouldn’t let us fill the cups quickly enough.
“There were a lot of supporters nearby and they helped us give the water out.
“The atmosphere was absolutely fantastic.”
Army reservist Alex Wilson ran the marathon in full infantry combat gear weighing 25kg – and carried his own water.
The 24-year-old firefighter, running in memory of his grandad who died of cancer, was captured on camera as he stopped at Sheffield’s war memorial in Barker’s Pool.
His picture was placed on the Facebook group Pictures of Sheffield Old and New, boosting his fundraising for Yorkshire Cancer Care to £270.
Alex, of Chapeltown, said: “It was really good to see people coming out of their houses and businesses. It must have been hundreds of people, if not thousands, handing out water. The organisers had bought a lot of bottled water as well, but the health and safety officials had deemed it unsafe, so a lot got thrown away.
“I’m a reservist, so the military is my part time job, so I thought let’s make it challenging. We normally carry the kit over eight miles but this was over 13.2 miles. I did find it tough!”
Meanwhile Julie Burgon, whose two sons completed the half marathon and raised more than £1,000 for Breast Cancer Care, said: “I am so proud of them and thank the people of Sheffield for giving them water – which the organisers failed to do. They are are the best.”
‘We will examine all the key issues, including water supply’
Organisers today said they are ‘hopeful’ Sheffield Half Marathon will return next year – despite Sunday’s fiasco.
And they promised ‘every effort will be made’ to ensure the event’s 10 official charities still benefit from the thousands raised by runners.
Margaret Lilley, chair of the organising committee, said in a statement: “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 per cent committed to the 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, 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 and we’re hopeful the event will return in 2015
“Our internal investigation 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 there is an appropriate amount of water available every three miles.
“At previous events we have always taken delivery of the water on the morning of the race, and our suppliers have proven very reliable.
“However, this was not the case for 2014 and ultimately it was the key factor informing our decision to cancel.
“To compound the situation it appears many runners did not fully hear the announcement we made at the start line cancelling the event. As a result many proceeded to run. Once they had set off, our priority was to ensure their safety.”
Runners were also thanked for their patience, and organisers said comments would be ‘taken on board’. The outcome of the investigation will be made publicly available.
Related article: Row over refunds in Sheffield half marathon fiasco