SHEFFIELD: Marathon sets blistering pace for 5,800 runners

The race gets under way
The race gets under way

SHEFFIELD’S biggest half marathon turned out to be a sizzler as nearly 5,800 entrants tackled the 13.1 mile course in soaring temperatures.

The earlier start of 9am from Don Valley Stadium took a little of the heat out of the situation after former snooker world champion Steve Davis started the race with Lord Mayor John Campbell.

And the sun brought out the crowds for a carnival-like atmosphere on Ecclesall Road, as runners reached the halfway mark of Hunters Bar.

Cafes and bars opened early, Endcliffe Methodist Church offered free drinks and toilets, music blared from outside the St Luke’s Hospice shop and signs were held up to encourage the perspiring participants.

Extra water was provided, which was certainly needed by those runners in fancy dress, although two men in a camel suit presumably didn’t need it.

It wouldn’t have been a Sheffield half marathon without 74-year-old John Burkhill, the ‘mad man with a pram’, in his green wig, collecting for Macmillan Cancer Support.

More than 500 children and families took part in the 3km Sheffield Great Fun Run around Don Valley, while a race was held for the mascots of official charities.

In total, 5,792 runners braved the heat for the SIG half marathon on Sunday – up from 5,500 last year, thanks to changes to the route to avoid bottlenecks.

Margaret Lilley, who chairs the organising committee, said: “The take-up and attendance was the most popular and biggest we have had so far.

“It was fantastic to see so many supporters cheering on their friends and loved ones and we want to thank every single person who was involved in making it another memorable year.

“We are looking forward to totting up the total raised for our ten nominated charities and hope that they will benefit from what could be our biggest donation yet.”

Last year’s total was £110,000.

John Franklin, originally from Sheffield, but now living in London, won the SIG half marathon with a time of 70:31.

The 26-year-old, who runs for the Metropolitan Police, said: “I was born and raised in Sheffield and used to train a lot at Don Valley Stadium, so it means a lot.”

Julian Lings, aged 26, of Enfield and Haringey Athletic Club and formerly Sheffield Running Club, came second with 71:10, finishing just ahead of Mark Rushbrook, aged 30, also from Sheffield, who finished in 71:15.

Hallamshire Harries’ Nicola Squires, who came second last year, won the ladies race in 81:22.

Second was Nicki Nealon, aged 44, who runs for Huncote Harriers in Leicestershire, with 83:17, and third, Totley Athletics Club runner, Pollyanne Veazey-French, aged 27, with 84:47.

Nicola, aged 26, said: “It feels fantastic. The great thing about competing in Sheffield is that there is an amazing local crowd that takes you round the whole route.”

Nicola also achieved another success after her club, Hallamshire Harriers, won both the female and male fastest club.

Snooker legend Steve Davis not only helped to start the race, but ran it, one of 16 supporters of the Paul Hunter Foundation, set up in memory of the snooker star, who died of leukaemia in 2006.

After clocking up two hours, 42 minutes, he said: “It was very tiring. I last did a half marathon when I was 40 and that was 14 years ago so this was much harder. I’m pleased to have finished.”