8th April 2014

Blood, Sweat and Tears: The Sheffield Half

By Anna Wilson on Tuesday April 8, 2014

Sunday saw over 11,000 rebels runners complete the Sheffield Half (4,100) and the Manchester Marathon (7,000). Running is a ‘thing’. Mass participation events like this are the new black; it’s easy to see why people get so inspired. So, motivated by the runners (and rebels) of the weekend, here’s my take on these events:

Preparation is Key

You wouldn’t just walk out of your front door and go for a 13.1 mile run (unless your name’s Mo Farrah).

The success of completing a distance run comes from the months of training before-hand. For ten weeks before running week-in, week-out in the rain, run and wind, because you’re committed to finishing the course.

You can see where I’m going with this…

My dad and I do a half marathon every year. We ran together last year, we’ll run together next year and for many years to come. It’s a landmark event; we invest time, effort, money (if you think cheap shoes will do the job, you’re wrong) and emotion. We look forward to it, train for it and enjoy the experience (and the competition).

Enjoy the Community Spirit

It’s addictive. The community comes together to support the runners. People stand by the side of the road offering you jelly babies (someone tried to give me a bacon sandwich at mile 10 once – I politely declined), with jugs of squash and plastic cups to support the runners, on-top of the bottles of water that the organisers hand out.

It’s always nice to see the community come together to support the runners, which to me is what these events are about.

Fail to Plan, Plan to Fail

This is the place where I list out all of the things the organisers could have done, or should have done to avoid these problems but that’s pretty obvious. Ultimately, it was a mistake (probably one they won’t be making again).

<Cue PR stunt from a drinks company in London next week>

Some people put themselves under immense pressure doing this type of event, you regularly see people at the roadside receiving support. My father-in-law to be once had to give CPR to a runner who had a cardiac arrest half-way through an event in Edinburgh. The organisers have to show that they’ve provided necessary support so they can’t be held liable. But you don’t have to be a genius to see that the communications could have been handled very differently!

2 Minutes Before the Start

As you can tell – here’s our problem. Social media is a volatile beast. Everyone has an opinion, the right (and the ability) to air it.

It’s like realising your flight’s been cancelled when you’ve been up since 2am packing and had a 3 hour drive to the airport. If they’d told you before you left the house, minimised the discomfort, apologised and then told you what they were going to do to set it right, you’d be much less err ‘ticked off’ than you would be at the departure gate.

The groundswell of opinion, conversation and general outcry has been exacerbated by the last minute announcement and the organiser’s seeming unwillingness to take ownership and provide resolution: ‘the tankers didn’t show up’ or in other words ‘It wasn’t me miss’. Cue juicy news angle and waves of runners posting about how they haven’t had their money back.

So what can the organisers do now? Apologise, take clear responsibility, communicate with the runners (many of whom were running for charity) and offer recompense.

Ready, Set, Go!

As for the rebel runners – well who can blame them?!

At the starting line you’re physically and psychologically ready. You’re part of a giant team of runners. Being told you can’t run then would be like putting a giant plate of delicious food in front of you (mmmmm pulled pork sandwich) and being told you can’t eat it…surely you’d take a cheeky bite, surely.

So what would I have done?

I’d have run anyway