2014 Sheffield Half Marathon: What were the main issues?

Due to the fact I am at the most intense part of my degree, I decided to break up the tediousness of academic work by talking about Sunday’s Sheffield Half Marathon.

Yes, let’s have a quick discussion about our thoughts on the race being cancelled due to water shortages, because really how can we not comment on this!?

I may not, as of yet, be a fully-fledged event professional but I have worked on enough events to know that things like this should not happen, and for any event to be cancelled it is always the last resort for the event organisers. You always need to have a secondary plan in place & know of alternative suppliers/shops who could help out at short notice. What is pretty sad about this cancellation is that it is down to a shortfall of water bottles, not infrastructure or lack of volunteers but the simple case of not enough H2O.
Who was at fault, the supplier or the event organisers?
It hasn’t been announced whether the water problem was down to lack of communication between the organisers or the supplier not coming through – it is very shocking that for an event of this size that has been running for over 30 years that they were only getting the water delivered on the day of the event. Tom Bedford, the race director of the  Richmond Running Festival, told Supply Management “At Richmond we have our water and energy drinks in a couple of days before. We also try and use well-known suppliers who have a reputation of delivering”
So why couldn’t the event happen without the water?
For the race to go ahead there needed to be a certain amount of water on site for the event to be passed as safe by the event safety officer and medical team – this was a legal requirement that is out of the event planners hands, and something that is in place to protect and care for the participants. For any event manager the main concern is for the safety of the attendees and understandably it may often come across as over protective to people not working in the industry.
Yet if a runner had become seriously ill for dehydration who would the family look to blame? That is something that will play a major aspect in deciding what to do with the event, because the race organisers need to think about the safety of everyone involved
What has made people angry about the cancellation?
It isn’t the event having to be cancelled that has made most of the runners annoyed but rather how the organsiers announced it; or more specifically how they failed to let people know! If you watch the video below, you can see they only announced the cancellation when everyone was at the start line, a lot of participants didn’t know it had been cancelled because they couldn’t hear the one announcement made. You can tell that the runners right at the front heard the event had been cancelled but it was no way loud enough to reach the other 5,000 runners and that is a fault of the organsiers.
They did use social media to announce the cancellation, yet how many people do you know who check the internet when about to run a marathon?

Another point that is quite interesting is the fact the race organisers are not giving back refunds. Whilst I understand that as a non-for profit event it is very difficult to give money back & they do have to pay for the infrastructure used. However, as the water was not delivered they will not be spending that part of the budget & there is an argument that they should try to refund part of what people paid – especially to those runners who did not participate in the marathon once the cancellation was announced.

It would be interesting to hear you opinions on whether refunds should be given?

Was there anything they did well?
The police and organisers did the right thing in keeping the runners safe once people decided to participate in the race regardless of the announcement, and overall the volunteers and people of Sheffield did an amazing job in getting water to the remaining participants, but there definitely was a massive problem in how the cancellation was communicated with the runners and spectators.
The two main issues are the fact the event was cancelled due to supplier miscommunication and how this information was passed onto participants. Because, regardless if the failed delivery was down to a supplier letting them down, the overall responsibility of the event belongs to them.
Whilst I understand that many half marathons are successfully run by volunteers who have no previous experience in running events, I think this simple mistake shows why it is important to have trained event professionals who are able to stop problems like this arising in the first place. Simply put if the delivery of water has only be scheduled for the Saturday the whole water situation would have been fixed prior to anyone knowing there was an issue!
What do you think is the best & safest way to tell ALL the runners and spectators that the marathon had to be cancelled? And what is your view on what happened at this event?

**UPDATE: it has been announced by Water Direct that they had not recieved payment for their delivery from the organsiers, despite them making it clear they needed full payement before the event. (evvnt industry news)
I am also currently collecting data for my Dissertation & if you have ever attended a Career Event or never attended one I really need to hear your views by completing my survey – it takes less than 2 minutes!  THANKS TO ALL WHO HAVE TAKEN THE TIME TO DO IT SO FAR!