England

Runners 'understand' half marathon safety changes

Runners Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption There are more than 350 half marathons a year in the UK

A half marathon was cancelled and another shortened on Sunday amid security fears. What did the runners make of the changes?

Sam Vasudaven was shivering at the start line waiting to begin his 13.1 mile (21km) run.

He had driven for more than two hours from his home in Rochester, Kent, to join 3,500 others in the Great Eastern Run in Peterborough.

However, 20 minutes before the race, reports came in to police of a man acting suspiciously on the route and officers were sent to investigate - delaying the 10:30 BST start.

It was another 45 minutes before officers found it was a false alarm.

With some runners showing early signs of hypothermia and organisers knowing the roads would have to reopen at 14:00, they decided to cancel.

It was "really disappointing" race director Jon Marsden said, but they were "extremely understanding".

"Of course there are a number of runners who are very disappointed and I understand that but health, safety and welfare of participants is paramount for us," he said.

Image copyright Sam Vasudaven
Image caption Sam Vasudaven said runners were used to the British weather

"Runners are a wonderful breed and there was a great sense of camaraderie," one runner Sam Vasudaven said.

"Everybody comes together and they are especially used to the British weather.

"It was actually quite a nice atmosphere, people were sharing their silver blankets, it was the most British reaction to something going wrong.

"When we found out it was something safety orientated we had to understand."

Image caption Runners were given foil blankets to keep warm in the rain

In 2013, three people were killed and 260 injured in the Boston Marathon bombing.

"It's such a wonderful atmosphere and you're in the mind set of achieving a personal best so you do not think about these security things," Mr Vasudaven said.

"But yesterday I started to contemplate things a lot more, I think everyone was aware of what happened in Boston and the issue of safety.

"I will still go back next year though."

'Starting to shiver'

Robbie Shadbolt had travelled from Leeds for the run but said he took it all in his stride.

"To be honest it was a bit of relief not to have to run in the rain," he said.

"It was a little annoying because I travelled down from Leeds just to race but I totally understand why they did it.

"Some people in the start bins were starting to shiver a lot so I imagine they were most concerned about keeping people standing there for an indefinite period."

And he still managed to get a picture of himself crossing the finish line.

Image copyright Robbie Shadbolt
Image caption Robbie Shadbolt still managed to get a picture of himself crossing the finish line

Other runners were equally stoical.

Jenny Brandham said everyone was in "good spirits" and she praised the marshals and medical staff for looking after the runners.

Keith Ovenden said it was "disappointing" but sounded like the "right call".

"We shall be back better than ever next year," he said.

Twitter user Waspy Whyman said it was a "tough decision to make" but organisers had everyone's "best interest at heart".

"Good decisive actions save lives," he said.

Mr Marsden said organisers were "shell-shocked" by the cancellation but would contact runners within three days to offer a refund or entry into next year's race.

He told the BBC that due to the road closure orders in place, there was a 15 minute window to get the race started after the advertised time.

He said many eventualities were considered and planned for and Sunday's incident had been a "purely circumstantial" event.

This was the first time in 30 years the race had been cancelled and, as after every event, there will be a debrief and lessons learned, Mr Marsden said.

Great Birmingham Run

Meanwhile, about 85 miles west, entrants in the Great Birmingham Run did get to stretch their legs but not as much they hoped.

The run was shortened by a couple of miles after reports of a suspicious vehicle parked close to the course in the Cannon Hill Park area.

"Safety first" is the over-riding sentiment of the more than 400 comments made on the event's Facebook post announcing the shorter route.

Image caption Runners were told about the change to the course in the starting queue on New Street, Birmingham

"I can imagine it was disappointing for some but you've got to roll with it and take what comes on the day," Richard Mercer wrote.

"We all remember what happened in Boston," Michael Rosenfeldt posted.

Steph Pallas was disappointed at missing out on a potential personal best, but added: "At least we got to run and all safely."

Ellen Williams said: "A suspicious vehicle has to be taken seriously in this day and age.

"You missed out on a couple of miles and a potential personal best, but you went home to your families and friends able to race another day."

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