JUST one runner completed the correct course for Sunderland’s Marathon and Half Marathon of the North last month – because organisers got the route wrong.
Thousands of disappointed competitors learned yesterday that 264metres – 0.16miles – had been shaved off the route shared by both runs, after race marshals were stationed in the wrong locations.
Half-marathon winner Mark Hood was the only runner to cover the correct distance.
Organiser DS Media and Events has accepted full responsibilty for the debacle. The firm launched an investigation after runners raised concerns at the time and afterwards.
“We are acutely aware of how important an accurate time and distance is to all participants,” said a company statement.
“Our courses are all measured by a UKA certified course measurer, who also acts as one of the lead outriders to ensure the correct route is followed. There are often late changes/additions made to routes for a myriad of reasons, but all had been communicated correctly to us as organisers.
“Regrettably, due to incorrect placing of marshals, which we take full responsibility for, only the lead athlete followed the correct route through the Sheepfolds area near the Stadium of Light.
“Unfortunately, the second and third placed runners were not within line of sight of the leader and lead bikes/vehicle.
“This resulted in all those who followed taking an incorrect route through this section. We are sincerely sorry for any confusion and frustration that this has caused.”
The company is offering runners affected by the error a 25 per cent discount off any of next year’s events.
Sunderland-born Horrible Histories author Terry Deary crossed the half marathon finish line after two hours 16 minutes. He believes the error should not distract from “a fabulous experience”.
“They were trying to run a marathon, half marathon and 10K run on the same day – it was a massive challenge,” he said.
“It is not like the Great North Run, where everybody knows where to go because they have done it before.”
Sunderland Harriers chairman Kevin Carr was equally philosophical.
“Naturally, runners will be disappointed that their times in the marathon and half marathon are not as fast as they thought,” he said. “Many were going away from the Stadium of Light delighted that they had clocked a personal best.
“For the organisers to come forward now and admit the course was short through their fault, they have to be admired for their honesty. No doubt they will take a lot of flak for this, but, hopefully, runners will take it on the chin and move onto their next race.
“It is not the first time this has happened in road running and it will not be the last.”