Sent: 15 January 2008 00:55
To: 'sara.j.birkinshaw@leeds.gov.uk'
Subject: Please reinstate the Leeds Half Marathon this year

 

For the attention of Sara Birkinshaw,

 

Dear Sara

 

By the time you receive this you will already have seen more than 100 emails either sent directly to yourself or sent to the “Your Views” page of the Yorkshire Evening Post.

 

My personal background is that I have run 8 Leeds marathons and 15 Leeds half marathons.  I have been race director or on the organising committee of two local races for the past 9 years and we have raised over £17,500 for Lineham Farm Children’s Centre and £12,500 for a charity in York.  I am currently chairman of Valley Striders AC, although this email represents my personal views, not those of the Club.

 

Having had time to read thoroughly your document of 27 December, I’d like to make detailed comments.

 

Firstly, I would like to know the make-up of the “Recreation Delegated Decision Panel” and know how many Leeds City Councillors were involved in the decision.

 

I would like to add my own section on background information:

 

The Leeds Half Marathon has a long history, dating back to the Marathon in 1981 at the start of the road running boom.  It was named “The Duchess” and held near to the birthday of Jimmy Savile’s mother.  There were over 2,000 runners in 1982, then as the number of marathon runners declined, a half marathon was added (alongside the full) in 1986.  In the mid 1990’s the total number of runners had reduced to around 1,500, still a large race.  But in the last 10 years, the number of runners has increased nearly every year to last year’s record 2,950.  The accompanying events have also seen similar increases in numbers with record numbers of runners in the Corporate Challenge (840) and the Fun Run (1000) in 2007.  It cannot be a time to cancel these events when they are all gaining in popularity.

 

NB The last marathon was in 2003, there were only 330 runners, and although sad, its demise was not unexpected.

 

Leeds has a history of producing marathon runners, amongst them – Sarah Rowell (Olympics 1984), Veronique Marot (London winner and British record holder 1985-7 and 1989-2002), Angie Hulley (Commonwealth bronze medallist 1990), Peter Whitehead (Olympics 1996), and Tracey Morris (Olympics 2004, European 2006 and World Championships 2007).  Leeds City is currently the leading running club in the UK having recently won the English Cross Country Championships and the National Road Relays.  Leeds has twice recently hosted the English Cross Country Championships and hosts the Northern Championships in 2 weeks time.  Leeds is a major player in the endurance running scene in the UK.

 

Leeds now has three major road racing events.  The two 10k races are organised externally to the Council.  The Leeds Half Marathon is the race organised by the Council.  The nature of a half marathon is that the race cannot be run without the full support of the Council because 13 miles of road are involved.  Leeds City Council has successfully managed this race for 27 years.

 

Now to pick up your “Main Issues”, in turn:

 

3.1 regarding road closures – this is going to have to happen for a large race.  But other cities manage to have half marathons in their city centres – including Sheffield, Liverpool, Nottingham and Newcastle.  In this section, when justifying the cancellation of the race, I would expect you to be explaining the difference in circumstances between Leeds and these other cities.

 

3.2 regarding the Council’s support - yes of course the Jane Tomlinson event needs the Council’s support.  But if we compare the two sporting events – 3,000 people running 13 miles plus another 2,000 running 1-2 miles for Leeds Half Marathon events and 12,000 people running 6 miles for JT – then logic says the Sport Development section of the Council should be providing almost equal support to the two events.  You already have the processes in place for organising the LHM (as do the JT organisers for their race), so the workload for 2008 should be less than 2007.

 

3.3 regarding Corporate Challenge – the main corporate challenge in the JT involves adding the times of 3 team members; there are also competitions for most runners and most sponsorship. All runners are running 10k.  This is completely different from the LMH relay race which involves 6 team members who are running a shorter distance (there is a wonderful atmosphere at the handover stations in the LHM relay).

 

3.4 regarding the Fun Run – rather than “hoping a Fun Run will take place in 2008”, I would have expected you to be a lot more positive – suggesting a venue and time of year – before cancelling the Leeds Half Fun Run.  But I am sure that the participants enjoy running up the Headrow far more than a lap of Roundhay Park, and feel they are taking part in a much bigger occasion with the LHM than if it were a separate event.

 

3.5 you mention Leeds has “over twenty 5k or 10k runs at various locations throughout the city”.  Surely that is an indication that what is missing is a half marathon!  There are many runners who run the Abbey Dash in November and their next challenge would be the Leeds Half Marathon.  They will now need to travel elsewhere for that.  You also omit to say that in addition to the 5k/10k runs there is also a 10 mile race in the City boundary, in Otley – is there a reason for this omission?

 

3.5 regarding the date – you say “summer would not attract many participants and October would be too close to the Abbey Dash”, which begs the question, why not September?  And for 2009, put the JT race on in May and the Leeds Half in June, and people can run both, with athletes using JT as a form guide for the LHM.

 

3.6 regarding “encouraging potential Half Marathon entrants to enter the Jane Tomlinson 10k” – you know by now, they are different events.  They may well enter JT.  But they will probably (also) go to run Sheffield (or possibly Blackpool) half marathon at the end of April because Leeds isn’t on.

 

3.6. regarding the “best 10k in the country” – Leeds could have the two best 10ks in the country, JT the best 10k run and Abbey Dash the best 10k race.  But Leeds needs a longer distance race too.

 

To comment on your conclusions

 

You have come to your conclusion without any feedback.  Why do you want to have a “review of options for the half marathon reinstatement in May 2008”, when you will know no more that you do now – you already have the runner feedback, you won’t be any wiser about the Jane Tomlinson 10k run, and you won’t know any more about road closures.  And according to you, in May, you’ll also be busy with your involvement in the Jane Tomlinson 10k.  Why not hold the review now?

 

Please reconsider your decision of 27 December!  You have lost less than three weeks, so it must still be possible to put the Half Marathon back on its originally scheduled date of 11 May (the date is still free in everyone’s diaries).  Or, if May is not possible, then this September.

 

Regards

 

Bob Jackson