Great Eastern Run: Police urged to reveal more details behind race cancellation

Police are being urged to reveal more information on the advice they gave that lead to the Great Eastern Run being cancelled after the force declined to answer further questions on yesterday’s events.

Monday, 14th October 2019, 1:56 pm
Police in Alexandra Road on Sunday

Thousands of runners were left disappointed after the half marathon was called off yesterday morning following a report to the police of a man acting suspiciously in Alexandra Road in the city’s North ward.

Armed police attended the scene, with the decision taken a short time later by race organiser Jon Marsden to call the race off after he was briefed on the unfolding situation.

However, the incident later turned out to be a false alarm, with Cambridgeshire police stating: “We take all calls extremely seriously, even more so in light of recent events across the country”,

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The force, though, refused this morning to answer any further questions on the incident, including whether anyone was arrested or if rumours circulating among the media - and social media - of a bomb scare were correct.

A spokeswoman for the force said only that the witness who called 999 was “acting in good faith but this is thought to have been misinterpreted”.

In response, the Peterborough City Council cabinet member responsible for the event, Cllr Steve Allen, said he believed the public should be told more about the circumstances surrounding the its cancellation, even if it was not immediately.

He told the Peterborough Telegraph: “I’m sure at some stage the police will be more forthcoming - we would all like to know what actually occurred to make the member of public make the call. But at this stage I’m confident the police did the right thing and the race organiser did the right thing.”

Mr Marsden said yesterday he was “shell shocked” by what had happened, but that runners had been “extremely understanding”.

He added: “We’re really disappointed we had to cancel the event. We do apologise to all the people who had booked their run with us, but unfortunately an incident occurred around 20 minutes before the start of the half marathon where the police were concerned about the behaviour of an individual on the course at the particular time which required investigation.

“Unfortunately, because of the time it took to do that, and we work very closely with the police, we then had to consider the issues around the runners who were waiting - people were starting to suffer with hypothermia.

“And also we had to consider the road closures because we have guaranteed to city residents that we would reopen these roads by two o’clock.”

All runners will now be contacted this week to be offered refunds or entry into next year’s race.

Police and Crime Commissioner Jason Ablewhite said: “We all have to be mindful of the environment we continue to live in. We have to be vigilant and act on any suspicions we may have.

“I have received reassurance from the Chief Constable that on this occasion the police reacted to information from a member of the public and the decision made by the organisers to suspend the race was ultimately theirs to make.

“Given recent events, such as what took place at Manchester’s Arndale Centre last week, you will understand that community safety is paramount.”

Asked if the police should reveal more to the public about yesterday’s incident, a spokeswoman for Mr Ablewhite said: “The decision by the police not to release any further information about what happened is for them to make and Jason has the Chief Constable’s reassurance to that effect.”

Cllr Allen backed the decision to call off the half marathon.

He said: “It was a very difficult decision to make with very short notice. It was unenviable but the right decision.

“On this occasion it was a false alarm, but if it had not been and Mr Marsden had made the decision to go ahead, it would have been unthinkable.”

Asked if there were any concerns there could be an impact on the number of runners taking part at the half marathon in the future, he replied: “It was all over the media nationally and locally so I’m sure the race will be more in people’s minds.

“Perhaps those that did not run this year will leave their fee to race next year, and hopefully more will come along because of the unfortunate publicity this incident generated.”

The wheelchair race was also cancelled with the competitors on the start, meaning the only event which did go ahead yesterday was the 5km Anna’s Hope fun run.

Mr Marsden added: “We had a fantastic fun run. There were nearly 1,000 people who took part in that. There were young people, elderly people, families, and everybody had a superb run.

“It was a very, very enjoyable event, but it’s just so disappointing that we couldn’t get the half marathon run.”