Yesterday the story of Netty Edwards, a female runner who was stopped after only a mile into the Spen 20, was reported by Women’s Running. This gathered up a social media frenzy with a large reaction online.
It has now become clear that Frank Reddington, chair of Spenborough & District A.C, was in fact the marshal who spoke to Netty after that first mile. He has since given a statement to AW recalling his version of events:
“I am the race organiser and while the race was taking place I cycled the course wearing a marshal bib, watching the progress of the race particularly the runners at the back end of the race.
“I stopped at a junction shortly after the first mile to assist marshals there. The runners passed the junction within a few minutes but I could see one female runner who was about 400 meters behind the next to last runner. I approached her and asked if she was alright and she said yes. I estimate that more than 15 minutes had passed since the start of the race and the runner had only just passed the first mile. She told me that she is an experienced runner and has completed among other long distance races a marathon in six hours.
“I told her that all of the runners usually finish in less than four hours and that I would like to withdraw the marshals within that time. From the few minutes I watched and spoke to her I could see that she would take well over five hours to complete the course. I told her that while she could continue, if at the 10 mile marker she was still a long way behind the other runners and had taken over two hours to get to that point I would be asking her to withdraw from the race.
“She was not happy with this and said that there was no point in continuing if she could not finish the race. I explained that I could not expect the marshals and officials to wait for her as they would be out for well over an hour longer than I estimated they would be. After further conversation during which she expressed her dissatisfaction she turned around and began to walk back to the start. At race headquarters she was given her entry fee back.”
On the lack of a time limit on the entry form, Reddington added: “On the entry form there is no time limit stated. Some years ago I stated a time limit on the form but I found it difficult to enforce because runners were reluctant to stop running. Over the years almost all of the runners have finished within four hours and we have accepted and worked up to this time limit. Some runners who know they will take well over four hours have asked when they have entered if they can start early and we have accommodated this as the route markers are put out two hours before the start. This year two runners asked for an early start and we accommodated their request. We do not advertise or encourage this because there would be no marshals on the course we would be concerned if too many runners took advantage of an early start.
“I am sorry that the day was spoiled for Annette and I will write to her. The race is a well established, mainly-club-runners event. and while we are accommodating a level of slower runners who enter, we do not have the resources to facilitate people who do not have a reasonable level of fitness to take part in this race.”