ENGLISH Half Marathon Race Director Rob Griffiths says he has been left “devastated” after having to confirm cancellation of this year’s event – which literally almost cost him his life.
Rob, who has been involved in the event for the past 10 years, starting as a runner, has issued a statement on the decision to cancel the event which was initially postponed as attempts were made to find a rescue package.
A question mark still hangs over the future of the event, although it is hoped it can comntinue in some format next year, under new ownership.
Rob’s statement in full said: “This statement has been written with the support of those close to me and with the attacks online and threats made towards myself and my personal space, along with pressures from the media, I feel that giving my side of what has happened with this year’s English Half Marathon event is important.
“Firstly, I can confirm that we have been unable to secure the necessary support to deliver the event in 2019. This is despite the best efforts from our local stakeholders and Warrington Borough Council, who I must say have been very supportive of me and the event of the last few weeks.
“I am truly devastated that we have had to postpone the event in the first instance and now outright cancel the event.
“The English Half Marathon has been a big part of my life for the last 10 years. Firstly as a runner, volunteer and then race director. The town has seen it grown from a small event at Victoria Park to a big event finishing through the Golden Gates attracting people from all over.
“When I took over as race director in 2013 the race was in jeopardy and in debt and was unlikely to happen. But I believed in the race and my hometown. I walked away from my career and got behind the race. This was not the only time that I have bailed out the race.
“I understand that there are number of conspiracies flying around as to why the event was postponed. I also appreciate the lack of clear communication from myself will lead to people making up their own stories.
“Not many people know that the event was actually owned by an American company based out of Denver in 2017 and 2018. Myself and the team were retained to deliver the event. That relationship broke down prior to the 2018 event and it was clear that they did see the event as part of their global portfolio of events, however I had the opportunity to take back the event which I did from November of last year.
“The event came back to us, not in the same shape as it previously left us. Not all suppliers had been paid, entries were down, we were without a website to market ourselves – but I believed in the event and I wanted to make sure my team still had a job.
“This event has never been a big money earner for anyone, it has always been subsidised by other parts of our business such as delivering Rock n Roll Liverpool and Dublin for third parties. Entry fees alone have never been able to cover the cost of delivering the event but that has always been managed as part of a bigger business.
“When taking back control of the event, my intention instantly was to find a new home for it, so that we could build it back up and do the town proud as we always have.
“I have been engaged with conversations with parties who were very keen to take on the event, myself and the team. However, we were unable to complete this prior to this year’s event.
“With this in mind, I was looking to secure a bridging solution so that we could deliver this year’s event and then move it over to a new operator who would lead the event into 2020 and beyond.
“This is a largely standard business practice and one that we have done before. However this fell through quite late on. This was mainly down to some lack of goodwill from suppliers who were not paid by the previous organisation.
“At this stage, we were 2 weeks out from the event and the risk of not being able to deliver the event became real. Personally this was something that I could not comprehend – the thought of 3500 plus runners not being able to run was too much for me.
“The last few years of delivering the event has taken its toll on me and the awful year with the American company had left me with nothing. I had not admitted to myself that I have been suffering with depression for some time.
“I believed the most honourable solution to this situation was to end my own life – which I was moments away from doing, before being stopped by a friend. My justification was knowing what the response would be if the event did not go ahead.
“My perspective had been lost. I had put the race ahead of my children, partner and family – which is something that I know they are struggling with. And so am I.
“At this point the council and other local parties stepped in, and we fought to deliver the event on the planned date but just fell short, hence we postponed the event of the Monday of race week.
“The magnitude of the event being postponed and now cancelled is not lost on me. There is not one person in this world who is more disappointed than I. No one has lost more than I have.
“Since we made the postponement announcement, I have been battling to keep the event alive with the support of local stakeholders and the council. But I have also been battling an illness that I didn’t realise that I had.
“That is why there has been silence as I have been crippled by it all. People who know me, see me as someone who leads from the front and takes battles head one. I have not been able to do this of late.
“Up until yesterday, there was more than a strong possibility that the event would go ahead in 2019 and then move forward with a new operator in 2020. Behind the scenes there have been a good number of people working hard to make it happen. I believe this is because they believe in the event and also me, based on what the race has achieved of the years.
“I am not seeking sympathy from anyone. I am only seeking understanding that for the last 10 years I have fought and fought to keep this event alive and bring people to my hometown to live out their own personal goals. This event means so much to me, so much that I nearly ended everything for it.
“This statement is intended to offer some context about the position the race is in. Now that we know that the event will not being going ahead in 2019, it is now for me to work out the next steps for all involved. This is going to take a few days to seek a resolution over, with many stakeholders to be engaged.
“I know the council are engaged in dialogue with an organisation to deliver a road race in Warrington 2020. The organisation is one that I have also been in talk with for a few months. I will need to understand how that could play out in terms of the current position EHM is in.
“I acknowledge peoples disappointment and frustration. I appreciate there will still be questions and next steps to be defined. My intention is to give a full update on how we deal with things early next week.
“This has been the hardest thing I have ever written. It has truly announced the failure of the event and laid bare my personal battles. Both which, will no doubt be a stigma held against me and impact my future for some time.”