ONE of the most important dates in the city's sporting calendar has been cancelled without warning.
Leeds City Council has revealed it will not be holding the Half Marathon this year – for the first time in 22 years – claiming it wants to focus all its attention on backing the 10k Jane Tomlinson Run for All.
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Running clubs across Leeds are disappointed by the shock decision to cancel the 13.1-mile road race, the only one of its kind in the city, especially as Leeds already has another 10k race, the Abbey Dash.
Bob Jackson, chairman of Valley Striders running club in Alwoodley, said: "I was shocked, it's such a shame.
"What's sad is that Leeds Marathon disappeared in 2003 but to take away the Leeds Half Marathon, to say they can't support it because they're supporting the Jane Tomlinson run, is a shame.
"Jane Tomlinson was a marathon runner and a triathlon competitor, how can people train for marathons and triathlons without such events?"
The 56-year-old, who has run the Leeds Marathon or Half Marathon more than 20 times, questioned why the council couldn't organise both, saying: "They managed to run the two of them last year, including one from scratch."
Last year's Half Marathon on May 13 had its biggest turnout ever, with more than 5,700 taking part, while the inaugural Run for All on June 24, organised by Rothwell mum-of-three Jane just three months before her death, had an impressive 6,000 entries and raised 500,000 for charity.
During her seven-year-battle with cancer Jane raised 1.75m for charity in a series of gruelling events.
A spokeswoman for Leeds City Council said: "Leeds' Half Marathon and Jane's Run for All were held just over a month apart last year and with the 2008 event aiming to increase numbers and create a lasting legacy for Jane, it was felt appropriate to combine the two.
"Therefore Leeds City Council has decided not to hold the Half Marathon in 2008 in favour of throwing its weight fully behind the Run for All 10k race."
But running clubs say the idea of "combining" a 6.2 mile race with a 13.1 mile race is ridiculous as they are entirely different. The majority of 10k runners are considered “fun runners”, while the half-marathon is a far more substantial challenge.
They also want to know why the council didn’t simply change the dates so the two were further apart.
Jane’s widower Mike Tomlinson said he’d had no involvement in the decision but was delighted the council was being so supportive of the race.
Newcastle, Manchester, Bristol, Liverpool, all hold annual half marathons.
Valley Striders member Paul Furness, who has run the Leeds Half-Marathon every year for around 16 years, said: “I think it’s a great shame if a city the size of Leeds can’t stage a half marathon at least once a year.”
The council said it will “give further consideration to the longer term position of the half marathon” but running clubs are disappointed they weren’t consulted.
The Half Marathon used to be held alongside the Leeds Marathon, which ended in 2003 when police refused to issue a future licence because of organisational difficulties.