Collision involving car and runner sparks calls for safety improvements at half marathon

Record turnout: More than 6,000 people took part in this year's Coca-Cola HBC Half Marathon, 10K and Fun Run in Lisburn.
Record turnout: More than 6,000 people took part in this year's Coca-Cola HBC Half Marathon, 10K and Fun Run in Lisburn.

Concerns have been raised about the safety of runners competing in the annual Lisburn Half Marathon after a female competitor was struck by a car during this year’s race.

More than 6,000 people took part in the city’s half marathon, 10K race and fun run on June 21, but a collision involving a car and a competitor has sparked calls for the route to be closed to traffic during next year’s event.

Wendy McLean, who lives near Cookstown, was eight miles into her race last Wednesday when she was struck by a car on the Kesh Road at around 8:30pm.

“The wing mirror hit me on the elbow and the back. He wasn’t going that fast as there were a few other cars on the road too, but it left me with a sore back and a bruised arm,” she explained.

The plucky 43-year-old managed to finish the race, but her time and race had been ruined by the injury she sustained.

The driver of the “bronze metallic colour” vehicle that struck Wendy didn’t stop and police are investigating the incident.

Urging the organisers to think about implementing safety improvements for next year’s race, Wendy continued: “There were an awful lot of near misses this year, going by what people have been saying. There was an awful lot of traffic - not only cars, but also buses and lorries - going in and out between the runners at times.

“It’s certainly made me very nervous. I’ve been back out training as I have the Cookstown Half Marathon coming up, but every time a car goes past it is a bit unnerving.”

She added: “There was the half marathon, a 10K and a fun run all on the same night, so it wasn’t just adult runners, there were lots of children running as well.

“There were ‘Caution Runners’ signs up around the course, but I think they are going to have to consider closing the roads in future. It would really only be for a couple of hours.

“I was lucky enough that my injuries weren’t that serious, but I think the organisers need to do something because the next time it could be a whole lot worse.”

Reacting to the incident involving Wendy, a number of people took to Facebook to share stories of near misses at the race and to call on the organisers to think about implementing additional safety measures next year.

One woman posted: “I watched the runners on Longstone Street and between each different race traffic was allowed to pass through. All very well for the fast runners who were well clear of potential danger but those at the back were actually sandwiched by vehicles including a Busybus travelling out of Lisburn. A number of Half Marathon and 10K competitors resorted to running on the pavement. Several cars also sped into Lisburn almost hitting runners in the Fun Run. I cannot understand why, if advertised weeks in advance, the routes aren’t closed completely. It is a miracle that there hasn’t been a fatality.”

Another added: “I also watched articulated lorry go so close to the runners they eventually had to get off the road in front of my house. Disgrace to the organisers, the road should have been closed. Cars coming both directions mounting footpath and not slowing. Surprised someone was not more badly injured.”

The organisers of the annual event, Lisburn and Castlereagh City Council, said the issue of participant safety will be top of the agenda when statutory and voluntary partners meet for an event debrief.

Asked if the local authority plans to make any changes to improve safety for next year’s event, including the possibility of requesting road closures, a council spokesperson said: “The 2017 Lisburn Half Marathon, 10K & Fun Run attracted in excess of 6,500 participants with overall feedback extremely positive. A very small number of areas for improvement have been identified and will be discussed in detail at the upcoming event debrief. The debrief will involve all statutory and voluntary partners with participant safety the most important item on the agenda.”

The debrief is due to take place next Thursday and is expected to be attended by event organisers, council health and safety officers, sponsors, marshals and PSNI and NI Ambulance Service representatives.

Lisburn Police have described the incident on Kesh Road on Wednesday, June 21 as “an injury road traffic accident”.

Investigating officers have appealed to anyone who witnessed the incident to contact them on 101 quoting serial 897 of the 22 June 2017.