THE organiser of the reborn Bolton Marathon has been uncontactable for several months, say runners who have paid their entrance fees.
And Bolton Council says it has had no contact from the organiser about holding the race in 2022 – and they would need six months’ notice if it was to go ahead.
A council spokesperson said that organiser Richard Smith – who told The Bolton News in December that the event was still on course to take place on May 15, 2022 at Queen’s Park – had not yet been in contact to make arrangements for the marathon, which was cancelled due to coronavirus in 2020.
Between 1,200 and 1,400 entrants to the marathon, who parted with between £55 and £75 to take part in the race, fear they have been left with no race to compete in while main benefactor Bolton Hospice has not received any proceeds.
The race is estimated to have raised around £100,000.
Mark Nixon, an entrant and ambassador to Bolton Marathon who set up a Facebook investigation group asking if anybody else had further information on the event, originally worked closely with Mr Smith.
He failed to hear from him for around year until November 2021, when he assured him the race was still going ahead.
He said: “I was an ambassador for Bolton Marathon and we would all communicate via a WhatsApp group chat.
“Prior to the virus forcing the marathon to rightly be cancelled and rescheduled, Richard was always very hands-on and enthusiastic.
“On November 26 last year, Black Friday I believe was the first time we had heard from him in over 12 months.
“He said Covid-19 had produced some issues he was dealing with, but nothing he couldn’t ‘fix’.
“He was taking this on as a one-man-band. Myself and fellow ambassadors offered to help him, whether it be posting medals and t-shirts, whatever, just take a chunk off his hands to make everything easier.
“There’s a lot of heated anger around the marathon now, he’s not communicated with the runners directly since last August.
“He said at that point let’s get October out of the way and we’ll look at getting some sort of Black Friday deal for getting more people signed up, launching before Christmas with a proper date for the run.
“Since then, everyone has tried to contact him to no avail. Sadly, us ambassadors who people recognise as being involved have had awful abuse, calling us frauds and what not despite us only trying to help Richard, who has gone AWOL.
“People parted with significant money not just to run, but for t-shirts, hoodies, all sorts of mementos that it looks like they will never receive. It’s not on.
“If he’s bitten off more than he can chew, he should just come out and say that, publicly or privately, and there are so many people who would be willing to take up the mantle and get this great race off the ground.
“He said he had to get personal revenue for the money lost during Covid-19 due to job worries, and he came off social media to protect his own mental health.
“What about everyone else’s mental health? The people getting the abuse? The people who have lost money? He hasn’t thought about that, it seems.
“All of the outstanding money should be donated to Bolton Hospice, whatever is left, that’s the right thing to do.”
Two weeks ago, responding to concerned entrants, Conservative Heaton and Lostock councillor Andrew Morgan of Bolton Council said: “We were aware of plans by a private event organiser to stage the Bolton Marathon in May 2020, but this was postponed by the event organiser.
“We were then made aware of a provisional plan to stage the event in 2021 but again this was postponed by the event organiser.
“Both postponements were fully justifiable due to the pandemic.
“At the time of the 2021 postponement, the event organiser suggested he may try to stage the event this year but we have had no correspondence from the event organiser regarding this.
“Timescales for the staging of major events in Bolton, including engaging with the Safety Advisory Group require at least six months minimum lead-in time.
“In consultation with the chair of the Bolton Safety Advisory Group and as this is not a Bolton Council organised event, we would refer anyone wanting information about this event to the event organiser via the official website or social media pages.”
Needing six-month’ notice for the marathon to go ahead this May, Mr Smith would have had to have been in contact with them in November or December at the latest, which he was not.
In December, Mr Smith told The Bolton News: “Nothing has changed and the marathon is still going ahead next year.
“I know I should have updated everyone, but I have been taking a break from social media for personal reasons, and most of my time has been taken up by a new job.
“I am working really hard in my spare time to put the marathon on for next year.
“I have no interest in making money from the marathon, I want to give back to the local community, which is why I needed to support myself in another job.”
Alice Atkinson, director of income and generation at Bolton Hospice, who were set to benefit from the proceeds of the marathon, said: “We were delighted to be approached by Richard Smith back in 2019 and agreed for Bolton Hospice to be one of the charities to benefit from the Bolton Marathon, through participants choosing to raise sponsorship for the hospice if they wished.
“We were very much looking forward to the event in May 2020 which of course was unable to go ahead. As it stands, we are currently unsure of the future of the event for 2022 and beyond.
“We understand that there is great disappointment amongst those who have signed up and paid for places for the event yet to take place, and hope for a resolution for them soon.
“For anyone who wants to take on a challenge this year to raise funds for Bolton Hospice, we have a number of events taking place with more information available at https://www.boltonhospBolton Safety Advisory Groupice.org.uk/events.
“We are always so grateful to those who choose to support us, to help us be here for everyone in Bolton who needs our expert care and support.”
Mr Smith originally planned to hold the Bolton Marathon and 10k race in 2020, but this was postponed to 2021, and now 2022, following the impact of Covid.
Runners then had the choice to take part in the Bolton Marathon and 10k race virtually, where they had to attend the course for their medals and t-shirts, defer until 2022, or transfer their place to another runner.
He said he was working on sending out medals for the virtual Bolton marathon and 10k race – which only a very small number of people took part in – as well as rewards for a ‘Twin Towns’ challenge, but there were delays due to him being part of a smaller team now.
It is said that nobody has yet received a medal or t-shirt for the virtual races last year, which simply required runners to complete the route of their own accord.
He hoped runners taking part in 2022 would be reassured the race is still going ahead on May 15 at Queen’s Park, with more updates to follow, including looking at issues on the website.
However, no updates have been issued and Mr Smith has made no contact with anyone regarding the marathon since speaking to The Bolton News in December.
Mr Smith has been contacted for comment but did not respond.