Twenty four angry London Marathon runners were left tired and exhausted BEFORE they had even started Sunday’s event after they were left stranded in Luton.
The runners and spectators from Boxfit Triathlon Club and Stopsley Striders were left waiting outside Venue 360 for 45 minutes after their pre-paid booking for a coach from Barton Coach Company failed to arrive.
The runners and spectators decided they would have to make their own way to London, if they were going to make it in time for the start.
Dave Coard, who organised the coach, has been left frustrated by the situation.
He said: “I spoke with the driver on Sunday morning at 7am, when he was supposed to collect us, and he said he was leaving the depot and apologised as he thought it was a 7.15am pick up.
“When we rang again at 7.20am as he still had not arrived he did not answer the phone. I’ve lost count of how many times we called. We then called the emergency number and that went to answer phone.
“It got to 7.45am and we decided we would have to use our own vehicles and some of us the train, to get the runners to the start line in time for the marathon to start.
“We rushed to London and arrived with minutes to spare, many of us having to leave our cars where we could and run to the starting line.
“One runner missed the bag collection coach and had to dump his clothes as he had nowhere to leave them.
“The whole morning was a shambles and very chaotic and I was very stressed, it definitely affected my time in the marathon. It was very hard for many of us to enjoy the experience, for many it was their first marathon.
“We had organised the coach because we wanted to travel down together and for it to be as stress-free as possible, it was actually the complete opposite.
“What would have happened if we had not made it in time and not been able to run, all those people that sponsored us may have wanted their money back and then the charity would have lost out.
“Barton Coach Company have given us a refund for the coach money, which has been donated to the charity we were running for and they made a £250 donation.
“But a lot of us have been left out of pocket because of the stressful journey to and from London on the morning of the marathon, train fares, parking, cab fares, petrol. It is very frustrating and the whole situation has not been good enough.”
The group of Boxfit runners were raising money for Beating Bowel Cancer. One of their runners received a lot of support from the charity when he was diagnosed with the cancer.
Steve Gildea, director of Barton Coach Company, emailed Mr Coard yesterday to apologise for the “disastrous failure” which he said was “both hugely embarrassing and somewhat inexplicable.
“On Sunday morning our security/yard man failed to turn up for work to unlock the gates. Your driver did not have access to the yard when he arrived.
“From this point on his actions were somewhat bizarre and inexplicable, your driver without informing anyone, got in his car and drove home refusing to answer his phone.
“The failure of a yard man to turn up for work in no way shape or form should have prevented your coach from turning up, firstly there were coaches parked outside the gates allocated for rail replacement, (which were not nearly as important as your Marathon trip) that he could of simply jumped into, alternatively my colleague and co-director lives in Barton Le Clay and would have been here in minutes if the driver had called.
“Had we known early enough that the driver was refusing to do the job our standby driver Richard would have just had time to take over and get you there on time; when it became apparent what your allocated driver had done you received a call from Richard but by then it was far too late as the marathon is not something you can arrive late to.
“Richard drove the coach down to London with a full refund plus £250 compensation/donation and the offer to do the return part of journey.
“Obviously the driver concerned (who is freelance and not an employee of Barton Coach Company) will never work for the company again and we fully understand that no amount of apologising or explanations will make up for ruining what should have been such a special day.