Lysa Roma1

Virgin London Marathon 2010

Image by flickr user corono

Image by flickr user corono

It seemed to come around very quickly – that time of year when London hosts the Marathon.  A few quick stats:

  • 36,000+ Runners
  • 6685 Casualties treated (6515 runners; 170 spectators) – 47 requiring hospitalisation
  • 1400 Medical, Nursing, Ambulance and St John Ambulance staff and volunteers
  • 50 dedicated ambulances
  • 30 cycle response teams


It was an early start for everyone. We had an 06.30hrs briefing at Waterloo in the London Ambulance Service HQ, then after breakfast we collected all our equipment and set off to our stand-by points in our respective vehicles.

This year I was to work as part of a convoy, accompanied by a colleague in the response car, with two fully staffed ambulances following us. Our role was to act as a reserve resource ready to be dispatched to wherever the demand dictated.

Our first stop off was at the 20 mile post on the route. There was a great marathon atmosphere and we stood at the first aid post with the other emergency services and St John Ambulance staff waving and cheering on the runners and enjoying the motivational music being blasted out on the loud speakers.

While we were at this post I was lucky enough to catch sight of three ambulance service colleagues who were running the marathon – and doing a sterling job of it too!

I was taken by surprise when a man suddenly ran up to me shouting “Massage me, massage me!” I must have looked rather confused because then he started shouting more loudly at me “Rub my legs, you have to rub my legs!” – Obviously a bad case of cramp had got the better of him – but he could have said please!

Image courtesy Jon Yates on flickr

Image courtesy Jon Yates on flickr

At one point I noticed a policeman waving urgently at us from across the track and managed with some difficulty to cross over through the runners to see what he wanted. He told me that a runner had collapsed a little way back down the route. In an effort to get to him quickly I found that I too was running the marathon – albeit the wrong way!

Our young man was lying on the ground in a collapsed state; conscious but vomiting and unable to get up. We established that he required further medical assessment so we carried him on a stretcher back to the St John Ambulance first aid post where thankfully he went on to recover fully.

I was rather disconcerted to notice quite a few men suffering such severe ‘jogger’s nipple’ that they were actually bleeding red circles on to their shirts – ouch!

Later, we were needed at a fire station elsewhere on the route. A young female runner had suffered a fit. After we gave her initial treatment she was conveyed to hospital by the ambulance in our convoy for further assessment.

Later in the day we were called to a hotel where a young lady who had run the marathon had collapsed while celebrating with her family. Hotel staff kindly cordoned off an area so we could treat her hidden from the view of passers-by. Once she was stabilised our team took her to hospital for further treatment.

Another view…

[This part of the article written by Jon Yates]

Image courtesy Jon Yates on flickr

Image courtesy Jon Yates on flickr

I always think of the Marathon as one of the better events to work – generally a pleasant day weather-wise with little in the way of trouble or grief to deal with.  In past years I have worked as part of a reserve column, and also in the Intensive Treatment Units (ITUs) based after the finish line, where many runners head to once they realise how truly painful their bodies are once they stop running.

This year I was based in a treatment centre, working alongside a doctor and many St John Ambulance staff. We were the last treatment centre before the finish line — the picture above was taken from where I stood at the side of the course, ready to see and treat any runners that collapsed in the final stretch.

When I began my day I thought I might be on to a winner here — surely no runner, having completed 26 miles and having such a short distance left to run, would think about wanting to stop here. Surely, I thought, they would want to push on that final 385 yards to get to the finish line and get their medal. Surely, I was very mistaken.

It almost seemed that, having seen the banner, and realising how close they were to being able to stop punishing their muscles, their dedication seemed to falter; they began thinking of that nice hot bath, or a cold beer/glass of wine, or both. And once you start thinking about relaxing, it’s very hard to keep pushing on.

The first patient I received was determined to continue on to the end, but he found himself so exhausted that he could not even walk straight.  He staggered about all over the course — if it was a Friday night in London you would just assume he was drunk — and at first he refused to be treated by us.  After several minutes, however, he realised that he could not continue and came inside the treatment centre.

About half an hour later it became really busy.  I was already overseeing the treatment of three patients — all semi-conscious — when the sickest patient of the day arrived into the centre. He was totally unconscious — even unresponsive to my painful stimuli — that was, until the point came to take his temperature.

In Marathon runners the only reliable temperature is one taken rectally.  As the doctor inserted the thermometer the patient lashed out, knocking one of my colleagues backwards.  We summoned the assistance of some nearby police to help us. This gentleman was not intentionally being aggressive — his exhaustion, dehydration and the fact that his body was severely overheating were the factors controlling his agitation. It took 4 officers to assist us in keeping the patient restrained sufficiently to allow us to get some ice packs onto him to start cooling him, and to connect various pieces of equipment to assess him.

We summoned an ambulance via the control room and a short while later the crew appeared. I travelled with the crew to the hospital to assist en route. We arrived in A&E approximately one hour after he had originally collapsed, and it was a very tiring hour of trying to both assess him and restrain him, whilst trying to prevent him assaulting me and the other staff around me.

When we arrived in A&E his core temperature was still very high and he was still quite sick. My entire body ached – and I had not run 26 miles! – and I have a ripped uniform to boot. By the time I managed to get back to my treatment centre the event was all but over – I missed seeing most of the runners and joining in with the marathon spirit!  All in all it was a good day, but next year I might ask if I can work at a different treatment centre!

Any marathon stories or thoughts?  Be sure to leave me a comment.


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