I have volunteered at Brighton Marathon for 5 years now and it is one of the best weekends of the year. Saturday is the medical briefing at a hotel on Brighton’s beautiful seafront. We collect our hoodies, our passes and our high vis vests and enjoy an amusing, informative and relaxed meeting from the men that know all about organising marathons (with CPD points too).
The group of medical volunteers this year was a nice mix of people, half who have done it before and half who haven’t, obviously. Every area of medicine is covered by the volunteer doctors, nurses, pharmacists, physios, podiatrists, St John Ambulance and many more amazing people. It always surprises me that I see these people for a few hours once a year and yet names are remembered, job roles recalled and smiles are always shared. We were even served a rather nice light ale during the break, although I forgot to get the name for the husband, he likes to know these things.
Each year Tom, the podiatry boss, and I, take third year University of Brighton podiatry students along as a last external placement before their finals. This experience is very different from any others for all of us as we work out of a field tent, directly on the road. Well, chairs and camp beds for our patients, the floor for us. Three of our team head off and work out of the mid-way tent for the first few hours and the rest of us head to the finishers tent.
We were blessed that not one of the 10K runners needed our assistance this year! This is great news, the runners are taking care of foot wear and precautions and the weather was on their side. The correct shoes and socks are a good start for any runner to reduce unnecessary friction and blisters.
Whilst the sun shone at lunch time we managed to find a big screen to watch the amazing finish between Dan Nash and Stuart Hawkes with only 22″ between them and the dramatic change of front runner so close to the finish. Then with coffee in hand we headed back from the charity village to our tent.
The runners soon started to come through thick and fast, one or two still jogging as they pass our tent and appearing to not have broken a sweat. Other runners the effort they put in to their runs is apparent and so is the joy and emotion that they finished. Whilst we still have calm the medical team stand outside and cheer and clap the runners as they head towards their bags and family and friends. I love how even after 26.2 miles they can still smile and they thank the medical team for volunteering and making it possible for them, one or two even come and ask for a hug, just a hug, because that’s all they need.
Soon the serious reason for volunteering starts to happen, not just coffee and clapping, the weather was sunny and cold, cloudy, raining, cloudy with a cold wind and then hot sun.
The changeable weather appeared to have a huge effect on the runners. Obviously those that too longer experienced more change than others. The first feet in need of our help began to arrive.
Our aim is to ensure runners can get home as comfortably as possible and that they have all the information they need to self care or to see someone else in the next few days that can continue to help them. The longer a runner is in the tent, the adrenalin has stopped, the aches are beginning and the colder they become. We want them to be dressed, warm and with their families and friends celebrating their achievements. Blisters are our most commonly seen problem. The best shoes in the world may not stop all blisters, and for those that run for a longer period of time they become tired, the way they move their legs and feet alters and therefore the pressure from parts of the shoe will change with them.
We will always try to leave a blister if possible as they reabsorb, heal and dry out on their own. If the position is such that no shoe will be able to go back on the foot for a few days or it is just too painful the blisters can be popped, cleaned and dressed. A pad is normally stuck around the area to reduce pressure to the area and redistribute if possible.
This blister was part of the blister that covered the whole bottom of the foot. This runner had been going for over six hours and was brought to us in wheelchair unable to walk anymore. I have to admit I love this part of the job too. Nothing better than popping a blister (with sterile instruments and correct PPE and only if necessary). This was the last foot of the day that needed our brand of TLC and for professional reasons I loved it, for personal reasons I was pleased that we were still there to help at the very end and they were able to go away with friends to celebrate crossing the finish line.
We had some bad cases of cramp, some cuts and bumps or those that had taken a tumble and some that needed more care than we podiatrists could offer. The medical team that volunteers has no hierarchy just order, everyone knowing to work within their scope of practice and call for help if needed. I have always felt the team is open, respectful and caring for each other. There is always support for anyone involved from someone nearby and if they cant help they will always find someone who can.
Thank you Brighton Marathon 2018, it was a long day and always a pleasure to be of service. Until next year…