The Collapsed Runner

So, you’re part way through your race, pushing hard and the voice in your head is telling you to stop but you ignore it. Races are meant to be tough, right?

Suddenly you see someone ahead, they stagger and collapse to the ground. You’re the first at the scene, what do you do?

This was a question asked to me on-line and I thought it was such a great topic and Twitter wasn’t verbose enough for me to reply properly.

Here’s a step by step approach. I’ve tried to keep it simple in the hope you might remember at least some of it if you ever find yourself in this position.

  1. Is it safe to help? Have a quick look around you. Will you trip anyone up if you suddenly change direction? If it’s a trail run are there any obstacles in your way that you need to negotiate? You’re going to be no use if you get injured.
  2. Call for help: Give a quick shout out to any other runners to give you a hand or for someone to fetch a marshal.
  3. Talk to them: Don’t assume a collapse means the person is unconscious. If they’re talking then they’re conscious and they’ll be breathing and their heart will be beating. They might be able to tell you what’s wrong. The commonest reasons for a collapse like this are cramp and dehydration. They might just need a hand to stretch out a tight leg muscle. If they seem confused, unwell and ‘not with it’ then lie them on their side in the recovery position. Get them to drink some electrolyte sports drink if you have any and wait with them while help arrives. While you’re waiting ask them if they have any medical conditions that might be relevant or check the back of their race number where it should be written.
  4. Are they breathing? So, if they don’t talk to you and aren’t responding to a reasonable shake then alarm bells need to ring. They’re unconscious and now you need to find out if they’re breathing. Lie them on their back and open their airway by gently tipping their head back with one hand and lifting their chin with the other. Then LOOK LISTEN and FEEL for their breath for up to 10 seconds. If they’re breathing then put them into the recovery position and call for an ambulance. Keep checking they’re continuing to breath and check their race number for any details of a medical problem and see if they’re wearing any medical alert jewelry such as a bracelet, necklace or shoe tag.
  5. If they’re unconscious and not breathing then call for an ambulance. You need to do CPR which involves chest compressions (most importantly) and rescue breaths. 30 chest compressions first followed by 2 rescue breaths. If you have help from other runners find out if anyone is experienced in giving CPR. If you’re alone then just do your best. Any CPR is better than none at all. Continue until the ambulance arrives or until they start breathing again in which case put them into the recovery position while you wait for the ambulance.

St John’s Ambulance have some great video clips for you to watch showing CPR in action. Please watch them as you never know whether you might find yourself in this position and you could quite genuinely save someone’s life by knowing what to do. I think as runners we all have a responsibility to know what to do to in this situation. I hope you agree.

Unconscious and breathing:

Unconscious and not breathing:

So in summary:
Is it safe?
Call for help
Talk to them
Are they breathing? If unresponsive but breathing then recovery position and call ambulance
If unresponsive and not breathing then call ambulance and begin CPR