Runners in a marathon

Whether you’re training for a marathon, a 10k or just enjoy the odd jog, as a regular runner you’re in a unique position to help others. But you might not be aware of it.

Being out and about early in the morning or in remote areas means you could be the first person to bump into someone in a first aid crisis. Would you be able to help?

Runners to the rescue

You probably travel light for your runs – no more than a few base layers, some water and perhaps energy gels. But in many cases you don’t need a lot of kit to help someone in need.

All you need is confidence and a little bit of knowledge.

First at the scene

Demelza ran the London Marathon for the British Red Cross last year. While out training, she found an elderly woman on the roadside who was unresponsive and not breathing.

“Her heart had just stopped. I had to give her chest compressions in the middle of a thunderstorm,” Demelza said.

It’s fortunate that Demelza had some first aid knowledge and was able to help this lady.

Here are five ways you could help save the day as a runner, first on the scene of a crisis. 

1. Share your jelly babies


Jelly babies in a row

Runners often carry sweets such as jelly babies on longer runs for some extra energy. But they’re also useful if you stumble across someone experiencing a diabetic emergency.

In most cases the person will know what is happening and be able to tell you what to do. In others you may need to spot the signs. They may sweat a lot or say they feel faint or weak. They may be drowsy, confused or appear drunk.

How to help: Give them something sweet to eat or drink to stabilise their blood sugar levels. Your jelly babies, sports drink or gels are all perfect. Reassure the person.

Most people will gradually improve but if in any doubt, call 999.

2. Offer your drink
A male runner having a drink

You probably come across a fellow runner or two while out and about. And it’s likely that at some point you’ll find one who’s fairly dehydrated.

If left untreated, dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion. So sharing your water or isotonic sports drink could really help them out.

How to help: Signs that a person is dehydrated include dry mouth and eyes, dry or cracked lips, headaches, dizziness and confusion.

Give the person plenty of water to help replace the lost body fluids. This is usually sufficient but if you have isotonic drinks these are even better as they also replace salts and sugars.

Is the person suffering from dehydration also complaining about cramps? Help sit them down before you give them plenty of fluids to drink. You can help them stretch and massage the affected muscles.

3. Spare a coin or two

Collection of coinsCarrying some change could be handy in various scenarios – but especially if you come across someone with a sprain or strain.

Your cash could generously buy something cold to put on the injured area, such as an ice lolly from the resident ice-cream van. It could also cover the cost of the person’s bus fare home.

How to help: Get the injured person to rest. If possible, find something cold (such as that ice lolly) and wrap it in some napkins or spare clothing before applying it to the affected area. As it melts it will be easier to mould to the injury.

If there is no improvement seek medical advice.

4. Use your layers

A female runner wearing a sweat band

Accidents can happen at any time. If you come across someone who is bleeding heavily from a wound, you can use your clothing to help stop the bleeding.

This is no time to worry about your fancy sports gear or embarrassing old t-shirt – get it off and use it to apply some pressure.

How to help: Whether it’s your jacket, top or sweatband, use them to put pressure on the wound.

Call 999 and keep pressure on the wound until help arrives.

5. Use your mobile phone

A women holding a mobile phone

A no-brainer. Lots of runners carry mobile phones to listen to music or track mileage via GPS.

In an emergency situation, mobile phones can be key in getting a person in crisis the help they need quickly.

How to help: You can use your phone to call 999 in a serious emergency.

But you can also download our free first aid app so that you can access first aid information at the touch of a button should you ever need it.

Do you have a running related first aid story? Please email yourstory@redcross.org.uk with your name, contact number and a brief description of what happened.