Demelza crisis 2

This weekend, Demelza will take on the London Marathon. While training, she’s faced everything from rescuing a dog to restarting a woman’s heart.

Demelza, 34, insists she was completely unfit. She is definitely not, what they call, ‘a runner’.

But she’s come a long way – soon it will be 26 miles, in fact.

As we gear up to Red Cross Week 2015, we ask: what made her take on one of the biggest running challenges on the planet?

Pub first aid

Demelza says she’s wanted to run the London Marathon ever since she was little. Then, last year, our first aiders helped her friend’s husband, after a horrific motorbike accident. She decided that now was the time to do it for charity.

“As fate would have it,” she told me, “the accident happened outside a pub where 30 off-duty British Red Cross nurses were enjoying a drink – so they were first on the scene with him. They’d just completed their refresher emergency aid course.

“He had shattered the whole of his right side, so it must have been a pretty horrific thing to deal with. Their actions probably saved his life and stopped him losing his legs.”

24-hour dancing

Demelza works at a small secondary school, where she is head of dance and drama. Since announcing this year’s challenge, the children have rallied around to help her raise £2K for the Red Cross.

“The kids said, ‘We’ll do stuff to help you’. Around 40 of them did a 24-hour danceathon on a weekend. Some children have given me their last 50p! I tell them that even a couple of quid will help somebody, somewhere.

“And I would never have been able to raise so much money without these kids and their parents. It’s just unbelievable. It keeps you motivated.”

School cheerleaders

Demelza says she needs this motivation, as training has been tricky to fit around such a busy job. She’s squeezed runs into holidays and weekends – but only tried it a few times straight after school.

What the hard work is for: being cheered on by half a million people. © Bikeworldtravel

What the hard work is for: being cheered on by half a million people. © Bikeworldtravel

“I got so sick of being seen by students,” she admits. “They were all cheering me on, yelling ‘Come on miss, you can do it’.

“But I thought, ‘I don’t need this, I just want to go home’. I don’t want them to see me all sweaty and red and gasping round the park!”

Calamity training

Still, that’s nothing compared to other hurdles she’s faced on this sprint to fitness.

“I was running along the Thames, halfway through a long run,” remembers Demelza, “when I saw this man’s dog jump into the river and he couldn’t get out. I had to stop and help dig the dog out. It started to hail and sleet, and I thought ‘You’ve got to be kidding me’.

“Then a week later, I found an old lady who had collapsed in the middle of the road. She’d fallen off the kerb, broken her hip and gone into shock. Her heart had just stopped. I had to give her CPR in the middle of this thunderstorm. It was horrendous.”

Demelza says that her mum has now banned her from going out training alone.

Ready for the weekend

Lucky for Demelza’s mum, the finish line is in sight.

On Sunday, Demelza – along with 40,000 others – will run the iconic route through the capital city.

And she’s looking forward to seeing familiar faces in the crowd, including some children from the school.

Demelza tells me: “I’ve watched the marathon on television for years – and you can almost feel the atmosphere through the screen. I can’t believe that this year, I’m actually going to be there.

“I don’t care what time I do, I’ll crawl round if I have to – but I am going to get over that line!”

Runners’ first aid

Want to run – not crawl – over the finish line this Sunday? It’s never too late to pick up some everyday first aid skills.

Here’s how to treat a strain or sprain:

  1. Apply an ice pack to the injured joint or muscle to reduce pain, swelling and bruising.
  2. Get the person to rest.