I don’t normally tackle serious issues on this blog, but something happened during last week’s Scotiabank Half Marathon that really affected me. I wasn’t going to write about it, but I’m still thinking about it… so here it is.
Around the 15K mark in Sunday’s race, a man in front of me collapsed. He hit his face on the ground with such force that he split his head open. As I approached, I could see he was laying on his back, unconscious with blood all over his face and eyes. Someone started chest compressions, presumably because he was not breathing. Another person ran off in the other direction to find first aid. Someone else was on the phone and another was yelling at the person doing compressions to do them harder.
I didn’t know what to do. I quickly surveyed the scene to see if there were any obvious ways I could assist but it appeared that everything I could think of was already being done. I stopped. Then started. Then stopped again. How could I just pass by this emergency without doing anything? How could I just turn my music back on and finish my race as if nothing had happened?
All I could do was carry on and say “F*ck” about a hundred times in a row. I ran along slowly, glancing back again and again until he was out of sight. A person beside me, visibly shaken, admitted that this was his first race, and he was scared. I told him it would be OK and that the person I left lying on the ground would be fine, even though I really wasn’t sure.
As I ran along, I kept replaying the situation in my mind. Was there something I could have done? It looked like those people had it under control, but did they? Would that man actually be OK?
Eventually, I reassured myself that there was nothing I could have added to the situation. Standing there worrying certainly wasn’t helpful, but it seemed so uncaring to just continue running. The whole race suddenly seemed pointless.
As soon as I finished the race, I looked up breaking news on my phone. No news. I checked again when we got home. Still nothing. When no news surfaced the following day, I was reassured that this man lived and I was relieved.
But it also got me thinking about how to react in an actual race emergency. What if I was the only one around? Would I have known what to do? After consulting numerous articles on race-day emergencies, I found several tips on what to do. Please read them. In case you ever encounter a situation like this, we should all know how to respond. It could save someone’s life.
If a runner collapses near you and is not responding, here is what you should do:
- Ask for help from other runners and spectators.
- Determine if the person is conscious by shouting “Are you OK?”
- If there is no response, assign roles to people around you. Get someone to dial 911 from the nearest phone. Assign another to find or contact a race official. Get another to look to see if there is an automatic defibrillator nearby.
- If you are trained, start CPR. If you’re not, find someone who is and start chest compressions until trained medical professionals arrive.
Based on my research, this appears to be the most consistent way to deal with a race day emergency. However, if any medical professionals have different or additional advice, please leave me a comment and I will update my blog post accordingly.
Stay safe out there runners!