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First aid tips for marathon runners

Marathon runner first aid

If you’re running in the Virgin Money London Marathon this weekend, here’s some first aid advice to help get you over the finish line.

Don’t forget – we’ll have over 1000 first aiders lining the route, so whether you’re feeling faint or just need a blister plaster, look for the green uniform and first aid signs.

Common injuries

Isobel Kearl, our National Training Officer, explained some common marathon injuries:

‘Cramp is common but can be easily avoided by ensuring you have appropriate levels of salts and fluids. We recommend runners to stay well hydrated and drink when you feel the need but without gulping excessive amounts in one go.

‘We also see a lot of people whose clothing is rubbing and causing irritation, particularly in the groin area, as that’s obviously where there is a lot of friction as people run longer than they’ve generally run before. The best thing here is prevention – ensure you have seamless clothing or put some petroleum jelly on the area to ease friction.’


If you get a blister:

  • • leave it alone if it’s unbroken.
  • If it’s broken or likely to be damaged, cover it with a special blister plaster, which has a cushioned pad that gives extra protection.
  • • Do not break a blister or cover with any creams or lotions.
  • • To avoid blisters, make sure your running shoes are a good fit and don’t use the Marathon as an opportunity to break-in new shoes!

Read more about blisters


If you get a cut or a graze:

  • • Wash your hands.
  • Clean the wound with water, removing as much grit as possible.
  • Apply a sterile dressing.
  • • Ensure you are up to date with tetanus jabs.

Read more about cuts and grazes

Knee injuries

  • • If your knee is hurting from repetitive running, stop and rest.
  • • If you fall and injure your knee, lie down and support your knee in a raised position.
  • • Put an ice pack or a cold compress on it.
  • • Put soft padding around it and bandage it in place - these actions will minimise swelling.
  • • Seek first aid help.
  • • Don’t try to walk on the leg or straighten the knee.

Heat exhaustion

  • • If you start getting a headache, feel nauseous, have pale clammy skin, cramps or a rapid, weakening pulse – you may be suffering from heat exhaustion.
  • • This is a serious condition, so seek help straight away.
  • Try to cool down, replace your body fluids and salts.
  • • Even if you recover quickly, see a doctor as soon as you can.

Read more about heat exhaustion

Nipple bleeding

  • • This is caused by friction damaging the skin.
  • • You can prevent this by covering nipples with plasters or petroleum jelly.
  • • If they bleed, wash and dry carefully and cover with a plaster, but do not use waterproof plasters.


  • • Drink sensible amounts of fluid to keep hydrated, but avoid drinking too much too quickly, or in short amounts of time.

Read more about dehydration

Feeling inspired?

We’re already looking for next year’s intrepid marathon runners. Run for the charity that picks you up, dusts you down and gets you over the finish line, while raising vital life saving funds.

Donors, sponsors, pavement pounders – every pound you give us helps save lives.