Marathon physio effort to keep runners moving

19 April 2012

Up to 200 volunteer physiotherapists and students will play a key role supporting runners in the 26-mile London Marathon this Sunday.


Sue Gaastra has been organising physiotherapy for the event for 28 years.

‘This year we have had a major logistical change and I have 100 physios around the course from mile 14 to mile 23.75.

‘50 of them are physios treating the runners mainly dealing with cramp, as well as various musculoskeletal (MSK) problems.

‘50 are students working as scribes, writing the notes to be countersigned by the treating physio. This is because the physios are so busy, with a very fast turnover, and it’s very difficult to write notes when your hands are covered in oil, dirt and body hair.

‘Occasionally we have to advise runners to stop, although our aim is to help keep them going so they can finally reach the finish line.‘

Virgin London Marathon head physiotherapist Susie Jones is organising 80 physios in the finish area, split into nine teams.

‘We deal with any MSK problems and any stress fractures. Obviously if we are worried about a runner they will be further assessed in an accident and emergency  unit. There are quite a few doctors (a lot are cardiologists) on hand and of course St John’s Ambulance so if we encounter hyponatraemia or other medical problems they will be on hand too.

‘The physios will usually administer ice, massage, stretching and advice.’

Working on the finish line will be Scott Mitchell, a senior physio at Move Clinics in west London.

‘We teach people how to run, so we have a great interest in helping runners to enjoy and reach goals in mass participation events like this.

‘I’ve worked on the marathon four times before and a likely difference this year ismore favourable weather conditions. Often, with a spring marathon, after training through the winter there is a tendency for the marathon to fall on a hotter than average day, which catches a lot of people out. This year the forecast is for a cool day with possible showers.’

Adam Rattenberry, a Cardiff-based specialist physiotherapist in sports medicine, has rehabilitated a runner at this weekend’s event.  Marie-Louise Hudson underwent knee arthroscopy and microfracture surgery last October but was determined to compete this year.

‘I have combined her rehabilitation and overseen her many hours of training. I will be there working with her the day before and supporting her through the race, and no doubt picking up the pieces afterwards.’

Two physios will be running the marathon on behalf of a charity for healthier backs. Eoin Carroll of North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust and Sally Hopkins of BMI Healthcare have pledged to raise £1,500 for BackCare.

For physios Frank Gilroy and Marc Stevens (pictured at top), completing 26 miles this Sunday may not be too taxing – they spent this week cycling 540 miles from Glasgow to raise money for the city’s Prince and Princess of Wales Hospice.The pair were joined on the ride by three physio colleagues from NHS Forth Valley — Catriona Phin, Dawn Gleeson and Louise Duncan. Already £28,000 has been pledged and you can contribute at