Spotlight on podiatry at the London Marathon

Vol Pods London Marathon 2022
Monique Cleary, second year BSc Podiatry at the University of Southampton, reports on volunteering as a podiatrist at the London Marathon and what it meant to her

Attending the 2022 London Marathon as a volunteer podiatrist was a privilege. As a self-professed lover of sports, I have been watching the London marathon on TV every year since I was a little girl. This year, having the opportunity to be there, behind the finish line, to lend a hand and support the runners, from amateurs to athletes, was exciting to say the least. The day was full of such positivity: people from all over the country and the world came together to raise millions for charity. Even though we were seeing injured people it was still such a positive environment because of the amazing achievement of completing such a momentous run.

People would enter one of the many St John’s Ambulance tents to be triaged by the lead staffing team, and would then be sign-posted to the correct supporting team for them. The teams included doctors, nurses, first aiders, physios and podiatrists. The podiatry team in our tent saw lots of blisters, sheer wounds, lifting toenails and sprains, as well as general sports-related injuries such as dehydration, bleeding nipples, exhaustion, and vomiting. I was able to put the practical skills that I had acquired on placement to good use and apply classroom knowledge from my first-year of study on BSc Podiatry at the University of Southampton.

We students had plenty of fully qualified podiatrists close to hand from whom we we could seek advice and were fully supported to provide treatments and offer guidance. The runners were all so grateful for the support and care we were offering: many people asked how we got interested in treating people’s feet. It was also great to hear all the runners’ stories: why they were running, how many marathons they had run, and what time they had achieved on the day.

An unexpected outcome of the event was the skills learning we acquired from other healthcare professionals. The physiotherapists were keen to welcome us student podiatrists and show us how to help them with appropriate massage techniques. The lead physio in our tent, who had years of experience with marathons, informed us of disorders we were likely to see in athletes over the course of the day. This helped prepare us for the many pathologies we would see, some of which were new to us.

I feel privileged to have been able to help the many runners that came through my St John Ambulance tent on the day. The atmosphere from the energy of the runners and the enthusiasm of the volunteers makes me 100% want to volunteer for many years to come. If there is one thing that volunteering at the event reminds me, it’s that I never want to run a marathon, but I am very happy to help get people get back on their feet at the end of theirs.