Keeping Yourself Safe On Race Day

Advice from Dr Katy Guy, MBBCh, FRCEM, DFSEM (U.K.) Dip SEM, a Consultant in Emergency Medicine in Swansea and Medical Director of the Principality Cardiff Half Marathon and ABP Newport Marathon Festival

Katy works with a variety of sports and has been CMO for Team Wales at Commonwealth Games and is an accredited race medical director through World Athletics.

Completing a mass participation event is a huge achievement. Provided you follow these common-sense guidelines, you too should be a picture of health as you cross the Finish Line. Here are a few tips to try and help you have an enjoyable day:

Fit to compete?

If you have medical conditions, it’s worth checking with your GP or consultant whether the distance is safe for you to run.

Please remember, if you have a family history of heart disease or sudden death or a high risk from high cholesterol or high blood pressure, and particularly if you have symptoms of heart disease (such as chest pain or discomfort on exertion, sudden shortness of breath or rapid palpitations), then you should see your GP. They can then arrange for you to have a proper cardiac assessment. Such an assessment may not be instantly available but continuing to run with these symptoms may be dangerous.

Don’t chase the clock

‘Battling through’ to get a good time and ignoring what your body is telling you can be unwise. Your body may be telling you to slow down, stop, or cool down. Be honest with yourself and listen to your body! In particular, if it is hot, don’t expect the same cadence as on a cooler day. Your body will try and pace you during the race, especially if it is warm. Your body is already doing more than usual in the heat to try and keep your core temperature down. Heat stroke occurs when there is a failure of this mechanism – don’t ignore it.  You may have a time in mind that you want to finish the race in – try not to chase your watch, listen to your body instead.

Don’t stop immediately after a sprint finish.

Runners often see the finish line and try and sprint finish, which can lead to an exercise-associated collapse! Once you have crossed the finish line, please keep walking to avoid a sudden drop in blood pressure, which can cause collapse. Even though you probably don’t feel like it – try and keep walking to the medals and water (it’s partly why they are put far away!). Our first aid teams at the finish will encourage you to keep moving and not stop – they aren’t doing this to be cruel but to keep you safe!

Are you well on race day?

If you feel unwell on the day of race, don’t run it. Running if you have had recent diarrhoea and vomiting may mean you are dehydrated before starting the race. If you have recently had a viral illness, this can result in inflammation of the heart muscle and impact performance. If you feel unwell during the race, please slow down or stop. and a viral illness can result in inflammation of the heart muscle

Bring your medication

If you need or use medication, make sure you bring it with you on the day – particularly if you are asthmatic, please bring your inhaler and carry it with you during the race.

Wear appropriate clothing

This will allow your body to try and cool off during the race so that you don’t overheat. Drink water to thirst but also tip it over yourself if you need to cool down and to avoid exertional heat stroke. Wear lightweight clothing and avoid cotton. Consider wearing a visor rather than a hat as this allows some heat to escape from your head.

Mark your race bib

If you have a medical condition please make sure this is clearly marked on the back of your bib.  Also make sure it includes up-to-date next of kin details.  Swapping numbers unofficially can mean that the wrong next of kin are contacted in an emergency based on the entry database.


Drink little and often. Pour water over yourself to help aid your body to cool. Electrolyte drinks should be drunk as well as water to help avoid cramps. Drinking an electrolyte slushy (sports drink left in the freezer overnight) 10-20 mins prior to the start of a race has been shown to help reduce core body temperature during the race by 2 degrees.

Adequately re-hydrate with electrolytes and salty snacks after the race.

Recovering from illness at or after the race

Our medical team will be on hand to assist you if you become unwell during the event.

Heat stroke:

  • DO NOT take any ibuprofen, diclofenac, volterol or any Non-steroidal Anti-inflammatory (NSAID) medication in the next 48 hours as it can affect your kidneys.
  • If you have had heat exhaustion then we suggest that you visit your doctor within a week of the race to have blood tests (LFT + U&E).
  • No sport for 2-4 weeks after suffering exertional heat stroke.
  • There is a risk of reoccurrence at further endurance events. Heat tolerance testing is available if necessary.

Persistent vomiting:

  • Sip fluids to encourage the blood supply to return to the stomach and the stomach to start functioning again.
  • Nauseau may continue for several hours but continue to drink/snack on small meals until this passes.

Hypoglycaemia (low blood sugar):

  • This may be due to lack of fuel or sugar during the race.
  • Re-fusel with glucose (sugar) after 8 miles of running to prevent.
  • You can have severe muscle cramps that require treatment with sugar as well as rehydration.
  • Review your fuelling and nutrition before any further events.

Exertional hyponatraemia (low sodium/salt):

  • This may be caused by over hydration
  • Only drink to third rather than a set amount of fluid
  • Eat salty snacks

Sprains, strains, cuts, blisters:

  • Wear in your trainers and protect any vulnerable areas of skin

Exacerbation of an underlying medical condition:

  • Check with your doctor that it is ok for you to run and inform the race of any underlying medical conditions.

Cardiac arrect:

  • This is very uncommon.
  • If you have any symptoms of dizziness, collapse or chest pain during exercise you must have this checked by your doctor prior to running.
  • If there has been any sudden cardiac arrest death in family members under the age of 35 years then it is also important to see your doctor to see whether any further investigation is required.

Find more medical and safety advice here.