I completed part of my selective as part of the medical team looking after runners competing in Australia’s only stage race, Big Red Run; 250km over six days in the beautiful Simpson Desert. Runners and volunteers camp out in the desert for five nights during the event thus everyone must be self-sufficient and supply their own food and bedding.
Birdsville, the starting point of the race, is in far Western Queensland, 1,590km west of Brisbane, close to the borders of the Northern Territory and South Australia. Because of the remoteness of the Simpson Desert, preparation is key in the delivery of healthcare at an event like Big Red Run. In addition to multiple dressings, slings etc for wound care and musculoskeletal injuries, we had a portable ECG machine, two defibrillators, equipment for airway management, an iStat machine to check UEC, BSL and Hb and the ability to administer IV fluids.
In an emergency, patients would need to transported to Birdsville by road or air and then flown to Brisbane by the Royal Flying Doctors. The medical team consisted of an offsite medical director, two GP’s onsite, six nurses, one physio, two massage therapists, a podiatrist and myself.
A medical tent was set up in each camp so runners could seek help before and after their daily run. Additionally, a nurse and/or myself and/or a doctor would be stationed with a comprehensive first aid kit at each checkpoint throughout the course.
Thankfully we had no medical emergencies to tend to. The majority of runners coming through the tent or check points required foot care for blister prevention and/or treatment. Rebecca, our podiatrist was brilliant and really took the time to teach us and the runners as she went. There was a strong focus on self-management of blisters.
We had a number of minor MSK overuse injuries which were treated with ice and paracetamol. We delivered a very strong message at the runners briefing regarding the use of ibuprofen and other NSAIDs; we would not, and did not, hand out any NSAIDs during the event and we strongly encouraged the runners not to take their own NSAIDs. The risk of AKI secondary to NSAIDs is increased enormously in ultras because of the combination of use with dehydration and rhabdomyolysis, of which nearly all runners will have some degree of during ultra events.
I thoroughly enjoyed my week at the event. In part because I got to camp out in a stunning part of the world and meet and spend time with a highly motivated and fun group of people (volunteers and runners alike). But also because I had the opportunity to experience the logistics required to deliver medical support and care at such an event in an extremely remote and changing environment.
Thank you to Rustica for your financial support!