Training for your first marathon? Make time in your plans for a first aid and CPR course

Topics: National, First Aid and CPR
March 21, 2014

Spring is running season for many Canadians. Be prepared by learning first aid and CPR. Spring signals the start of race season for Canadian runners. Would you know how to respond if you see a runner collapse on race day?

Every runner plans and trains for race day with one goal in mind: crossing the finishing line with a smile. Most race participants will make it there but each year there are rare cases of runners collapsing on the course, a frightening scene for anyone to witness. These stories remind us how proper first aid and CPR training offered by the Canadian Red Cross can make the life-saving difference in those crucial minutes before emergency medical services arrive.

“I would encourage anybody – not just runners – to take a first aid and CPR course,” says Heather Matters, Manager of Operations and Communications for the Canada Running Series. “You just never know what you might come across and when you might need it.”

Matters was first certified in first aid and CPR more than a two decades ago after completing a babysitting course but she took the first aid and CPR course again last year along with her Canada Running Series colleagues. “It’s important for anybody to have that knowledge to be able to react to that unexpected event,” she adds.

The Canada Running Series has organized eight events with more than 60,000 runners across Canada in 2014 and works with municipalities to have ambulances on-site and first responders at key locations along race routes.

Even with emergency medical services on-hand at a race, every second a person stops breathing after a cardiac arrest increases the chances of permanent brain damage, debilitating injury and loss of life. Effective bystander CPR, when used in conjunction with Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) and administered immediately following cardiac arrest, can double a person’s chance of survival.

“Identifying the emergency immediately allows people to respond quickly and appropriately,” says Don Marentette, Manager  of National First Aid Programs for the Canadian Red Cross. “Acting quickly is critical to reducing potential long-term effects.”

It’s important to know how to operate an AED, a machine that analyzes the heart's electrical rhythm and, if necessary, because it tells the user to deliver a shock to the person in cardiac arrest. This is called defibrillation. The shock helps the heart re-establish an effective rhythm. Studies show that if you can defibrillate someone quickly, the chance of survival increases greatly.

If you fear someone may be experiencing a cardiac arrest, follow these steps:
  • Call 911 as soon as possible, or get someone else to do it, and alert medical staff to the situation. Get an AED if available or ask someone else to do this.
  • Begin CPR – cycles of 30 chest compressions and two breaths. For the compressions, push firmly downwards in the middle of the chest and then release. This keeps blood pumping around their body and helps keep the vital organs, including the brain, alive.
  • Continue CPR until help arrives or an AED is available.
You can gain the knowledge and confidence to react quickly when faced with an emergency, at home or while out exercising, by taking a first aid and CPR course offered through the Canadian Red Cross and downloading our free first aid app.