When we met Huw Williams (through our activity brand no-mad running) in his lead up to Marathon des Sables in 2015, we didn't realise that we'd be supporting his own amazing Ultra Event, the Pen Llyn Ultra on our doorstep, and a showpiece for the peninusla
Last year the event weekend had three distances for the first time, a 50mile, 75mile and 100mile run. The Race Directors recognised that they had stretched themselves a little thin when they reviewed the event, and approached us to deliver the Event Medical support for the runners.
After we had looked at the routes, numbers and hazards we devised a plan of support that would be highly cost effective, develop their volunteer skills and give a better experience for runners.
With such a geographically wide-widespread course, and potentially broad range of finishing times, we knew that the most reasonable way of having effective cover would be to up-skill all the volunteers out on the course. With "eyes on" the competitors, enabling them to be more competent in judging the likely medical issues that a runner might experience would reduce response times. Whilst the "big sick" items are often obvious, identifying issues such as early stages of potentially big sick issues such as heat and cold effects, hyponatremia and hypoglycemia can be more challenging. Having a greater awareness of spotting and interventions, meant the marshals could make a better choice. Ultimately, this meant that runners would either be able to continue or we could be called to administer appropriate treatment.
So, with a training evening of how to recognise, what to do, and empowering the volunteers to advise a runner to stop, plus brief reminder cards for each marshal point and knowing they could have real time support by phone, we started the event.
We selected the support team based on a range of clinical and pastoral skills. With one qualified, experienced paramedic, one wilderness emergency medical technician, another more pastoral support member and a go-for team member offering a bit extra to all the team. Within this four person team we also had the following skills/qualifications/experience - one L5 sports injury soft tissue therapist, 3 mountain rescue cas-carers, 2 ultra runners (1 Marathon des Sables finisher, and 1 Dragons Back Race finisher), numerous marathon and moutnain marathon finishes, 3 kayakers, 2 sailors, 2 Mountain Leaders, 1 Ultra Running event Course Director, 1 Forest School Practiioner, 1 Yachtmaster, 1 HSE Commercial Diver, 2 parkrun Event Directors, 1 ex engineer, 1 construction project management expert, 1 TechIOSH member, 1 Associate Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation, 2 navigation tutors, 2 swiftwater rescue technicians, 1 technical rope technician, and a good few other bits beside.
Fundamentally, as well as hugely experienced team, we had 4 outdoor people who wanted to see people, whatever their reason to be at the Pen Llyn Ultra, finish the course or return to running as soon as possible if they had slightly misjudged it.
Huw Williams (Race Director and founder of Pen Llyn Ultra) said "Having Mentrau Bach on board meant we didn't get diverted from what we were out to achieve, another amazing edition of the Pen Llyn Ultra race event". He went on to say "listening to the feedback from runners, even having someone to have a quick look at blisters, and giving advice and reassurance from a knowledgeable point of view was a serious value add for the event."
There were a few good "catches" out on the course by the volunteers manning the marshal points. Katie Cole (Operations Manager for Mentrau Bach) explained "there were definitely a couple of interventions by the volunteer team that changed the outcome for the runners, in that stopped them deteriorating in places that would have been hard for us to get to". Whilst scanning down the incident log Katie went on to say "knowing that a lot of runners would behave in a certain way at different points of the race, and then profile for the likely outcomes proved really valuable."
Ashley Charlwood (Managing Director at Mentrau Bach) said, "over the last couple of years, in my role as Associate Consultant for The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) I've been lucky enough to deliver Event Risk Assessment Training for a couple of NGB's and been involved with more technical consultancy for NGB's like British Cycling and UK Athletics. Meanwhile Katie has been first responding as part of a team on events such as the iconic Salomon Scotland Skyline."
With Mentrau Bach firmly anchored in Snowdonia, Mr Charlwood went on to explain "It's lovely to think that within Mentrau Bach we have the skills to support sports development across the industry from strategic guidance, to be able to provide this level of high quality support to local events. We're already excited to be invited back for next years event too!"