Marlborough physiotherapist to help runners complete 102.5-mile challenge in Oman

Posted: August 13, 2015

Debbie Simpson swaps Savernake Hospital for 50-degree desert heat

A physiotherapist is set to swap treating patients at Marlborough's Savernake Hospital for patching up endurance runners in the 50-degree heat of the Omani desert.

Debbie Simpson has volunteered to be part of the medical team assisting athletes taking part in the 102.5-mile Oman Desert Marathon in November.

Ms Simpson, who has four children, knows well the trying conditions the self-sufficient runners will face having herself completed the 150-mile Marathon des Sables across the Sahara in 2013, raising £12,000 for the Facing Africa charity.

She then returned to the North African desert last year as a volunteer.

"It is going to be very hot but the humidity will be low, which will make it bearable for the runners," Ms Simpson, who works for Great Western Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said.

Using day-to-day skills in the desert

She expects whilst in the desert to administer many of the techniques used to treat local patients, including taping runners' injuries to offload problems and applying massage to help with cramp, as well as temperature-specific conditions, such as heatstroke and dehydration.

"I'm not sure what my patients will make of me travelling to the desert to provide physiotherapy for the runners," Ms Simpson, who has been a physiotherapist in Wiltshire for 14 years, said.

"I mentioned it to my patients before I ran the Marathon des Sables and they were really interested in the event and my fundraising target."

She said there were similarities for the runners and her normal patients.

"A lot of it is about being able to take advice," Ms Simpson, who lives in Lockeridge near Marlborough, said. "If I have an elderly patient who struggles to walk 400 metres, we set achievable goals, and by working with them, they should soon be able to walk a mile, for example.

"It is much the same with running in such extreme conditions: you have to manage your injuries and blisters, set yourself goals and as you are carrying all your supplies, you have to contend with that too."

She said she was "bowled over" by the beauty of the Saharan desert, and expects similar surroundings in Oman, where competitors have to complete six stages in a variety of landscapes and sand conditions.

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