Thursday, May 7, 2009

London marathon walker Major Phil Packer has over eight miles to go - Times

For the tens of thousands of people who completed the London Marathon almost a fortnight ago, the aches and pains are but a distant memory. But for one lone man, the excruciating journey is still continuing.

Major Phil Packer, the Royal Military Police officer who was told he would never walk again after a bombing in Basra, is still slowly making his way towards the finish line.

More than two thirds through the 26.2 mile course, Major Packer hobbled past Tower Bridge this morning, accompanied by a band of well-wishers and a support soundtrack of beeps from passing motorists.

Although the pain from every excruciating step was evident by the grimace on his face, Major Packer - in typical style - underplayed his torment.

“Its like doing anything difficult. You put your head down and get on with it,” he said.
“It’s bloody painful. But I’m doing alright.”

Major Packer was rendered paraplegic in a rocket attack on the British base in Basra in February last year. Deployed as the force marshal overseeing up to 5,000 men, he was knocked down by an armoured vehicle in the chaos following a rocket attack on the British base.

He suffered bruising to his heart, broken ribs and an injury to the base of his spine. He was left a paraplegic and doctors told him that he would not walk again.

Major Packer intends to complete the marathon by Saturday - aided by a pair of crutches and sheer determination.

He said that the fellow injured soldiers that he met at Headley Court, the military rehabilitation centre in Surrey, had motivated him.

“If you see a 19-year-old who has had a triple amputation and is trying to make the most of it - I can’t imagine what that is like. I just want to do this for him.”

His target is to raise £1 million for Help for Heroes, a charity for injured soldiers. He says that if he does not hit that target, he will feel he has let people down.

Along his journey through vast swathes of London, Major Packer has received overwhelming support from the public.

Ambulances, taxis and ordinary vehicles have stopped to give donations. Since the beginning of the marathon, Major Packer has collected £360,000, raising his overall total to £570,000.

To date, despite his incapacity, Major Packer has rowed the Channel in rough seas, sailed unassisted, achieved a sky dive and completed a water-skiing event.

In three weeks time, after recovering from the marathon, he will travel to El Capitan in Yosemite National Park to complete his year of activity.

Then he will return to work for a two-year posting in London with the Royal Military Police.

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