Brain-damaged boxer fights to finish his own epic marathon

With an entourage including a neurosurgeon, personal trainer and a teenager who this week learnt to walk again, Michael Watson entered the home straight of an epic London Marathon yesterday.

Labouring under a blazing Easter sun, the former middleweight boxer, who only walked unaided for the first time at Christmas after suffering brain damage in the ring 12 years ago, inched from Wapping along the north bank of the Thames before picking his way carefully over the cobbled approach to the Tower of London.

Having ground along to the 22-mile mark by 11am, dragging his semi-paralysed left leg around his pivotal right, he was greeted among other well-wishers and slightly perplexed tourists outside the Tower by Mick King, dressed in full beefeater's garb.

Shaking Mr Watson's gloved right hand, the Yeoman Warder, 43, who competed in last Sunday's run, said: "Many congratulations, Michael. I did it too last Sunday. It took four hours and 10 minutes but your effort is much more impressive."

At times he makes it look easy, acknowledging well-wishers with a broad smile and a raised arm. But occasionally the strain shows when he silently fixes his gaze on the yards ahead; he wobbles before stepping off a curb or bends down, hands on knees, to regain composure.

A veteran of bruising bouts with Chris Eubank and Nigel Benn – as well as a High Court triumph over the British Boxing Board of Control – the 38-year-old from Chingford, Essex, trained for his first marathon at a Cornish retreat and now takes his inspiration from divine sources.

During one of his frequent pauses along the route, Mr Watson mopped the sweat from his brow and neck and reflected on the past week. He said: "I am feeling very tired but it has been enjoyable because of the support along the way. I have been confident from day one and feel extremely overwhelmed. I would like to give thanks to God and Jesus Christ for bringing back the power to my legs."

Already he is contemplating another London Marathon, and maybe taking part in a race elsewhere. His team of helpers from the Brain and Spine Foundation will hope the next venture can be more profitable, having raised £36,000 by yesterday against a target of £1m.

In the past six days he has covered two miles either side of lunchtime, when he eats a high-carbohydrate meal of chicken and pasta before sleeping for up to three hours to recover from the immense physical strain and concentration.

After a final pasta supper, a soaking for his blistered feet and a good night's sleep, Mr Watson will rise today to complete the final 1.25-mile stretch by midday. He will be accompanied along The Mall to the finish line by Eubank, his adversary on the fateful night at the White Hart Lane stadium in 1991 when he collapsed into the corner after the 12th round. Six weeks in a coma, he suffered severe brain damage, blindness in his right eye and paralysis from which he has only partially recovered.

Along the route Mr Watson has inspired many people, but none more so than Alex Robinson, 14, who suffers similar disabilities as a result of a skateboard accident and joined in on Monday on the suggestion of his father, Glen. After remarkable results, both were back yesterday, providing one of the most touching stories ever to have emerged from the world-famous race. Mr Robinson said: "Until this week my son was only able to walk the width of our front room, but on Monday he went two miles and is going for it again today."

Mr Watson admitted that apart from the remarkable feat of taking on the marathon, he had found a new friend. He said: "I love Alex, he is a true character and has a great sense of humour. The only trouble is he keeps embarrassing me by racing ahead."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Recruitment Genius: SEO Executive

£16000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An SEO Executive is required to...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £38,000

£16000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to continued expansion, an ...

Ashdown Group: Senior .Net Developer - Kingston Upon Thames, Surrey

£65000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A long-established, tech...

Day In a Page

Revealed: Why Mohammed Emwazi chose the 'safe option' of fighting for Isis, rather than following his friends to al-Shabaab in Somalia

Why Mohammed Emwazi chose Isis

His friends were betrayed and killed by al-Shabaab
'The solution can never be to impassively watch on while desperate people drown'
An open letter to David Cameron: Building fortress Europe has had deadly results

Open letter to David Cameron

Building the walls of fortress Europe has had deadly results
Tory candidates' tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they seem - you don't say!

You don't say!

Tory candidates' election tweets not as 'spontaneous' as they appear
Mubi: Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash

So what is Mubi?

Netflix for people who want to stop just watching trash all the time
The impossible job: how to follow Kevin Spacey?

The hardest job in theatre?

How to follow Kevin Spacey
Armenian genocide: To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie

Armenian genocide and the 'good Turks'

To continue to deny the truth of this mass human cruelty is close to a criminal lie
Lou Reed: The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond the biographers' and memoirists' myths

'Lou needed care, but what he got was ECT'

The truth about the singer's upbringing beyond
Migrant boat disaster: This human tragedy has been brewing for four years and EU states can't say they were not warned

This human tragedy has been brewing for years

EU states can't say they were not warned
Women's sportswear: From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help

Women's sportswear

From tackling a marathon to a jog in the park, the right kit can help
Hillary Clinton's outfits will be as important as her policies in her presidential bid

Clinton's clothes

Like it or not, her outfits will be as important as her policies
NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

The wars that come back to haunt us

David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders