Injured Vet Completes Marathon In 13 Days

Almost two weeks after the start of the London marathon. The last competitor crossed the finish line today - a British army veteran of the Iraq war.

And no winner of the race ever heard such cheers, as CBS News correspondent Mark Phillips reports.

The few hours it takes to run a marathon can seem like an eternity, even to its able-bodied participants. But among the thousands who set out on London's marathon 13 days ago was one man who knew his battle would take a lot longer than the rest.

Major Phil Packer of the British Army had been told after a rocket attack in Basra 15 months ago that he would never walk again. But he was intent not just on walking, but on walking the more than twenty-six miles of this marathon. And intent on trying to raise a million British pounds - about $1.5 million - for an injured soldiers' charity called Help For Heroes. He'd done the arithmetic.

Using a kind of crutch on each arm, Packer moved along, greeted at each turn by photographers, cheering crowds, police officers and everyday people offering a word of encouragement.

"It was 15 pounds a step. And I think that with 25,000 people watching, 15 pound a step will get me to the million and I'd be absolutely delighted," Packer said.

Anyone who knows Packer knew he wouldn't quit. He had already astounded people by skydiving and by rowing the 20 treacherous miles across the English Channel to France, pulling as hard as the other man in the boat.

So when Major Packer finally crossed the marathon finish line today, no one was surprised at his tenacity - or his humility.

"Just remembering exactly what it's about and it's looking out after other injured servicemen. It's supporting Help for Heroes and I think that's where the attention and focus should be, not on me," he said.

That's not what his mother thought.

"It was just the most amazing feeling to see him on his feet crossing that line; yes, absolutely amazing," Angela Packer said.

Maj. Packer has accomplished his marathon objective. His fund raising-objective is about three quarters of the way to its target, and closing fast.
  • Mark Phillips

    Mark Phillips returned to the CBS News London bureau as a correspondent in 1993. He has covered many major stories since then, including the war in the Balkans, the death of Princess Diana and the weapons inspection conflicts in Iraq.

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