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Miracle soldier defies medics to run marathon in Helmand

April 17, 2011

A soldier who was told that he would never be able to run again will this Sunday attempt to run a marathon – in Afghanistan.

As thousands of people take to the streets of London, Major Al Jarvis is planning to run 26.2 miles around the camp in Helmand province where he is serving a six month tour. Despite temperatures above 30 degrees, Al will run the course wearing his full body armour which weighs 13 kilos. Quite a feat for anyone but especially for Al as it comes just three years after he broke his back in a parachute accident. He also fractured his left hip and right ankle.

Major Al Jarvis of the Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team during marathon training around Lashkar Gah.

The 37 year old was taking part in a training exercise in America but landed awkwardly, almost severing his spinal chord. He spent a week not being able to move at all but then doctors decided to operate to try and repair the damage. Surgeons spent hours removing two shattered discs and inserting two metal rods and ten screws into Al’s back. He was then flown back to the UK to continue his recovery but the outlook was far from hopeful.

He says it was a dark time:

“They hoped that the surgery would strengthen my back enough to allow me to walk but I should be prepared to leave the Army because I would never be able to return to the fitness levels I had before the accident.”

With the support of his wife Alyssa, Al went through months of intensive physiotherapy and treatment – defying doctors with his determination and resolve. He admits there were times it would have been easier to give up:

“It was the hardest thing I’ve had to do – physically and mentally. But thinking I would never being able to play football with my children was enough to give me the energy I needed to do that little bit more.”

To view the full video interview with Major Al Jarvis, click on the image below.

In order to complete the marathon, Maj Jarvis will have to run around the main operating base in Lashkar Gah, which is home to the headquarters of Task Force Helmand, at least twenty six times which he admits will be tough:

“The first few times should be ok but after that, as the temperature starts to rise and the pain starts to get stronger, I’m hoping a few of the guys will come and cheer me on and give me a bit of support.”

Maj Jarvis, who lives in Farnborough with his wife and two sons Ben, who is eight and Guy who is five, is hoping to raise money for Combat Stress – a charity that helps veterans suffering from mental health problems.

Unlike many of the runners in London who will be treated to a warm bath, slap up meal and glass of champagne, after his marathon on Sunday, Al will go straight back to his job working in the Military Stabilisation Support Group in the Provincial Reconstruction Team.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. Malcolm permalink
    April 17, 2011 14:36

    Good luck to Major Jarvis, his example is “wake up” call for us all !!

  2. April 17, 2011 14:41

    Major Al Jarvis is an inspiration! He certainly has that, “never say never” fighting spirit in abundance! Good luck to him in what most certainly will be quite a challenge!

  3. Lynne Villiers permalink
    April 17, 2011 16:26

    Good Luck to Major Jarvis

  4. Barry Sheridan permalink
    April 17, 2011 20:51

    A very impressive achievement. Well done.

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