Overcoming adversity: Domico Watson, Sean Trott united by Bermuda Day tales of bravery
Domico Watson came within three seconds of beating nine-times winner Kavin Smith in the Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby last Friday, but there was hardly any time for disappointment for the 28-year-old who had been weeks earlier fighting the biggest battle of his life, it can be revealed.
Watson collapsed just after he crossed the finish line at Bernard Park and was then taken away on a stretcher for treatment. His seventeenth-place finish and time of 1hr 28min 53sec were personal bests in six appearances in the Bermuda Day race.
This race was the most memorable for another reason, as Watson posted on Facebook the next day of his challenges with Covid-19 in the wake of a diagnosis that threatened his participation in the race.
Watson is the son of former middle-distance runners Mike Watson, a four-times derby winner, and Donna Raynor, the president of the Bermuda National Athletics Association, who, ironically, were part of the Bermuda Broadcasting commentary team on the day.
“Usually runners write celebratory/reflective posts after a race but the Bermuda Half-Marathon Derby deserves something a little different,” Watson posted.
“Just over a month ago I was positive with Covid-19, bedridden with symptoms such as loss of breath and heavy chest pains.
“For three weeks I would have been happy just to walk 100 metres. My first jog around my backyard felt like a sprint and my first walk around my neighbourhood a marathon. The additional surprise loss of my grandparents [Clarence and Stella Bean] in this period dealt the largest blow.”
Watson added: “I honestly had scrapped the thought of even attempting to run. It would have been easier to rest, reset and look to the future. But running has taught me that with patience, consistency and hard work, we can become stronger.
“I’m healthy, though not at the fitness level I was before sickness and I continue to deal with side effects, but I will celebrate this victory. Hopefully two years of hard training and racing along with a little mental gumption might help.
“This race will definitely not be about PBs, position or even having to finish. Instead it’s all about the amazing opportunity to simply run and enjoy sport again.”
Watson had been putting in between 60 and 70 miles a week in his training runs before the diagnosis, and then taking further precautions on his training runs, with his mother driving behind him during a long run.
“We have lost so many from this virus so we must refuse to take our lives and health for granted,“ he posted.
“Special thanks to those healthcare providers that offered their outstanding expertise in this time. My mother, who played Covid caretaker during quarantine and drove with me for precaution during my long run.
“The family and friends who have reached out and continue to show amazing support.”
One of them posting words of encouragement was women’s race winner Rose-Anna Hoey. “I’m so glad you bravely fought to the finish Domico,” she posted.
“It was a pleasure to race with you [even though you had me worried]. Next year will be that sub-1:20, I know it!
“Now, do what your mom tells you to do and rest up!”
Watson still has his challenges as he continues his recovery. “I have maintained some side effects that have hung around,” he told The Royal Gazette.
“I had loss of breath and chest pains and my chest still gets stiff and tight every now and then, with my breathing weaker than it used to be. This is stuff I have to live with until things can hopefully go back to being normal.
“Two weeks before the race if anyone talked to me I was still telling them no. I still wasn’t up to it quite yet.
“The week before the race I asked my mom to come out with me and drive just in case I felt bad and wanted to quit. Just do a ten-miler to see how I felt. Getting through the run was fine but in the evening I still didn’t feel 100 per cent, but decided to go for it and just drop out on the day if I had to.
”I was running like a half-marathon nearly every weekend for my long runs, so I was overly prepared for it at that point.“
On the day Watson said he had some challenges around Mile 7 in the Flatts area when he felt his chest get tight. “My heart rate went up and I slowed down to a jog,” he explained.
“I started to feel better so I sped up a little more. Every time I sped up my heart rate elevated. For the last half of the race, it was just me fighting against my breathing and not trying to overdue it in the hopes of making it to the finish line.”
Sean Trott, who placed fifth overall, also recently overcame medical issues to run in Bermuda’s most popular race for the eleventh time. He also took to Facebook to share that he suffered with abdominal pain last autumn — diagnosed as an inguinal hernia — that required surgery last December.
“Many people don’t know this but last fall I started to experience frequent, unexplained pain in my abdomen whenever I exerted myself,” Trott posted on social media.
“The diagnosis was an inguinal hernia on my left side, and I needed surgery to fix it. I managed to run through it for most of my races, but not without a struggle.
“In the middle of December I had surgery and following this struggled to walk to the end of my driveway for the first few days. I began the process of rebuilding my fitness and struggled, initially, to run longer than two miles.”
Trott finished fifth overall after placing second in 2019. “Initially I was disappointed with fifth place, and my time of 1:17:23,” he said.
“But when I consider everything that went into this, and how much progress I made in such a short time, I can be satisfied with the outcome.
“I will hold my head high and carry the momentum that I have built into the next year,’” added Trott, who also thanked his wife, parents, church and community for their support.
Raynor posted: “This has been a rough year for several athletes. I am proud of all of you fighting through so much.
”This year was a year to get out there and give it your best. I have no doubt you gave 100 per cent.
“Congratulations and a job well done.”