Paralysed woman Claire Lomas treasures 16-day London marathon
- 8 May 2012
- From the section UK
Completing the London Marathon is a remarkable challenge for anybody, but even more so if you are paralysed from the chest down.
But Claire Lomas, a paralysed former horse-rider from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, has done just that.
The 32-year-old, who has a spinal injury, crossed the finish line at 12.50 BST on Tuesday after 16 days, thanks to a pair of robotic legs which have allowed her to walk again.
"It's a moment I am going to treasure for the rest of my life", she told the BBC.
Ms Lomas was greeted by delighted onlookers and a Pearly King and Queen as she walked beneath an arch of red balloons.
Her efforts have raised more than £83,000 for Spinal Research, a charity which funds medical research to develop treatments for paralysis.
While most participants in the London marathon finish within hours, Ms Lomas knew that her marathon journey would take weeks, as she could complete only a mile a day.
Although her speed increased as the days passed, she had to stay in a hotel at night-time and travel by car to the point she left off the evening before.
Before the final leg of her 26 mile route, friends and family and supporters gathered outside St Stephen's Tavern in Westminster to cheer her on.
"I couldn't believe it when I turned up this morning in the taxi to start," Ms Lomas said.
"I just thought it was a busy day in London, but someone told me these people were all there for me."
Because of all the support, the last half a mile was "pretty easy to walk", she added.
Her husband Dan Spicer, 37, has accompanied her for the whole journey, walking a little way behind her in case she lost her balance.
Her mother and father, Joyce and Martin, and her one-year-old daughter Maisie also joined her for most of the route.
For Joyce Lomas, the idea was a "bit crazy", but her determined daughter "never even thought about stopping".
Mrs Lomas said her daughter and her team followed the marathon map religiously, starting off from the carefully marked spot where they finished the night before.
"We haven't cheated even once", Joyce said.
She added: "The people who have supported her have made it amazing."
Ms Lomas said that the marathon had been very difficult, both physically and mentally.
"It's been very challenging, very hard on my arms, very hard mentally because I can't feel my legs," she said.
But she had been spurred on by the encouragement she had received from people all over the country, admitting that she was "completely taken aback" by the level of response.
As she approached the finish line on The Mall, hundreds of supporters lined the streets to cheer her on.
Her father, Martin, said that the final part of the journey was "very emotional" because it had attracted such a crowd.
But while Ms Lomas has followed the same route as other marathon participants, she won't receive the same recognition from the official organisers.
Because the rules have changed this year, she is not eligible to receive a medal because she did not complete the full course on the 22 April, the official date of the London marathon.
However, when Olympic rowing champion Sir Matthew Pinsent launched a Twitter campaign to get her one,15 participants donated their medals in recognition of her achievement.
Sir Matthew told the BBC: "For the way that she has completed the marathon this year I think she deserves all those medals and more."
One person who appreciates Ms Lomas' efforts is Mark Bacon, research director at Spinal Research. He confirmed that she has raised enough money to fund a three-year research project into treatment for paralysis.
And Francis Whittington, an event rider from East Sussex, said: "It's fantastic to see what Claire has achieved. The money that's been raised is going to go very far.
"Next she might swim the Channel."
In 2006, a riding accident broke Ms Lomas's neck, back and ribs and left her paralysed from the chest down.
Yet her sporting background gave her the determination she needed to get back on her feet again.
For the past three months she trained intensively for the marathon using a robotic walking suit with a system of motion sensors which allow her to detect and control movement.
When she shifts balance, the suit triggers her joints to move forward, enabling her to take a step.
Former rugby player Matt Hampson, who was paralysed after a rugby accident, escorted her for part of the route, as did TV presenters Gabby Logan, Ben Fogle, Susanna Reid and Clare Balding.
For Balding, watching Claire Lomas cross the finish line left "not a dry eye on the Mall".