A BRIT WAS FIRST across the line at the Great North Run last year and no, it wasn’t Mo. Before the elites, wheelchair racers and fun runners streaked along the South Shields seafront on September 11, 36-yearold Claire Lomas was lapping up the cheers of thousands as she crossed the line – five days after she set off.
Lomas, who was left paralysed from the chest down in a 2007 horse-riding accident, started her monumental effort on Wednesday, September 7, and covered a little over three miles a day, sheathed inside a robotic exoskeleton rewalk suit, and using the working muscles she did have to trigger the motion sensors required to get the suit to move. The going was extremely slow (it took her four hours to complete the first mile) and painful, with chafing, temperature regulation, hills and fatigue among the issues she had to deal with. And if that wasn’t enough, Lomas was also 16 weeks pregnant with her second child.
‘I had quite a lot of morning sickness in training so I didn’t have the lead-up I wanted – I didn’t get much sleep along the way, either – but I really did not want to lose this opportunity,’ she says. ‘There were times when I thought I was going to quit, but I’m so glad I made it.’
Lomas’s husband, Dan, walked every step of the way with her and each day the pair stopped at schools along the route to talk to pupils about her battle to overcome her injuries and about spinal injury research – to date Lomas has raised around £560,000 for the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation.
As well as capturing the hearts of the nation, it’s fitting that Lomas drew praise from another of our Heroes, Mo Farah. ‘It’s pretty amazing,’ he said when she finished the race. ‘ What she went through, and then to finish the Great North Run. I want to congratulate her – this is what the Great North Run needs. To have the courage to be able to compete is amazing.’ We couldn’t agree more.