Former eventer, Claire Lomas has energised the eventing community into supporting Spinal Research and her quest to raise £50,000 for the charity, by walking the Virgin London Marathon in a pair of robotic trousers. Whilst the rest of the marathon field have long finished, Claire is setting her own pace aiming to walk up The Mall over the finish line a day or two after next week’s Mitsubishi Motors Badminton Horse Trials.
I can’t confess to knowing Claire Lomas very well at all, but like many was inspired by her story and challenge, so after a business meeting in London yesterday I decided to cross the river and meet Claire as she made her way towards Greenwich, home of the London 2012 Olympics equestrian events. Seeing her walk in the ReWalk exoskeleton suit really brings home how big an undertaking Claire’s challenge really is, although as Claire puts it “getting out of the flat in the morning can be tougher than walking the streets”. It seems these bionic suits can take several months to get the hang of and Claire has only been training in them since January this year, so is still walking with the aid of crutches, which can’t be easy on either your legs, or your arms and shoulders.
Taking to a wheelchair may seem a more obvious transit for completing the marathon. Claire however preferred going through the steep learning curve of the ReWalk suit as she puts great value on “standing at your full height”! I can sympathise with that – it must get very dull sitting at waist height permanently.
Charlie Massey (AKA Charlie The Coffee Man) ran the marathon raising funds for the same charity this year inspired by both Claire’s story, and that of Ruth Mathieson who suffered a similar injury. He has been helping Claire’s campaign and was there today with two of the sports celebrities, whom he asked to get involved, Football Pundit Matt Holland and British tennis legend, Tim Henman. (Tim’s wife, Lucy, is a regular on the eventing circuit by the way)
As Claire’s marathon continues, more celebrities and sporting heroes are due to join her, and no doubt as she crosses Tower Bridge into the busier parts of central London and the financial district media interest and public support will increase. As I made my way back across London, I couldn’t help but feel visibly moved by what I had just seen – Isn’t the human spirit amazing? Way to go Claire!
You can find out more about Claire, her extraordinary achievements, and fund raising at the following:
A big thank-you to all who have helped spread the news through the social media networks, I know Claire is overwhelmed by the response she has received. If you’re on twitter you can continue to follow Claire’s progress using the #claireswalk hashtag, and by following Claire (@claire80lomas).
ps. Little Anecdote: A couple of times over the last year, whilst travelling in the US, I’ve been mistaken for Tim Henman (Yes, really). Tim and I agree we look nothing like each other, and my autograph is nothing like his!