32-year-old is greeted by crowds of supporters as she becomes first to finish marathon in bionic suit
A paralysed woman has become the first person to complete a marathon in a bionic suit.
Claire Lomas finished the London Marathon 16 days after the race began. The 32-year-old said she was “over the moon” as she completed the 26.2-mile route, which she started on 22 April with 36,000 other participants.
The former chiropractor was in tears as she became the first person to complete any marathon using a bionic ReWalk suit at 12.50pm on Tuesday.
Hundreds lined the streets as she made her final steps to complete the race. Three mounted members of the Household Cavalry gave her a guard of honour as she crossed the finishing line on the Mall.
Lomas, a jewellery designer who was left paralysed from the chest down following a horse-riding accident in 2007, said: “There were times when I questioned whether I would make it when I was training.
“Once I started, I just took each day as it came and every step got me a step closer.”
A spokeswoman for the mounted regiment said the riders were there to give Lomas “extra support because she is passionate about horses”.
Lomas will not appear in the official results and did not receive a medal when she finished as competitors have to complete the course on the same day to qualify for a medal, organisers said.
But a number of marathon runners decided to donate their own medals to Lomas. Jacqui Rose, from Southampton, who contributed her medal along with about 12 others, said: “She has epitomised what I thought the London Marathon was all about.
“That medal, when you have completed it and gone through all the pain of it, symbolises that achievement of what you have gone out of your way to do for charity.
“For her not to have got one ridicules what the marathon was all about.”
Holly Branson, daughter of the tycoon Richard – whose company Virgin sponsors the race – was at the finish line waiting to give Lomas the Virgin trophy for endurance. The company hands out the award annually.
She said: “She has done the most amazing job. It was so emotional when she crossed that line. Tears welled up in my eyes and everyone was cheering.”
Lomas, from Eye Kettleby, near Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire, raised more than £86,000 for Spinal Research, a charity which funds medical research around the world to develop reliable treatments for paralysis caused by a broken back or neck.
She said: “When I was in hospital I saw a lot of people with similar injuries to me and a lot worse.
“I have had tremendous support since my accident which I am so grateful for. Some don’t have that. Some people lose the use of their arms as well. A cure needs to be found.”
She walked about two miles a day, cheered on by her husband, Dan, her parents and her 13-month-old daughter, Maisie.
Lomas said she was now going to write a book and “spend some good time with Maisie”, adding: “Then I’ll think of something else daft to do.”
A number of celebrities have also lent their support by walking a mile alongside her, including the TV presenter Gabby Logan and her husband, the former international rugby star Kenny, and the TV presenter and adventurer Ben Fogle.
Lomas broke her neck, back and ribs and punctured a lung when her horse Rolled Oats threw her off as she took part in the Osberton horse trials in Nottinghamshire in 2007.
The £43,000 ReWalk suit, designed by the Israeli entrepreneur Amit Goffer, enables people with lower-limb paralysis to stand, walk and climb stairs through motion sensors and an onboard computer system.
A shift in the wearer’s balance, indicating their desire to take, for example, a step forward, triggers the suit to mimic the response that the joints would have if they were not paralysed.