Crowds lined the streets of Manchester this afternoon (Monday) as paralysed Claire Lomas completed her second marathon using a pioneering robotic suit and raised a remarkable £30,000 for charity in the process.
People cheered wildly as the 37-year-old, from Eye Kettleby, reached the finish line of the ASICS Manchester Marathon outside Trafford Town Hall in just eight days, a whopping nine days quicker than she completed her only previous marathon, in London, six years ago.
An emotional Claire blinked back tears as she told reporters at the finish line: “I’m so emotional - that last half-mile was so tough.
“I can’t thank people enough for their support. I am absolutely blown away by how many people are here today, I had to work hard to keep it together coming to the finish line.”
Claire hugged her husband Dan at the finish line after he stood behind her for much of the 26 miles to protect her from falling. She also embraced children Maisie and Chloe before joking: “I must be the only person to finish a marathon fatter than when I started because everybody kept bringing me food.”
Celebrities across the sporting world have encouraged Claire all the way, including Olympic champion heptathlete Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill, who sent her a Tweet which read: “You are literally super woman!! And inspiring isn’t really a strong enough word xx.”
Former England and Manchester United footballer Gary Neville Tweeted today: “Really inspiring story and happening here in Trafford today Congratulations to @claire80lomas completing the #ManchesterMarathon in Trafford today, what an inspiration!”
TV presenter Clare Balding walked part of the course with Claire over the weekend, along with Kate Richardson-Walsh, captain of Great Britain’s Olympic gold medal-winning hockey team, who posted: “Feel very honoured to have walked a tiny part of the Manchester Marathon route with @claire80lomas this morning. Incredible woman. Incredible team.”
Claire stopped to pose for selfies with supporters over the last gruelling week as she made her way along the course, which was completed by everyone else in the 13,000 strong field just a few hours after Sunday morning’s start.
Live interviews on breakfast television shows have no doubt helped push up her sponsorship pledges with all proceeds going to the Nicholls Spinal Injuries Foundation (NSIF), for whom she has raised more than £620,000 with a series of fundraising efforts.
Go online at www.justgiving.com/fundraising/lotsofsmallsteps to sponsor Claire - latest total this afternoon was just under £30,000.
More to follow.