Inspirational Eye Kettleby fundraiser Claire Lomas is set to become the first person to take on the Great North Run half marathon wearing a bionic suit.
Mum-of-one Claire (36), who has raised more than £540,000 for research into spinal injury since she was left paralysed from the chest down following a horse riding accident in 2007, will be setting off five days early on September 7.
It’s anticipated Claire will complete five days’ walking, covering around three miles per day, and take in the final mile on Sunday, September 11 when she’ll be seeing other competitors on the 13.1 mile route.
In April 2012 Claire famously became the first person to complete a marathon wearing her revolutionary motorised ‘ReWalk’ suit which she’ll be using again for the Great North Run.
Claire will be striding out in aid of the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation. She is a patron of the charity which is committed to funding research and development into curing spinal cord injury.
She said: “I’ve always fancied doing the Great North Run and I was thrilled when the organisers invited me to take part having heard I had been turned away from other events.
“I’ve done the London Marathon four years ago but I always wanted to do the Great North Run because it looks amazing, with a brilliant atmosphere.
“I’m really excited. It’s going to be very tough on me but it’s brilliant because it’s the first time I’ve been an official competitor in a race.”
During her five days on Tyneside, Claire will be talking to children at school assemblies each morning along the route, who will also join her for sections of the walk from Newcastle to South Shields.
Claire, whose daughter Maisie (5) will be taking part in the Mini Great North Run, said: “After London, I did 400 miles on my hand bike around the UK and visited schools to talk to them about how I dealt with my accident, what I’ve done since and to never give up. That’s what I’m doing again during the Great North Run.”
Mark Hollinshead is chief executive of Great North Run organisers The Great Run Company. He said: “Claire is an inspiration and we are absolutely delighted to welcome her. Her enthusiasm, positivity and ‘can do’ attitude is both uplifting and infectious.
“She will be guaranteed the warmest of receptions in her latest challenge at the Great North Run.”
l Grab every opportunity you get and make your own luck was the heartfelt message Claire gave upon receiving her honorary degree from Nottingham Trent University last Wednesday.
Claire received her honour in recognition of her incredible support for spinal injuries research.
In her speech and on the day she gave some ‘life lessons’ to students, including adapting to change, taking opportunities, stepping out of your comfort zone, thinking of others, taking risks and making your own luck.
Claire said it was taking a risk that led her to get married to her husband, Dan. She joined a dating agency and filled out the profile, including that she was in a wheelchair and what had happened to her. She got a message and she said he looked okay but to read the message she had to pay £20. She wasn’t going to pay it but her friends told her to take a risk, so she did.
She said: “Life is all about taking risks. If you never take a risk you will never achieve your dreams. Only a year after my accident I took a risk that has changed my whole life – I bought my husband for only £20!”
Claire added: “My advice to everyone would be to take opportunities. In those early days after my accident I took every little opportunity I could to rebuild my life.
“It’s not always things that seem the big things but which could be a stepping stone to get there. Grab every opportunity you can and make your own luck.
“I know I’ve been lucky but I’ve also made my own luck. If I’d kept dwelling on everything I’d lost I wouldn’t have had the best days of my life after my accident.”
For more information about Claire’s incredible fundraising efforts and how you can give your support visit http://www.claireschallenge.co.uk