The London Marathon started last Sunday, 22 April. The top runners completed it in a few hours, the majority of competitors in a few more, or for the slowcoaches who walked here and there, a few more than that. In most people’s minds, the Marathon is now over and done with for the year.
So, please spare a thought (and some £s or $s) for the woman who is still out there, slogging it out one effort-ful step at a time, determined to finish the 26.2 mile course (never was the word ‘gruelling’ more apt) and raise lots of money for a charity that should be close to all our hearts.
Claire Lomas was a very talented event rider who was paralysed in a fall at Osberton in 2007. A brief misunderstanding about the route through the woods after jumping a fence, the horse’s shoulder clipped a tree, and she was fired into it, breaking her back. She was paralysed from the waist down.
Her life was irrevocably changed but not destroyed. She eventually met a new partner, married, and they have a beautiful daughter, Maisie, who is learning to walk at about the same pace as her mother is re-learning, with the help of a robotic suit, in which contraption she is walking the Marathon route.
Claire still instructs, and fund-raises tirelessly, for her own Claire Lomas Walk campaign (she has always been utterly determined to walk again) and, in the case of this London Marathon effort, for Spinal Research.
I contacted her just before she started her Marathon effort, and she gave me these quotes:
“Very excited to start and looking forward to working my way slowly towards the finish line…slowly!”
“I want to raise as much as possible for Spinal Research- catastrophic injury that changes your life in a split second.”
She discovered the ReWalk robotic suit while surfing the internet, and fundraised to buy one.
This shows one of her early training sessions:
She’s been training hard, preparing for the daily grind. Preparation for ReWalk:
Because she can’t feel her feet at all, balancing is very difficult. Plus, anyone who has ever been on crutches for any time will tell you, they are no ‘walk in the park’ either… and she needs them for stability. The straps from the robotic suit need to be tight enough not to slip, not so tight as to cut off circulation or chafe. Next time you get up and walk, be grateful, to the very very bottom of your heart, that you can. We’ve all had falls off horses. Luckily they weren’t as life-changing as Claire’s.
The robotic suit has to be kept dry… and England is throwing its very worst April Showers at her. We’ve had hail in the last week over here. The pavements are slippery, and of course London is now back to its normal hustle and bustle, so the road blocks and crowd barriers that allowed athletes to proceed unimpeded are long gone. The logistics are a nightmare.
But, it’s not all bad. Claire’s fundraising total is rising and rising. Her target is £50,000. Last week, before the Marathon started, she was at about £8,000. Then the ball started rolling. Horse and Hound Online members boosted the total over £1000 overnight. We all told all our friends. They told their friends. This morning she was at £23,000. After lunch, it had risen to £25,000. At this rate she might even smash her target!
On Marathon day, there were lots of photos of Claire on the Daily Mail online pages.
Matthew Pinsent, the multiple-Olympic medal winning rower, walked the last part of the first day with her, giving her a huge boost emotionally and in publicity.
These are the distances she’s managed so far:
Day 1 2.3 miles – boosted by the crowds and the OMG presence of Matthew Pinsent!
Day 2 1.5 miles – hilly, wet weather.
Day 3 2.2 miles – weather wet and horrible, “Nightmare as have to keep robot covered and can’t see straps so got some rubs yesterday- got to be careful!”
Day 4 she has Clare Balding, t.v. presenter for racing and eventing, joining her today. the weather in the U.K. is FOUL. Cold, windy, and bucketing down with rain. It could hardly be worse if it tried!
Claire’s walking as much as she can in a day, then staying in a local hotel overnight. The next day she is driven back to the same point, to continue. She’s expecting it to take 2-3 weeks to complete the distance.
William Fox-Pitt has texted her from Kentucky. His wife, Alice, also a t.v. presenter for racing, intends to join Clare at some point. She has various other celebrities, friends, and event riders lined up to walk with her, even for just 1/2 an hour, for encouragement as well as a publicity boost. Everyone who joins her is writing in and signing a book which she will keep as a reminder of a difficult but amazing experience – this 26.2 miles is journey, make no mistake.
Today, Day 4, her total stands at over £25,000. At this rate, she might well hit her target of £50,000. We could all make that happen, if we give a little and spread the word. It would be fantastic if she did. We should all dig deep. She is.
To follow her progress or send her messages of support, follow her on Twitter: @Claire80lomas.