Paralysed fundraiser Claire Lomas MBE is taking on her toughest challenge yet at the 2017 SimplyhealthGreat South Run.
She aims to walk the 10 miles in 24 hours while wearing a bionic suit.
Claire, who has been paralysed since a horse-riding accident in 2007, will start on the morning of Saturday October 21, walking the route of the world’s leading 10 mile run around Portsmouth and Southsea overnight.
She will then cross the finish line on Sunday October 22 with 20,000 others.
Here she provides an update on her training for her #10in24 challenge.
Walking the Simplyhealth Great North Run in 2016 took every ounce of energy I had, both physically and mentally.
I didn’t think a year later I would be training for another big event, but yes it was only a fortnight after that huge challenge when I started planning something else – and it needed to be different.
It needs to push me to my limits, something I do not 100% know I can even do. So I had the idea of the Simplyhealth Great South Run Challenge- taking on 10 miles in 24 hours.
Last year, three miles in a day was taking me between seven and eight hours so you can imagine how tough this will be. I will be out all night with the aim of completing it in the 24 hours.
I use the pioneering ReWalk suit to enable me to walk the course, but each step is an effort.
I use the parts of me that aren’t paralysed to initiate each step. By tilting my pelvis at the correct time, the suit (known as Fred) then detects this motion and takes a step. But I have no idea where my legs are unless I am looking down at them. In fact I can’t even feel the ground beneath me.
If I see rough pavements, camber or slopes I need more tilt so my feet lift a little higher. So you will see me looking down at my feet and the surface ahead most of the time.
Often when I look up to chat to someone I catch a foot and the suit will stop, or if I get the tilt wrong it will cause the Fred to stop.
I am paralysed from the chest down, so lack of core strength means as I get more tired my arms take more of a pounding to keep my body upright.
I also have to be careful of any rubs from Fred, especially being in it for so long on this challenge. Being unable to feel anything rubbing or pinching can mean by the time I notice anything it is quite bad, so we will check my skin when I have my frequent breaks.
I keep myself fit by handcycling most days and as a challenge like this approaches I am often out training in my suit.
There is only a month to go, so I will be building up the distance. On Sunday I walked 0.85 mile then cycled after, but I felt like I had tired arms as I was struggling up the hills.
Each walk session now is vital if I stand a chance of getting to the finish line. I plan to do half-a-mile one evening this week followed by a long one this weekend - ideally 1.25 miles.
Although it is tiring, it feels great for my body to be upright (muscles, bone density, circulation and digestion all benefit)
We have lively music ready to keep me going through the night. We have waterproofs ready to cover Fred in case it is a wet weekend and I have some great family and friends walking with me.
Anyone is welcome to join us for part of the walk - we would love to see you!
So what drives me to keep going?
When I was in hospital I saw a lot of people with worse injuries. They had lost the use of their arms too so I now do what I can to help cure paralysis by raising money for Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation.
Imagine being unable to feed yourself, dress yourself or being able to wipe your own tears away.
When I feel like I can’t take another step I will think about this and keep marching towards the finish line. I also like to keep fit, active and set myself personal challenges.
Ten miles is certainly going to be difficult - but difficult is not impossible.
I will only think as far as the next lamppost or tree as that is far less daunting – and I will find the energy to get there!
Please support me at www.Justgiving.com/clairelomasGSR
To enter the Great South Run, go to Great South Run