TEN YEARS after an accident that left her paralysed, an inspirational fundraiser is set to tackle the Great South Run in a bionic suit.
Claire Lomas, who was left paralysed from the chest down after a riding accident in 2007, will be aided by a revolutionary ReWalk suit as she endeavours to complete the 10 miles within 24 hours.
Supporters gathered at the Spinnaker Tower to encourage the 37-year-old mum, who has raised £575,000 for the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation to date, as she demonstrated how the suit works.
Claire, who was made an MBE for her work, said: ‘I’ve had some dark times dealing with my injury, but equally I felt lucky to still have the use of my arms – that’s when I decided to do what I could to help cure paralysis.
‘I’ll take the same route as the other runners, passing through Portsmouth and Southsea.
‘Anyone who’s seen me walk in the suit, which moves my legs for me, will appreciate how hard it will be for me.
‘Even balancing in it is difficult and I’ll be making the parts of me that do work, work hard, but I’ll keep going. I’m looking forward to it.’
Pupils from Fareham’s Meoncross School have backed Claire and have helped with fundraising through sponsored activities. Some will take on the Simplyhealth Junior and Mini Great South Run.
Claire completed the Great North Run in the ReWalk suit in 2012, in five days, but this will be her toughest challenge yet as she battles on with no sleep, stopping only for short breaks.
Before the start of Claire’s challenge on October 21, she will visit schools across the region to speak to pupils.
Claire added: ‘I want to get children to understand that sometimes things don’t go to plan but you can still get through hard times. I also want them to believe in themselves and take on challenges.
‘I’ve been lucky and had a lot of support, but you’ve also got to make your own luck and think about what you can do, not what you can’t do.’
Tony ‘Touchline’ Male from Portsmouth Football Club showed his support for the fundraiser. He said: ‘Last year I ran my 25th Great South Run.
‘It’s hard enough to get round that course when you’re fit and well, let alone when you’re paralysed. Claire is an absolute inspiration.
‘She’ll have the support of the whole city.’
Pompey chairman Iain McInnes was at the event and added: ‘What the club achieved at the weekend was a real inspiration for the city, but what Claire has done and is doing individually is an inspiration to the whole world.’