Claire Lomas

It is said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. For Claire Lomas of Leicestershire, England, this was especially true: her journey began on April 22nd 2012 with just that, one single step. And it continued for the next 16 days in the streets and sounds of London, first through the pain of the demands she made on her body and then through cheers of the hundreds who lined the streets in her support.

On May 8th, Claire made history by being the first person to complete a marathon in a bionic suit. She accomplished this remarkable feat in the 26.2-mile London Marathon at 12:50 p.m. on a Tuesday, not for the medal or the glory she said, but for a cause dear to her heart. She took part in order to fundraise for Spinal Research, which she did through her courageous feat, far surpassing her own expectations and raising more than 130,000 Pounds.

The 32-year-old mother knows through experience what paralysis can do to a person. When a freak accident in 2007 while competing at the Osberton Horse Trials in Nottinghamshire resulted in a serious injury, Claire’s life changed forever. A collision with a tree led to fractures in her neck, back and ribs. Claire also suffered a punctured lung, pneumonia, had to have a tracheotomy so she could breathe and was in intensive care for 10 days. A T4 spinal cord injury left her paralysed from the chest down, struggling to deal with the consequences of the accident. “Spinal cord injuries [don’t] just mean you can't walk any more - but can also effect sensation, bowel and bladder function, circulation, temperature regulation, sexual function, bone density,” she says.

Claire’s indomitable spirit fought for recovery from the very beginning. Just 8 weeks after her accident, she left the Northern General Hospital’s Spinal Injuries Unit – the shortest time anyone has ever spent in that hospital for such an injury. Determined to keep going, she set up a gym in her home so that she could work on her recovery and do what she used to do since childhood: walk again. But, Claire says, she could not have done it alone. After her injury, she married the love of her life, Dan Spicer and they had their baby daughter Maisie a little more than a year ago.

In January of 2012, Claire took her second first step, learning to walk side by side with little Maisie in her walker. She was able to do so with the help of the ReWalk bionic suit which uses motion sensors and an internally installed computer system to help her walk.

By April of 2012, after weeks of training, Claire was ready to take another first step in the London Marathon, with 36,000 other entrants. It was the first one of around 55,000 steps that it takes to complete the 26.2 mile race. On her first day, she walked 2 miles, 1 mile longer than she had ever walked in the bionic suit before. How did she make it through everything? Her answer lies in the power of a single step: “If I thought about 26.2miles I could feel daunted, it was best to take each day as it came and just put together lots of steps. That would get me there and it did!”