Sixteen days after she set off on her London Marathon challenge, Claire Lomas has crossed the finish line in The Mall – in front of thousands of supporters, TV cameras and a host of celebrity well-wishers.
Claire, 32, completed the 26.2 miles in a pair of special robotic legs, to raise money for Spinal Research.
She was a promising event rider when she was paralysed in a fall at Osberton Horse Trials five years ago.
“It’s amazing to actually want to sit down, after hating my chair for five years,” Claire told H&H after crossing the finish line.
Claire, supported by husband Dan (pictured), wept with the emotion of completing her challenge.
“I don’t know how I’ve lasted this long [without crying],” she told H&H.
Her husband, mother Joyce and one-year-old daughter, Maisie have accompanied her along the route, averaging about two miles each day.
“I wasn’t expecting all this,” she added, looking round at the bank of photographers and TV and radio reporters queuing up to interview her. Three members of the Household Cavalry acted as outriders, following Claire up The Mall.
“When I saw all the people and taxis at Westminster this morning [where she started her final day’s walk], I thought, ‘it’s a busy day in London’.
“Then I thought – ‘they can’t all be for me?’
“It’s lucky I didn’t know how many people would be here, or I wouldn’t have got any sleep last night,” she added.
As Claire stepped over the finishing line, runners stepped forward to hang their official Virgin London Marathon medals around her neck.
Medals are only awarded to people who complete the marathon within 24 hours. But Virgin has said it will award Claire a special trophy, in recognition of her bravery.
Olympic rower Matthew Pinsent – who has led the calls for Claire to receive official recognition – arrived with a box of “twelve to thirteen medals, all donated by runners.”
He told H&H it wasn’t fair to “bash” the organisers of the marathon.
“No marathon in the world would give her an official medal,” he said.
“But clearly people who’ve run the marathon feel differently.”
Many of the celebrities who have joined Claire during her walk were there to cheer her on, including adventurer Ben Fogle and TV presenter Dan Lobb.
Presenter Clare Balding described Claire’s marathon as “amazing”. She tweeted: “Not a dry eye on The Mall.”
Also there were six-times Badminton winner, Lucinda Green and fellow eventers Francis Whittington, Aoife Clark, Polly Stockton and Kate Lukas.
Claire will now hand back her robotic suit, but is due to take delivery of her own in September, thanks to the fundraising efforts of other riders and the Matt Hampson Foundation.
To donate to Claire’s campaign, go to www.justgiving.co.uk/claire-lomas or or text LEGS60 £(the amount) to 70070.