THE inspirational Claire Lomas will start her five-day Great North Run journey on Wednesday, where she will attempt to walk the entire 13.1 miles of the world's biggest half marathon in a bionic suit.
Claire was paralysed from the chest down after a riding accident in 2007, but five years later became the first person to complete a marathon wearing the revolutionary ReWalk suit when she took 17 days to complete the London Marathon.
But while Claire has previously completed events around the UK long after other participants have finished, organisers are giving the Leicestershire 36-year-old a five-day head start in the world-famous half marathon between Newcastle and South Shields – so she can finish before the rest of the 57,000 runners, in front of thousands of cheering spectators and live on BBC television.
The Great Run Company have devised a special route for Claire, starting on Claremont Road, which runs parallel to the Great North Start line on the Central Motorway in Newcastle, before the she reaches the Tyne Bridge and follows the traditional route. She aims to complete three miles per day, assisted by husband Dan, before taking in the final mile on Sunday, where she will finish in front of the crowd on The Leas in South Shields.
Claire, who is raising money for the Nichols Spinal Injury Foundation, will visit Newcastle High School for Girls on Wednesday morning to give a motivational talk before setting off on her first three miles at 11a.m., with Great North Run Chairman Brendan Foster to act as official starter.
Claire's route (click to expand)
And, ensuring that it will be a family affair, Claire and Dan's daughter Maisie, five, will take part in the Mini Great North Run on Saturday morning.
“I can't wait to get started,” said Claire. “I am so grateful for the Great North Run organisers, who have been incredibly helpful in making this happen.
"It will be a challenge, but I think that will bring the best out in me. I have always wanted to do the Great North Run because it looks amazing, with a brilliant atmosphere.”
Event organisers The Great Run Company have given Claire number 2016 for the Great North Run. Chief Executive, Mark Hollinshead, said: “Claire is an inspiration and we are absolutely delighted to welcome her. Her enthusiasm, positivity and ‘can do' attitude is both uplifting and infectious.