THE inspirational Claire Lomas has started start her five-day Great North Run journey – beginning a challenge 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.
Great Run Company chairman Brendan Foster sounded the horn to start off Claire's run on Claremont Road on Wednesday morning, where she has begun her walk on a specially devised route through the city centre and over the Tyne Bridge. 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, visited Newcastle High School for Girls on Wednesday morning to give a motivational talk with the schoolchildren joining her at the start line to show their support.
Claire's route (click to expand)
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.
“She will be guaranteed the warmest of receptions for her latest challenge at the Great North Run.”
- To donate to Claire's charity, visit justgiving.com/clairelomasGNR, or text LEGS60 £5 to 70070 – Visit www.claireschallenge.co.uk for more information.
To keep up with Claire's progress, keep checking the @Great_Run Twitter account or #claireswalk