(LONDON) — For five years, Claire Lomas hasn’t been able to walk. She hasn’t been able to feel her legs. Still, that hasn’t stopped her. She was once a professional horse rider; her blond hair flowing underneath her white riding cap. But in 2007, a freak accident paralyzed her from the chest down.
She spent all her time in a wheelchair, at least until January. That’s when she started walking again, thanks to a $75,000 bionic suit.
“It’s amazing after five years of sitting down to be back on my feet,” she said earlier this year, “and it’s fully weight-bearing and I can walk in it as well.”
Each time she steps forward, her suit hisses a sound not dissimilar to Robocop. The ReWalk and two canes support her, and the suit senses when she wants to walk and shifts her weight for her. But it’s not easy. Each day, when she started, she could take only 30 steps. Every moment was a chore, and because she couldn’t feel where she was standing, she always feared falling over.
But that didn’t stop her, either. Lomas set out to walk 55,000 steps – or 26.2 miles. She set out to run the London Marathon. She started, alongside 35,000 runners, 16 days ago. On Tuesday, in the shadow of Buckingham Palace, she finished — to the screams of thousands of fans who came out to support her.
“It’s a moment I’m going to treasure for the rest of my life,” she said in a nationally televised, live interview with the BBC after she crossed. “The support here has been – I didn’t expect it here like this. I couldn’t believe it when I turned up this morning in the taxi to start, and I thought it was just a busy day in London. Someone told me they’re all there for me. I was like, no!”
But they all were there for her, inspired by her determination to finish the race, inspired by her becoming the first woman in a robotic suit to complete a marathon, inspired by her ability to, as she told ABC News on Tuesday, “just keep persevering.”
Loman raised more than $100,000 for spinal cord research.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Paul Cruickshank and Michael Pearson, CNN