Give Claire a medal! Tim Henman leads calls for organisers to reward paralysed marathon ace who finished Marathon in 16 days… as she raises 130,000£ for charity
Marathon chiefs won”t give her a medal because she didn”t finish within a dayBut 14 kind-hearted fellow runners have donated their gongsSports stars have joined campaign calling for Claire to be properly honouredMother, paralysed in horse riding accident, took two weeks to finish race
The wearer of bionic suit has so far raised over 130k for Spinal Research
She was aching with pain, struggling to stay upright and battling to complete the biggest challenge of her life.
But with a beaming smile and a few tears, Claire Lomas finally crossed the finish line of the London Marathon yesterday after a gruelling 16 days.
Yet organisers have refused to honour her achievement with an official medal because she did not finish within 24 hours. Instead, 14 fellow runners inspired by her heroism, have donated theirs.
The snub by Virgin officials has prompted outrage, with scores of comments on Twitter and even some sports stars calling for them to reconsider.
Scroll down to hear from Claire as she crosses the line
Triumphant: Paralysed former event-rider Claire Lomas has been given 14 official London Marathon medals by fellow runners after being snubbed by organisers
Over the line: Claire, accompanied by her husband Dan, crossing the finishing line after her heroic marathon effort in her bionic suit
Medal winner: A beaming and exhausted Claire was not eligible for a medal as she did not finish the race the same day, but was kindly given one by another runner
Great effort: Claire”s marathon feat helped raise over 130,000 for Spinal Research – and she was congratulated at the finish line by her husband Dan and daughter Maisie.
Event rider: Claire Lomas in action on horseback before her accident
Final stretch: The former chiropractor, supported by friends and family, makes the turn past Buckingham Palace today as she neared the London Marathon finishing line
Walking tall: Claire”s 43,000 suit allows people with lower-limb paralysis to stand, walk and climb stairs
A spokesman for former British No1 tennis player Tim Henman, who walked part of the marathon with Mrs Lomas, said he would be fully behind recognising her heroism.
And 1500m runner Ellie Stevens tweeted that it “was very sad” that Claire wasn”t given a medal and even drew Virgin boss Richard Branson”s attention to the matter.
However, for Claire, it”s not a gong from the organisers that counts, but the medals from other participants.
She told MailOnline: “When I started the challenge, it was never my priority to get a medal as I knew from the start line I wouldn’t receive one. The campaign was always about raising funds and awareness for Spinal Research.
“I’ve been completely overwhelmed by the support from the public, particularly those kind runners that have donated their medals to me. I now have 14! If anything, these medals mean much more to me than any recognition from the racer organisers.”
The paralysed 32-year-old conquered the 26.2 mile course that more than 36,000 ran last month using a mechanical suit to control her legs.
Her achievement has earned her world-wide fame, with The Vancouver Sun, USA Today, Toronto Star and The New York Daily News all reporting on it.
Claire lost the use of her legs after breaking her spine when she was thrown from her horse in competitive trials five years ago.
Since then she has been liberated from a wheelchair by a pioneering suit that straps to her limbs and torso, giving her mobility through motion sensors, battery operated motors and an onboard computer system.
The former chiropractor and her 13-month-old daughter Maisie learned to walk together – one for the first time, the other for the second time around.
Ace support: Tim Henman walks with Claire in Woolwich during her Marathon walk
Celebration time: The emotion of finishing the London Marathon after over 16 days was clearly a lot for Claire to take in when she crossed the line this lunchtime
Yesterday, Maisie and Claire’s husbandDan, whom she met after the accident, accompanied her to the finish line.
Wiping away tears as she was applauded by scores of onlookers, she told me: ‘I really didn’t expect all this. It’s breathtaking.
“Peoplehave been fantastic and the support I’ve been given has been a huge help.’
MARATHON MAN SMASHES RECORD
A marathon man has smashed the world record for the longest distance covered within a week – by running an incredible 450 miles.
Inspirational John Reynolds, 50, covered more than 18 marathons in six-and-a-half days at an average rate of 69 miles per day.
He set off from his home in Radstock, Somerset, last Tuesday and passed the previous world record of 408 miles in nearby Chilcompton at 11am on Monday (7/5) with 21 hours to spare.
John continued running and crossed the finish line at Bath Abbey, Somerset, later on Monday after covering a staggering 450 miles in less than one week.
His achievement was all the more remarkable because eight years ago he could not even walk – after being struck down by a thyroid condition.
He has notched up half-marathons, marathons and supermarathons before tackling his latest week-long challenge, which has so far raised 50,000 for charity.
Claire, who lives near Melton Mowbray,Leicestershire, began the race with everyone else on April 22. She has since averaged between a mile and 2.5 miles a day.
Ask her what the biggest challenge wasand you might expect her to tell you it’s the pain?.?.?.?the appalling weather?.?.?.?the mental determination required to keep going?.?.?.?or accidentally pressing the suit’s ‘sit’ button when there was nowhere to sit. It was none of those.
‘It’s the pavements,’ she said, raising her voice. ‘They’re so broken up and uneven, and every little bump is a hurdle for me. If everything had been flat and even, I’d have finished days ago!
‘There were times when I questioned whether I would make it?.?.?.?but once I started, I just took each day as it came. Once I got out there and saw people cheering me on, it really raised my spirits.’
Tourists, supporters and family followed in her wake and clapped her along the way.
Among the voices were former Olympic rower Sir Matthew Pinsent, TV presenter Gaby Roslin, adventurer Ben Fogle and three mounted members of the Household Cavalry, riding in an unofficial guard of honour.
She had raised more than 130,000 for the Spinal Research charity when she finished, with the total still rising. And the medal
‘This was never about me,’ she said with genuine selflessness. ‘I didn’t do it for a medal, I did it to raise awareness and raise money.’
Claire’s entry was not officially timed, and she stayed overnight in a hotel before being driven back to the course each morning.
There may have been a red tape stretched acrossthe makeshift finish line yesterday but no one, in another sense, was prepared to cut through it.
Marathon organisers insisted competitors must complete the course the same day to qualify for a medal.
Others were less formal. Among those who donated their own medals was Jacqui Rose, from Southampton.
‘She hasepitomised what I thought the London Marathon was all about,’ she said.
‘For her not to have got one ridicules what the marathon was all about.’
Donations can be made at www.justgiving.com/Claire-Lomas.
Slowly but surely: Claire, pictured earlier this month as she reached the halfway point in the London Marathon
The London Marathon is thought to have taken Claire around 40 hours, spread over 17 days
Clare was joined along the way by celebrity fans Tim Henman (pictured), Clare Balding and Sir Matthew Pinsent