Claire Lomas – one remarkable woman
“She’ll do you down the line, Jon”. My editor was talking about the remarkable Claire Lomas who had just crossed the finishing line of the London marathon sixteen days after the rest. ‘Down the line’ means I sit in the studio and she’s piped in on a video link from a truck. You never get to make eye contact or get to feel the atmosphere of meeting someone and talking to them properly.
So I told him I’d get on my bike and get down to the Mall outside Buckingham Palace and speak to her in the spot of her exceptional triumph.
Once in a while you sense the arrival of a truly remarkable human being. That time dawned on the Mall yesterday. For all the tragedy of a horse riding career cut brutally short by a disastrous crash with her horse five years ago, Claire Lomas is a bonny, smiling, optimistic, no nonsense woman.
She was sitting on her stool besieged by well wishers and photographers. On her lap a box full of marathon medals donated by other runners, peeved that she had not been allowed one herself, for taking too long.
I started with a naïve question – having seen her upright and animated, I asked her how far she could walk normally. “Not at all”, she replied casually – “I can’t walk at all, I cannot even stand up unaided, I’m paralysed from the chest down”.
She was still in her bionic suit and I asked her to walk for me. Suddenly there, discretely, was Dan her husband standing behind her as a kind of eternal safety harness. Hands at the ready should she ever topple. He’d had his hands outstretched, steadying her from behind for the entire 26.2 mile marathon effort.
I risked asking Claire if she thought she could ever walk even better than she does with the bionic suit. “I am sure one day I shall walk again unaided – I don’t know how, but one day!”
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