You think running a marathon is tough? Try running a marathon wearing a 40-lb exoskeleton strapped to your lower body. And try doing it without the use of your legs.
It took her 16 days, but 32-year-old Claire Lomas has done it. On May 8, she crossed the finish line of a race that began on April 22, greeted by crowds of supporters as she emerged from under an arch of red balloons at the marathon’s end. Lomas, who is paralyzed from the chest down, wore a “bionic” suit designed to allow people with lower-limb paralysis to walk and stand, which helped her cover about two miles a day. The ReWalk suit, designed by Israeli firm Argo Medical Technologies, was recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (and, as close TV watchers will note, featured on an episode of Glee). It costs about $70,000.
Lomas decided to enter the marathon to raise money for Spinal Research, a charity that invests in medical research into treatments for paralysis. Lomas herself broke her neck, ribs and back when she was thrown off a horse in 2007. She has raised nearly $130,000 for the charity so far.
“It was really emotional and I couldn’t believe the support — I’m still in shock really,” she told the BBC. “The last half a mile or so was pretty easy to walk because I had everyone just pushing me forward.”
Lomas was accompanied along the way by her husband, mother, and 13-month-old daughter, who she called a “good group” to have been walking with.
However, Lomas will not receive the medal customarily given to every finisher, nor will her time be entered in the official record books: Marathon rules state that competitors must complete the race in the same day to receive one. The outrage has has prompted many marathoners to send Lomas their medal instead, and she will also receive a special trophy from the race’s organizers.