Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Tough new test for paralysed Claire

Claire Lomas sets off from Nottingham Trent University on her challenge to complete the equivalent of a marathon a day on a hand bike

A paralysed fundraiser who completed the London Marathon using a bionic suit has said her latest challenge could be the toughest yet.

Disability rights campaigner Claire Lomas, 33, will spend three weeks cycling 400 miles (644km) around the UK using just her upper body strength to pedal a hand bike.

Along the way she will also stop at various schools each day to talk to youngsters about the back injury which left her paralysed from the chest down after a freak riding accident in May 2007.

Ms Lomas hit the headlines last year when, after a mammoth show of superhuman strength lasting 17 days, she completed the capital's 26.2-mile (42km) marathon wearing a specially designed suit which allowed her to walk.

Her latest challenge, which set off this morning from Nottingham Trent University in front of a whooping and cheering crowd, could be the most exhausting yet because she will not only be spending all day cycling but also changing into the suit, fondly named Fred, and giving talks at the schools.

"I think it's going to be tougher because of the talks, which I love doing, but each time you go out there and do a talk and you've got a bit of adrenalin it uses up energy, so you're doing both things," she said.

"When you're paralysed everything is a little bit harder work as well, so when you're transferring from the bike into the suit that all takes a bit out of you. It's going to be tough but I'm looking forward to getting started."

Ms Lomas, of Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire, has spent all winter training for the challenge, often having to force herself to venture out in snow and biting temperatures, as well as juggling being a mother to two-year-old Maisie.

Despite knowing the challenge will be gruelling and that some days will be tougher than others, Ms Lomas said raising money for her chosen charities that are trying to find a cure for paralysis will make it all worthwhile.

"If it's half as good as the marathon I'll be really pleased and we need to raise funds for Spinal Research and the Nicholls Foundation," she said.

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