A freak accident left Claire Lomas paralysed from the chest down, but she was determined not to give up. She made worldwide headlines in 2012 when completing the London Marathon in a pioneering robotic suit taking 17 days, and lit the Paralympic cauldron for London 2012.
Claire was working as a chiropractor and had reached the highest level in the sport of eventing when a freak accident left her paralysed from the chest down. She had gone from living a life as an active sportswoman whose dreams were coming true to a life that seemed impossible to ever be happy. Many doors had closed, and it was difficult not to dwell on all she had lost. She had to dig deep to find the strength and courage to rebuild her life from scratch. Claire discharged herself from hospital after only 8 weeks, determined to do as much rehabilitation as possible. She spent hours in the gym but also recognised that she needed more than this in her life.
In 2012 Claire became headline news worldwide. She walked the London Marathon in a pioneering robotic suit, taking a gruelling 17 days and raising £210k for Spinal Research. She became the first owner of a robotic suit and used it when she had the honour of lighting the Paralympic cauldron in Trafalgar Square. In 2013 Claire completed a 400-mile hand-cycle around parts of England, visiting schools on the way to inspire pupils, raising another £85k supporting the Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation.
Claire is constantly thinking of ways to raise money and strongly believes there will soon be a cure. 2014 and 2015 took the fundraising total to over £500k through various events Claire organised and made her one of Britain’s most inspirational women. She completed the Great North Run in 2016, and in summer 2017 became the first paralysed female with a motorcycle racing licence. Claire is constantly pushing the barriers. She has not let her disability define her but it has certainly redefined her, achieving some unimaginable goals. Now she is often seen out on track days on her superbike, has recently qualified as a pilot and has her sights set on reaching the one million pound fundraising milestone.
Claire speaks about the split second that changed her life, and candidly describes the darkest times. This is combined with humour which has helped Claire get through some embarrassing moments that her injury has caused. The audience is taken on an extreme roller-coaster of emotions with Claire; they cry, they laugh and they admire. People leave the room believing in themselves, inspired and hugely motivated. When faced with challenges in their own lives, Claire’s words stick in their mind “Whether you believe you can or whether you believe you can’t – you are right”.
On a personal level, mental health wellbeing and awareness is very important to Claire, having learnt to cope with and overcome the psychological trauma of sustaining a life-changing physical injury, as well as having to support Dan, her husband, following his severe OCD diagnosis. Claire powerfully explores the difficulties and complexities of mental illness from both perspectives, sharing the heart-breaking feelings of loneliness and frustration that arise when living with someone suffering from a mental illness. She emphasises the importance of openly talking about our mental health, seeking expert help when needed, providing strong support networks and maintaining a resilient mindset and a ‘never give up’ attitude – mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of.