A 32-year-old paraplegic woman using a robotic walking suit has completed the London Marathon, 16 days after the event began.
Hundreds of onlookers cheered a tearful Claire Lomas on Tuesday afternoon as she crossed the finish line on The Mall in central London, The Sun reported.
Lomas, who was paralyzed from the chest down in a 2007 horse-riding accident, walked the 26.2-mile course using crutches and a £43,000 ($69,500) suit that uses motion sensors to help her move her legs. When Lomas shifts her balance, the ReWalk machine moves her joints forward, allowing her to take a step, the BBC reported.
Lomas, of Eye Kettleby, England, averaged more than 1.5 miles per day since the marathon began on April 22, following the official route. She stayed at a hotel at night and was driven to the spot where she stopped the day before, according to the BBC. Her husband, Dan Spicer, accompanied her the whole way, and her parents and 1-year-old daughter also were with her for parts of the walk.
"The support has been breathtaking, and it feels fantastic to finally finish," she said, according to The Sun. “I really didn’t expect this and I can’t quite believe it’s all for me. Everyone has been so supportive and I couldn’t have done it without them."
Lomas was walking, in part, to raise money for Spinal Research, a British charity that funds medical research to develop paralysis treatments. As of Tuesday evening, she had raised more than £105,000 ($169,600) online.
The marathon did not award her a medal, citing a rule that participants must finish on the day the event started. But publicity prompted 15 participants to donate their medals to her, the BBC reported.
Also, a daughter of Virgin Group chief Sir Richard Branson gave Lomas a Virgin trophy for endurance, according to The Sun. Virgin sponsors the race.
"It was so emotional when she crossed that line," Holly Branson said, according to The Sun. "Tears welled up in my eyes, and everyone was cheering."
Lomas' donation page links to a YouTube video showing what she says is an early training session with the walking suit. She wrote that she got the suit with the help of fundraising efforts by friends and others.
On the last mile of Lomas' walk, the crowd became silent as she paused in a mark of respect at the location where one of the London Marathon runners, 30-year-old Claire Squires, collapsed and died on April 22, The Sun reported.