Paraplegic athlete banned from 10km race because of motorised suit

A paraplegic athlete has been banned from participating in a 10km race despite having walked the London Marathon four years ago.

Organised by the London Marathon team, Vitality London 10,000 said Claire Lomas, 35, could not participate in their event because she uses a motorised walking suit.

The race, which takes place on May 30, bans motorised assistance under International Amateur Athletics Federation, UK Athletics and International Paralympic Committee rules.

The mother-of-one, from Melton Mowbray, Leicestershire - who walked the London Marathon in 17 days wearing her ReWalk suit nicknamed 'Fred' - said she was shocked by the news, adding: "I was a bit disappointed.

"I understand they have their rules and stuff... but when I did the Marathon, it encouraged other people."

Mrs Lomas plans to walk the course regardless, having raised almost £2,000 through online fundraising site JustGiving. Previously, she has raised more than £500,000 for her chosen charity, Nicholls Spinal Injury Foundation (NSIF).

A horse-riding accident in 2007 left Mrs Lomas paralysed, ending her dreams of becoming a champion event rider.

She said: "I was on the cross-country of an event and the horse clipped his shoulder on a tree. It was a big loss for me because I had reached the highest level in the sport and all my dreams were coming true.

"Everyone thinks the marathon was the hardest challenge but just getting out of bed, when you have nothing to get up for, was the hardest time. It was getting a totally new life again, when your dreams and hopes are taken away - it's scary."

Mrs Lomax lamented that she might not be able to start with official participants, but said her husband Dan, 41, and five-year-old daughter Maisie would be there to support her. She hopes to complete the challenge in a day, but was uncertain if she physically could or how long it would take.

With no sensation from the chest down, Mrs Lomas tilts her pelvis in order to move her legs and uses crutches. The furthest she has walked in a day is 3km (1.8 miles), and said 10km (6.2 miles) would be a challenge.

She added: "It's very different walking (in London), every little bump is an obstacle that slows me down. Concentration is needed to use the suit, because I can't feel anything. I have no core strength, so my body is very wobbly."

Mike Milner, chief executive of NSIF, said: "Claire approaches every challenge with sheer determination and a great sense of humour and I have no doubt the Vitality 10,000 will be the same.

"I am puzzled by the decision not to allow her a place. This is an event where thousands of people will participate with no obvious fitness guidelines laid down on the website, and yet here is someone training very hard every day who is prevented from taking part."

Hugh Brasher, event director, said: "The Vitality London 10k is a race held under IAAF, UK Athletics and IPC rules which prohibit the use of motors.

"There are many events held around the country which are not held under these rules."

He added that Mrs Lomas would be welcome in an event the day before, the Vitality Westminster Mile, in London.

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