A paralyzed British woman made history on Tuesday, when she became the first person to ever complete a marathon while wearing a bionic suit. Claire Lomas, 32, finished the 26.2-mile race 16 days after it began, with the help of the ReWalk exoskeleton developed by Amit Goffer.
Lomas was left paralyzed from the chest down following a 2007 horse riding accident that broke her neck, back, and ribs. In the five years since her accident, she's gone skydiving, learned to monoski, and has returned to horse riding. In January, she received a £43,000 ($69,400) ReWalk suit on loan and set her sights on last month's marathon, in the hopes of raising money for Spinal Research — a charity that funds research on paralysis caused by back and neck injuries.
With the ReWalk, Lomas was able to stand, walk, and climb stairs, using a pair of crutches and a set of wrist strap buttons that determine her movement. The exoskeleton's motion sensors and onboard computer system are used to detect shifts in weight and balance, which trigger movements in its lower limbs. These movements are executed by small motors, and the entire system is powered by a four-pound battery stored in a user's backpack.
Unfortunately, Lomas' name won't appear in the London Marathon's official results, nor will she be eligible to receive a medal, since she didn't complete the race on the same day it started. That's only a slight drawback, however, since the former chiropractor and mother-of-one has already raised more than £80,000 ($129,000) for her charity, and seems justifiably elated with her achievement. "There were times when I questioned whether I would make it when I was training," Lomas told AFP. "Once I started, I just took each day as it came and every step got me a step closer."