Claire Lomas to talk to Business Club ahead of Exeter gameCarlisle United’s Business Club members are in for a treat this weekend as former-event rider Claire Lomas comes to Brunton Park as guest speaker at our latest pre-match event.
Lomas, who suffered a life changing accident whilst competing in the Osberton Horse Trials in 2007, will talk about the challenges she has faced since the incident – from learning to walk again alongside her daughter Maisie to becoming the first person to finish the London Marathon using a robotic walking aid.
Speaking to us earlier this week, she said: “I’m delighted to have been asked to come up to Carlisle and I’m really looking forward to meeting everyone at the Business Club event. It still feels a little bit strange being the main speaker at things like this because when I was at school I found there was nothing I hated more than speaking in front of people.
“I certainly didn’t think I’d ever end up doing it the way I am now. It’s now become a big part of my career and of the fundraising activities I do. I have to say, there’s no better feeling than when you know you’ve said or done something which has brought a positive response from others.
“If you help just one person it’s an incredible feeling. I’ve been into schools to meet children with different disabilities, and initially I did feel slightly uncomfortable, even though I’m disabled myself. I’ve found that once you start talking to people the barriers come down and you realise that there’s plenty we all have in common, able-bodied or not.”
Looking back at the day which changed her life, she told us: “The thing I had to deal with first was that my life had changed completely, in almost every way. I had to come to terms with that, and it wasn’t easy.
“I quickly realised that I had to set about rebuilding my life or I was forever going to be in a dark place. I don’t mind admitting it was really hard to do that. I know my story has been out there and very public almost from the moment the accident happened and it all came across as being positive in the way I got myself going again.
“Being honest, it did happen that way, but it wasn’t without some unbelievably low days and weeks early on. I found the hard part was actually getting myself to accept that I’d had a life changing injury. Once I got over that hurdle I then also had to accept that it was going to take me some time to adapt.”
Having lost the use of her legs as a consequence of the fall she admitted that even the simplest of tasks suddenly felt very daunting.
“Coming to terms with the new me was pretty difficult because I felt that all I was faced with was a big list of things I couldn’t do any more,” she told us. “As I say, I could feel myself sinking a bit in terms of my mental state, and I knew I had to change my outlook. I started to look for small challenges, even within the confines of my room, and that’s when I started to feel better in myself.
“I suppose the real challenge just after the accident was finding new ways to do the things I’d taken for granted. Some of them were small things which suddenly felt like big chores, and you can easily let that mount up and become really frustrating.
“I put a stop to all of the negative thoughts, with the help of my family and friends and, do you know what ... I wouldn’t change my life back now. It’s happened, it’s changed me, but it’s given me opportunities I wouldn’t otherwise have had.”
When asked where the determination which has driven her on to raise over half a million pounds for a number of charities has come from, she said: “The biggest thing I’ve learned about the challenges I’ve faced is that it has to come from inside you.
“Those closest to you know you’re feeling low, and they obviously suggest things and work hard to lift your spirits, but the willingness and desire to fight through it has to come from you. I’ve tried to help some people who have had similar injuries to me and you find that it’s nearly impossible to get a positive response.
“Others find something within themselves they didn’t know they had and they go on to become even more successful than they were before. That’s wonderful to see and even better to have been part of.
“When I talk to people who have been through things like this I find it’s about being honest and truthful. The first step to getting over the accident is to understand that there’s nothing they can do to change what’s happened. What they can do is affect what they’ll do about it going forward.”
With so much achieved, it comes as little surprise to learn that her proudest achievement (soon to be achievements) is something a little bit closer to home.
“Everything I’ve done to raise money and awareness of disabilities has been amazing to be part of, and I feel really proud of it, but my proudest life moment is always an easy answer for me to give,” she said. “I had my daughter [Maisie] four years after my injury and I can’t even put into words how important her coming along was for me.
“I was actually learning to walk in the robotic suit at the same time as Maisie was learning to walk, and we made that into a really fun competition - which she obviously won! She’s such a bright star in our lives and just looking at her reminds us why we do what we do.
“I’m delighted to say that I’m 25 weeks pregnant at the moment and we’re all looking forward to the baby adding to our family. All I can say is what I say to everyone I talk to – we all face negatives in our lives but it’s about how we face up to them that really defines who we are.”