We talk to Claire Lomas MBE, motivational speaker.

24th Jun 2023

Claire Lomas MBE, motivational speaker chats with Jane Farnham, Director of Great British Speakers.

We talk to the inspirational motivational speaker Claire Lomas MBE about how she overcame becoming a paraplegic in 2007 and how she’s since run both the London Marathon and Great North Run using revolutionary technology.

Claire Lomas, a former event horserider, experienced a life-altering event in 2007 when a riding accident left her paraplegic. Despite this adversity, she has emerged as an exceptional motivational speaker and a truly inspiring figure in the world of sports. Claire’s remarkable achievements include raising over £500,000 for charitable causes and completing the London Marathon in 17 days using the innovative ReWalk robotic suit.

Her accomplishments extend further, as she proudly wore the suit while lighting the Paralympic cauldron in Trafalgar Square and completed the Great North Run, walking the entire course in just 5 days—all while being 16 weeks pregnant! Claire’s indomitable spirit and unwavering determination serve as a powerful source of motivation for individuals worldwide.

Contact Great British Speakers today to book motivational speaker Claire Lomas MBE for your next event.

Here’s the full transcript of motivational speaker Claire Lomas, MBE‘s chat with Jane Farnham of Great British Speakers:

 

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00:00:08:04 – 00:00:19:31
Jane Farnham
Hi, I’m Jane Farnham from Great British Speakers. I’m here today chatting to the fabulous inspirational and motivational speaker Claire Lomas MBE. Claire, thanks so much for joining us today. It’s lovely to see you.

 

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00:00:20:11 – 00:00:22:06

Claire Lomas

It’s fantastic to be with you, Jane. Thank you.

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00:00:22:48 – 00:00:35:51
Jane Farnham
Now, we usually find speakers either almost falling into speaking by accident or something really life changing happened to them. So give me a bit of background to your story.

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00:00:36:01 – 00:01:01:12

Claire Lomas

Yeah. So before my accident, I’m actually paralyzed in the chest down, before my accident I had a very busy life. I never sat still for a second. And I was a chiropractor, I’d been to University, got a degree and set up a clinic that treated my patients. I’m just part time at home. But my passion is the horse. Right, from the age of two or three, as early as I can remember really, I was on ponies and eventually got into the sport of eventing and it was always my ambition to compete at the top level.

00:01:01:12 – 00:01:28:37

Claire Lomas

And eventually I got there and that was 2006 and Burghley Horse Trials is one of two top level events in this country, and it was actually the back of where I went to school in Stamford, Lincolnshire. So to be riding there, it felt like all my dreams are coming true and those ambitions and goals, the future was set pretty high and then just the tiniest of errors, really shattered everything I had planned and everything I’d worked so hard for.

00:01:28:55 – 00:01:32:49

Claire Lomas

So yeah, a massive life change and it was hard to get my head around that.

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00:01:33:19 – 00:01:37:12
Jane Farnham
Wow. I mean, how do you begin to get your head around something like that? How old were you?

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00:01:37:51 – 00:02:03:18

Claire Lomas

So I was 27. Yeah. It’s such a long process really, it doesn’t just happen overnight and you come to terms with that. Certainly didn’t for me anyway. And I had to just keep making myself do the little things that wouldn’t seem like anything. And you know, a lot of doors closed. It felt like everything closed, really. My relationship broke down because a spinal injury affected everyone around you, not just yourself.

00:02:03:18 – 00:02:21:55

Claire Lomas

And I knew it wasn’t the same so I had to finish that. I lost my career, lost my sport. You know, it was just, I didn’t know what direction to go in. And it’s a bit like a jigsaw to get the bigger picture. You’ve got to put all the pieces in. And the first few pieces, if you think of a jigsaw are actually the hardest.

00:02:22:37 – 00:02:40:06

Claire Lomas

And they were, things like going out for lunch with friends when I could stay in the same four walls and think why me? And feeling angry and sad. But most, most of the time I’d make myself go out and see people and these were the first few pieces. And then getting a job, I got offered a job and part of me felt angry.

00:02:40:51 – 00:03:01:39

Claire Lomas

That’s a bit strange. Why would you feel angry when you’ve been offered a job? But the reason I felt angry is because in some ways I was going backwards in life. I could have done this job when I was 16 and but occasionally we need to actually go backwards to move forward. So that’s what I did. All these first decisions and little things were actually essential in order to move on.

00:03:01:39 – 00:03:21:32

Claire Lomas

And now I wouldn’t be where I am now without doing that. And everyone thinks some of the challenges which we’ll talk about in a bit, have been my toughest things. But actually just getting out of bed when I had no reason to get up was a lot harder than…basic things were difficult when I left the hospital, things like having a shower, I heaved myself into my shower chair.

00:03:21:39 – 00:03:38:31

Claire Lomas

That I even hated the look of it’s big, ugly study thing. Hate that. Physically it was hard to me but mentally it would destroy me, my legs were wasted. At this point I hadn’t got electrical stimulation, which I found out about a couple years after my accident. My stomach was soft and floppy, not toned like it was the day of the event.

00:03:39:00 – 00:03:53:06

Claire Lomas

And then I’d see the water running down my body. I didn’t know if it was hot or cold. I felt two thirds dead. And I thought, How will I ever be happy being paralyzed? I didn’t think it was possible. So I had to go from like moments like that to basically rebuilding my life.

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00:03:54:00 – 00:04:09:28
Jane Farnham
So how, how long was that journey between those first steps to getting into a place where you could find, not necessarily peace, but you had the strength to move forward?

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00:04:11:06 – 00:04:28:46

Claire Lomas

Yeah, I mean, a lot of people say like, does it happen at a certain point? Was there a moment that kind of changed you? But actually it was just the good day started that way and the bad days. So I’d say the first year for me was the toughest time. A lot of just forcing myself to do those small things and then you started to have better times.

00:04:28:46 – 00:04:46:49

Claire Lomas

And even in that first year, I’d have moments where I’d be laughing with friends and you kind of forgot a bit about your injury. And then you obviously, you know, you go home, you think I’m still like this. And it’s not just everyone sees that you in a wheelchair and I can’t walk. That’s the obvious bit, but actually, it affects your bowel and bladder, temperature regulation, blood pressure, nearly everything, no sensation from the chest down.

00:04:48:07 – 00:05:11:45

Claire Lomas

And then when I split with my boyfriend which was about ten months after my accident, I was standing in a standing frame, which I do as a rehab thing, to get weight onto my legs. And one of my friends had been round, and when I’m on in the standing frame, I’m on my laptop to pass the time. And this friend that sent me clicked on an advert for a dating website, so I thought I’d fill out.

00:05:11:45 – 00:05:27:37

Claire Lomas

So I did. Anyway, I did it really as an experiment to see if someone would bother with someone in a wheelchair I put what happened and everything. And I’d been on it three days and I got a message from Dan. I looked at his profile, thought he looks alright. I went to read his message and you have to pay 20 quid, and I thought, nah, I’m not wasting 20 quid.

00:05:28:15 – 00:05:51:14

Claire Lomas

And all my friends persuaded me to put my husband off the internet. Exactly. And then, like, we’ve got two little girls. Really from a year, when like, then I met Dan and I got my office job and just started to, yeah, get a bit of a life and get back on track and found new sports and just gradually, gradually got there.

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00:05:52:28 – 00:06:09:50
Jane Farnham
That’s just amazing. You know, the strength of character you’ve shown is just truly staggering. But tell me about then, some of the amazing opportunities and activities that this horrible incident and setback has given you.

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00:06:11:31 – 00:06:38:18

Claire Lomas

Yeah, it’s led me on to do things I truly never thought I’d do. And, you know, it’s a bit like the end of every chapter, is the start of the next, and actually closing all those doors was an opportunity for me to find new things. And one of the things I wanted to do very early on and describe how hard it was, I also had moments where I felt genuinely lucky because I’ve got use of my arms and there’s a lot of people with neck injuries, some on a ventilator, 24 seven for the rest of their lives and a lot of young people.

00:06:38:34 – 00:07:04:07

Claire Lomas

So that’s why I decided that I wanted to fundraise to help heal paralysis. So the things I’ve gone on and done since then have been mainly to raise money, and I’ve raised about 825,000 now. So, yeah, getting towards a million, that’s a big milestone. But I, the kind of biggest challenge I did most notably reported on was the London Marathon in 2012, I walked it in the bionic suit.

00:07:04:19 – 00:07:20:49

Claire Lomas

And it took me 17 days and it was a tough one, you know, training. And I thought, can I actually do this? And then I just figured that every step would get me a step closer to the finish line. So I went out there with that mentality and broke it down and eventually got there. And just amazing support.

00:07:20:49 – 00:07:46:06

Claire Lomas

And, you know, I didn’t expect any of that. And it’s kind of led me to do more and more and I ride motorbikes, which I never did before my accident. Then I got my race license and a motorbike and I’m nearly a pilot. If the weather’s kind. So it has, it’s opened up doors and yeah, I don’t feel that my disability has defined me, but it has redefined me.

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00:07:47:13 – 00:07:54:21
Jane Farnham
A nice way of looking at it. And was there a moment. When did you then get involved in speaking? How did that happen?

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00:07:54:41 – 00:08:15:18

Claire Lomas

That’s another funny one, really, because when I was at school, there’s nothing I hated more than speaking, I’d do anything to get out of it. Even reading the line from a textbook I’d be like not me please, and now I absolutely love it. And you know, our lives can change and we go through different experiences. And, and it was after the London Marathon and I was asked to go into a school to speak.

00:08:15:18 – 00:08:35:15

Claire Lomas

And I saw the message, and I thought I’m not sure I want to do that. You know, it’s really out my comfort zone. And then I thought, I can do it sometimes. Somethings we didn’t like before can be different. So that’s how it started. And I did the hand cycle challenge where I visited two schools a day over three weeks and finished in London and raised money for charity.

00:08:35:15 – 00:08:44:18

Claire Lomas

And that’s how I started learning from that. Then I got recommended into that kind of corporate world and started doing it in a bigger way. And I absolutely love it.

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00:08:44:39 – 00:08:47:15
Jane Farnham
Well, what do you love about it? What gives you a buzz?

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00:08:48:09 – 00:09:11:02

Claire Lomas

Yeah, I think that’s exactly it, what gives you a buzz. It gives you a buzz going onto the stage. And you know, every time you want to deliver your best talk, and I’m always nervous. You think we do it a lot. You know, you’re surely not nervous. Every time, even, like, virtually. It’s like going on some stage. And when I had my accident, I thought I’d never have that buzz that I got from the horse trials and those big events.

00:09:11:02 – 00:09:30:18

Claire Lomas

And I feel very lucky to have that as a career and the challenges I do, I’m always pushing myself, really, out of my comfort zone and that’s what I thought I wouldn’t get once I was paralyzed, I thought sitting in a wheelchair and not being able to move two thirds of my body would be a pretty boring life. But let me tell you, it’s been far from boring.

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00:09:31:10 – 00:09:38:47
Jane Farnham
You are far from boring. Do you have a range of different topics that you talk about to suit different audiences?

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00:09:38:47 – 00:10:00:02

Claire Lomas

Yeah, you know, I often get given a theme like resilience or teamwork, dealing with change, which has been a good one in these difficult times because everyone’s gone through a change with COVID and whether that’s the way you work or family or homeschooling. And it’s been a whole new challenge for me. We’ve all gone through those changes.

00:10:00:03 – 00:10:19:04

Claire Lomas

That’s been quite a good topic at the moment to show that, you know, even when life doesn’t go quite how we planned, we can get through it. And, and learning from it. And I mean, I know some businesses have had to change the way they’ve done things, but actually they won’t change everything back to what it was like before COVID and it’s exactly the same with my accident you know.

00:10:19:04 – 00:10:39:52

Claire Lomas

Put me on new routes and you think, Well, I actually prefer this to that. I wouldn’t change my life back. So yeah, there’s so many different topics that my story can fit into, and it depends on the theme of the client. But yeah, it’s just, I love it and I never thought it’d be something I would do and is when I start getting the first lot of feedback and obviously that gives you confidence.

00:10:39:52 – 00:10:44:48

Claire Lomas

And it’s just built on from that. I’ve done it for over eight years now.

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00:10:45:05 – 00:10:53:34
Jane Farnham
Well you’re absolutely amazing. It’s been really, really, truly inspiring chatting to you today. Claire. Thank you so much for telling us all about your journey.

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00:10:54:03 – 00:10:56:13

Claire Lomas

Thank you. Thanks for inviting me.

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00:10:56:13 – 00:11:05:33
Jane Farnham
And if you would like to book motivational speaker Claire, then simply contact myself or  Steve at Great British Speakers on 01753439289 or you can email bookings at bookings@greatbritishtalent.com

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