Less than half a month into 2020, Adam Gorlitsky has already experienced what is sure to be one of the highlights of his year. The paralyzed man beat the world record fastest time for completing a marathon while wearing a robotic exoskeleton suit.
The 33-year-old, who is paralyzed from the waist down, participated in the 10thannual Charleston Marathon starting on January 9th. Thirty-three hours, 16 minutes, and 28 seconds later, he completed the 26.2-mile trek, beating the previous Guinness World Record holder, Simon Kindleysides, by more than three hours.
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Gorlitsky lost use of the lower half of his body in 2005, after severing his spinal cord in a car accident. He was only 19 years old at the time.
In 2015, he was introduced to the ReWalk exoskeleton at Roper Rehabilitation Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina. The ReWalk is a wearable robotic exoskeleton that allows individuals with spinal cord injuries to stand upright, walk, turn, and use stairs through powered hip and knee motions. It is the first of its type to receive Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clearance for personal and rehabilitation use in the US.
According to a press release from ReWalk Robotics, Gorlitsky completed his training on the product in just over five months. On the 10th anniversary of the accident that left him paralyzed, he received his own ReWalk exoskeleton. The $80,000 system was paid for by a successful crowdfunding campaign on his advocacy website, I Got Legs.
Regaining the independence he enjoyed before his accident encouraged Gorlitsky to push himself further and compete in a marathon. Last March, he participated in an event in Los Angeles, California, but didn’t make the finish line, falling short by nine miles.
This time around, the marathon was in his hometown of Charleston, and that’s where he conquered the challenge.
“I think I was probably supposed to do it here,” he told Moultrie News, a community newspaper. “It felt right. The world took a steel chair to my head last time. It knocked me back down to reality. I think that probably makes this time that much sweeter.”
Gorlitsky is not ready to stop. With this new life of possibilities, he wants to push it further. Gorlitsky wants to take on his predecessor.
“I want to challenge Simon to a one-on-one exoskeleton race one day,” Gorlitsky told CNN. “I’d love to go head-to-head with him on his home turf at the London Marathon.”
Beyond that, however, he plans to continue his work with I Got Legs, to encourage and advocate for re-enabled athletes, and to “improve the lives of the disabled community,” as stated on his website.
“The message that I want to come out of this is that your injuries, your physical disabilities, your adversities will never define who you are,” he said.
To that end, he is currently on a “One Million Steps Tour,” where he aims to walk one million steps across the US in road races using the 60-pound ReWalk suit. So far he has walked in nearly 50 road races. Including, of course, the one in which he just broke a world record.
For more stories on wearable assistive technology, check out these posts from Parentology:
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