Story at a glance

  • Adam Gorlitsky, who is paralyzed from the waist down, set the new record for completing a marathon in an exoskeleton suit at the 2020 Charleston Marathon.
  • The new record holder said he hoped his athletic feat would send a message to others that “your injuries, your physical disabilities, your adversities will never define who you are.”
  • Gorlitsky’s charity I GOT LEGS seeks to help those with disabilities find funding opportunities for technology, such as exoskeletons, or other means of improving their lives.

A South Carolina man broke the world record for the fastest time to finish a marathon in an exoskeleton suit when he crossed the finish line of the 2020 Charleston Marathon, CNN reports.

The new record holder is Adam Gorlitsky, who is paralyzed from the waist down. He completed the 26.2-mile race in 33 hours, 50 minutes and 23 seconds.

The time has not yet been certified by Guinness World Records, but once confirmed will eclipse the current record of 36 hours 46 minutes held by Simon Kindleysides of the United Kingdom. 

Gorlitsky’s record-breaking time came on his second attempt at completing a marathon. In March 2019, he stopped after making it 17.2 miles into the Los Angeles Marathon. 

"I've been attempting to break Simon's record for about a year now," Gorlitsky told CNN. "And now that I have, the second I crossed that finish line, I have a whole new level of respect for him and anyone who walks a marathon wearing an exoskeleton suit. It wasn't easy at all."

Gorlitsky completed the race without stopping to sleep, and was exhausted and shivering by the time he finished on Saturday morning — two calendar days after he started walking on Thursday night.

"With this marathon being in my hometown, so many groups of people came out and walked a mile with us throughout the race," he told CNN. "With things like this, you have so much adrenaline going through your body that even when I was tired, everyone's energy pulled me through."

Gorlitsky lost the use of his legs following a car accident in 2005 that damaged his spinal cord. After being told he would never walk again, a ReWalk robotic exoskeleton allowed him to stand and take his first steps some 10 years later.

In 2016, Gorlitsky became the first parlyzed man to walk the Cooper River Bridge Run in Charleston using an exoskeleton. Following his headline-making completion of the 6.2-mile race, he founded the nonprofit I GOT LEGS.

The organization aims to help people with disabilities find funding opportunities to improve their lives through technology like exoskeleton suits or other means. 

"My spinal cord injury doesn't define who I am," Gorlitsky told CNN. "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."

Gorlitsky has participated in nearly 50 races across the country for his "One Million Steps Tour." His goal is to walk one million steps in U.S. races using his exoskeleton.

Published on Jan 14, 2020