It took him 36 hours and required the support of a robotic exo-suit. But an inspiring British paraplegic has become the first paralyzed person to finish the punishing London Marathon, an article in The Telegraph states.
Simon Kindleysides spent the better part of the last two days covering the entire 26 miles (42 kilometers). As he was paralyzed from the waist down, he used a Rewalk exo-suit in order to walk.
In 2013, health experts informed Kindleysides that he had functional neurological disorder and a glioma tumor in his brain. The double whammy turned him into a paraplegic.
The 33-year-old resident of Blofield, Norfolk refused to be crippled by his paralysis. In 2015, he raised close to $7,000 for charity by traveling from London to Paris using a handcycle, an arm-powered version of a bicycle.
On April 22, 2018, Kindleysides was one of the 40,000 participants in one of the most arduous races in the world. The winner of the race was Eliud Kipchoge, who crossed the finish line at The Mall in slightly over two hours, just shy of a world record. (Related: The army is looking to develop a superhuman suit that will prevent brain injuries.)
At that point, the much slower Kindleysides had only covered a little more than two miles. He would spend 34 more hours plodding along with the help of his crutches and a robotic wearable exoskeleton provided by Israeli medical company ReWalk.
His exo-suit consists of lightweight motors attached to his hip and knee joints. Powered by batteries, the apparatus can detect slight shifts in the center of gravity of the user. Leaning forward, for example, resulted in the suit taking a step forward.
Kindleysides reached the Thames Embankment by 11:00 P.M. of April 23. Two hours and 46 minutes later, he stepped through the finish line at The Mall. He was the last person to cross the line and the first paralyzed person to complete the London Marathon.
Although he finished the course, London Marathon officials could not award Kindleysides with an official medal. This was because he completed the marathon a day after the event officially ended.
The officials did give him the Spirit of London award, which is given to participants who embodied the spirit of the race. Kindleysides was the first finisher of the 2018 event to receive the award.
Like his earlier London-to-Paris handcycle “tour,” Kindleysides participated in the London Marathon to raise funds for charity. He has netted $9,000 so far for The Brain Tumour Charity.
In an interview after the race, Kindleysides reported said he found it very difficult to keep walking after darkness fell. The event had officially closed by then and he was the only participant left.
Fortunately, he was accompanied by a team of supporters, one of whom was his girlfriend. Their presence and encouragement helped keep him going through the night.
The disabled marathon runner also admitted he hadn’t walked that much before his paralysis. To be able to walk 26 miles straight despite his disability was an impressive accomplishment in itself.
“The support has just been overwhelming and like a dream come true,” he said. “It is incredible because I didn’t expect it to be as big as it was.”
“I just wanted to show that anything is possible if you put your mind to it,” Kindleyside continued. “You can stay in bed and feel sorry for yourself or get out and enjoy your life, because you are only here once.”
Inspired by Kindleysides’ story? You can read more about the use of wearable robotics exoskeletons in medical therapy at Robotics.news.
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