Paralyzed Mount Pleasant man will attempt to break record at Charleston Marathon

It’s 26.4 miles from my house in Mount Pleasant to John McKissick field in Summerville – or about two-tenths of a mile longer than a marathon.

I know the distance because I’ve made that trip on many a Friday night during the high school football season.

Just thinking about the traffic on Clements Ferry Road, or getting stuck on the Don Holt Bridge heading toward I-26 sends my blood pressure through the roof. 

I can’t imagine trying to run, or even walk, a marathon, let alone do what Adam Gorlitsky will try and accomplish this weekend at Charleston Marathon.

Gorlitsky, 32, is paralyzed from the belly button down from injuries he suffered in a one-car accident 14 years ago. The former Wando High School cross country and track athlete completed the 2016 Cooper River Bridge Run in a ReWalk Robotic Exoskelton and has since competed in more than 50 races, including the Portland Half-Marathon and last year’s Los Angeles Marathon.

Gorlitsky will attempt to break the 36-hour, 46-minute marathon world record for an Exoskelton athlete set by England’s Simons Kindleyside at last year’s London Marathon.

“Simons has the world record, and he has been kind of bragging that he’s the best,” Gorlitsky said. “It’s a friendly rivalry. I affectionately refer to him as my arch nemesis. I want to answer him and along the way raise the bar for myself a little bit.”

The Exoskeleton provides powered hip and knee motion, but most of Gorlitsky’s power will come from relentless arm and abdominal movement.

Gorlitsky founded the “I Got Legs” foundation “to support improvements to life-changing technology for the physically challenged” through grants, sponsorships and programs.

Gorlitsky aims to “re-enable” people like himself who have suffered life-altering incidents.

“The term ‘re-enabled’ comes from how I feel when I’m in my Exoskeleton,” Gorlitsky said. “I don’t feel disabled and don’t feel able-bodied. I feel re-enabled.”

Gorlitsky attempted a full marathon in Los Angeles in 2019. The Los Angeles course, which starts at Dodger Stadium and ends near the Santa Monica Pier, was particularly challenging for the Lowcountry native. Gorlitsky called it quits after more than 28 hours and 17.2 miles.

“It was the hardest race course I’ve ever competed on in my life,” Gorlitsky said. “It was brutal, non-stop hills. My body just completely shut down.”

Gorlitsky learned his lessons from the Los Angeles Marathon and is confident he can complete the course on Saturday. He has increased his training regiment, which normally includes daily walks of 2 to 4 miles. It takes Gorlitsky about 55 minutes to walk one mile.

“Doing as many back-to-back training days as possible is the key for me,” he said.

This is part of Gorlitsky’s 1 million step tour that began when he started using the ReWalk Robotic Exoskelton more than three years ago at the Cooper River Bridge Run. Gorlitsky’s goal is to walk a total of one million steps competing in races. He’s up to 324,000 steps already and hopes to add between 78,000 and 80,000 steps during the Charleston Marathon.

Gorlitsky will start a little earlier than the rest of the field. He will set out Thursday night at 10:30 p.m. in front of Burke High School and hopes to complete the course by 11 a.m. on Saturday.

“I’ll have to take a couple of breaks along the course, get a couple of naps in, refuel, eat something,” Gorlitsky said. “I’m so excited and pumped to start the race.”


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