A World Record Marathon Time – 384 Hours!  

By Shlomo Maital  

 

   I’ve run two marathons, Boston and New York; the Boston marathon took me over five hours.  This is very slow; the current world record time for men   is 2 hours 3 minutes and 38 seconds,  set by Patrick Makau of Kenya  and the world record for women was set by Paula Radcliffe of Great Britain  in 2 hours 15 minutes and 25 seconds. 

   But the greatest marathon record by far is that set recently by Claire Lomas:  384 hours, or 16 full days.  She walked across the finish line of the London Marathon, accompanied by three riders from the British Household Cavalry.  (see photo).    The reason this is amazing?  Claire’s legs are paralyzed.   She was injured in a horse-riding accident.  She was able to complete the full 26-mile 200 yard marathon course ON HER OWN TWO FEET thanks to an Israeli invention called ReWalk, an ‘exo-skeleton’ invented by Dr. Amit Goffer, an Israeli entrepreneur. 

    According to The Guardian,  the £43,000  (about $70,000) ReWalk suit enables people with lower-limb paralysis to stand, walk and climb stairs through motion sensors and an onboard computer system.   A shift in the wearer’s balance, indicating their desire to take, for example, a step forward, triggers the suit to mimic the response that the joints would have if they were not paralysed.  

    Lomas walked two hours a day, for 16 days. London Marathon officials refused to give her a medal awarded to all finishers, because she failed to finish in a single day.  In response, a dozen or more other finishers gave her their medals. 

    Goffer’s ReWalk exoskeleton is now widely used in the United States, in Veterans Administration hospitals, to help soldiers who were paralyzed by war wounds.  Goffer himself is a paraplegic.  He was injured in a freak go-kart accident.  Ironically, he himself cannot use his exo-skeleton to walk. His upper body is too weak to operate it.  Goffer says that his invention gives new dignity to those who are paralyzed, transforming them from someone in a wheelchair, always looking up at the people with whom they work and converse, to “just another guy on crutches”.    I visited ReWalk, at its headquarters near Haifa, and watched a demonstration of ReWalk as a paralyzed man walked up a long set of stairs.  It was amazing. 

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