How this guy became the first paralyzed man to complete the London Marathon

Simon Kindleysides wasn't going to let a little thing like paralysis keep him from crossing that finish line.

Walking for 36 hours straight is a daunting feat for even the most able-bodied among us.

But for 34-year-old Simon Kindleysides, paralyzed from the waist down after a neurological illness, a silly thing like "functioning legs" wasn't going to stop him from completing a marathon.

Yes, we said 'paralyzed' and 'marathon' in the same sentence.

But how, you ask?

ReWalk on Forbes top-10 list Forbes named ReWalk, the maker of a robotic exoskeleton that helps people with spinal cord injuries to walk, one of its top 10 health technology companies to watch. (Photo: ReWalk)

It's called ReWalk, and it's a robotic exoskeleton suit built in Israel.

Rewalk users ReWalk users Andre and Ursel in Berlin, Germany. (Photo: ReWalk)

Designed by Israeli entrepreneur Amit Goffer, the ReWalk suit enables paraplegics to stand, walk and climb stairs through motion sensors and an onboard computer system. The invention offers new hope that those paralyzed will be able to walk again.

The ReWalk takes a little getting used to.

In Kindleysides' case, it was a neurological condition and brain tumor in 2013 that left him without the use of his legs. Already an accomplished musician and father of three, Kindleysides knew he wasn't going to let his diagnosis derail him. “I could stay in bed and feel sorry for myself, but why waste the life I've been given," he said from his home in Blofield, England . "I'm going to live mine to the fullest.”

So he started training to use the ReWalk shortly after his diagnosis. And it wasn't easy at first. "I have to shift my body weight front to back, side to side, as required, in order for the suit to recognize my intention to walk, for it to mimic the walking motion," Kindleysides explained in a blog post. The suit supports my body weight; however, I have to support my weight using my core strength and also with the aid of the crutches."

But ... a marathon? Really?

Simon Kindleysides Simon Kindleysides wasn't all smiles during the grueling 36-hour marathon, but he couldn't stop smiling when he finished. (Photo: Simon Kindleysides Twitter)

What would compel someone to walk 36 grueling hours in an uncharacteristically hot day in London ... on legs he can't even feel?

"I've always dreamt of taking part in the London Marathon," he explained. "I never thought I'd get the opportunity again after my diagnosis. That was until ReWalk exoskeleton came into the picture."

Back in January, Kindleysides announced he aimed to finish the marathon in 35 hours – and be the first paralyzed man to do so.

He was close. He finished at 10:30 p.m., 36 hours after the official start of the race.

“There was no way I was ever going to give up,” a very exhausted Kindleysides said after finishing. “It was so tough but I smashed it. Anything is possible.”

And he's not the only one who's done it.

Claire Lomas using ReWalk Claire Lomas shouts with joy as she passes Buckingham Palace on the last mile of the Virgin London Marathon on May 8, 2012. (Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images)

When 27-year-old Claire Lomas was paralyzed from the waist down in a horseback riding accident six years ago, her doctors told her that she’d never be able to walk again. To the surprise of her physicians, in May 2012, Lomas not only walked, but she finished the London Marathon, with a little help from the ReWalk.

ReWalk has helped many people.

Other paralyzed people have used the ReWalk to complete shorter races. For example, Adam Gorlitsky, a paralyzed man from South Carolina, finished a 10K race using his exoskeleton device from Israel. He's just one of the many inspiring people who have completed such races.

Dozens of others have benefited from the technology as well. "The first time I stood up, I started crying and had to sit down, it was so overwhelming," said Theresa Hannigan, who was the first patient in the U.S. to use the ReWalk at home.

Robert Woo, another patient who tested the device when it first launched, was very happy with the way the exoskeleton worked.

“I can’t wait to take my family out for a walk in the park and do things that I couldn’t do being in a wheelchair,” Woo told CBS News.


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How this guy became the first paralyzed man to complete the London Marathon
Simon Kindleysides wasn't going to let a little thing like paralysis keep him from crossing that finish line.