I don't even know where to start.
This weekend was incredible, frustrating, emotional, chaotic, exhausting, challenging, and nothing short of life-changing.
On Friday, March 22, 2019, myself and Adam Gorlitsky set out to make history. My film crew and I arrived at Dodgers Stadium around 8:30 pm to await Adam's Arrival. That day was incredibly challenging for me, and it was the day I felt the most emotional. I awoke that morning around 8:30 am (which was the last time I truly slept until post race). I was feeling very sick and fatigued with a sore throat. I could barely even swallow water.
My production meeting for my feature documentary (ExoRising) was at 2pm, and I had to meet my co-producer, Richard Joel, at 1pm to pick up our vans from Enterprise for the weekend. Enterprise so kindly donated the vans for our film and was incredibly accommodating to our cause. I was really dragging at this point and it was only 2pm.
Next was the post-production meeting, which was held at my director Adam Matalon's home in Studio City. I took an Uber to the LA Convention Center so I could pick up my official bib for the race. I was feeling terrible both physically and emotionally, and sad that I was alone. I called my Mom and expressed to her how upset I was with how I was feeling only to find out 4 days post race that I had been dealing with strep throat for 3 weeks!
I laid on the couches at the convention center for almost an hour, emotional and trying to pull myself together. From there I decided to take myself out to dinner at one of my favorite places, Bottega Louie in DTLA, before heading to the Jonathan Club that so kindly donated parking for our film production team.
I had to keep reminding myself that this was the first day of the rest of my life. Now that it's over, I'm still overwhelmed by how I feel about the whole weekend. My film crew is made up of some of the most incredible souls imaginable. Each and every person that was a part of this project was there for all of the right reasons, and I wouldn't have allowed it to be any other way. Having people like this involved in such a personal project for me will always be non-negotiable. That's because creating this film has never been about making money for me, it's always been about making lasting positive changes by shifting the perspective about people with disabilities.
My crew and I waited for Adam's arrival. He and his father did a few interviews with KTLA and then, before we knew it, it was officially 12:05 am and time to set off on the journey. It was cold, very cold. I was wearing 5 layers and I was still freezing. The terrain of the course was very difficult for Adam in his exoskeleton. From 2am onwards the film crew left and it was just me, Adam, his dad, and two friends, Tonja and Danielle, in the big dark and empty city.
The exoskeleton technicians followed nearby by car to do battery changes and motor fixes when needed. This just reminded me of the drama on day one. Adam's exoskeleton, who he named Betty Charlton, was rejected from the shipment center and sent to Philly, so initially, there was panic that this wouldn't even happen. Adam had to use a newly built exoskeleton that wasn't the same that he was used to and didn't properly fit him, which made it even more difficult than it already was to complete the incredibly challenging race course.
We reached the LA city hall at 3:50 am. It was freezing, I was very sick, and Adam was struggling. Unfortunately, by the time we reached mile marker 11 at 7pm on Saturday, Adam decided to call it quits. My crew and I understood, yet we wanted to encourage him to continue from the same spot the next morning at 5am, which he agreed to.
I attempted to rest when I got to the hotel at 9:30pm but was extremely nauseous. Sleep just wasn't happening that night, as I soon discovered I got food poisoning from one of the two meals I consumed from Friday to Saturday.
By 2am I could barely stand up.
At 4am, the alarm went off. I could hardly stand, so this day was definitely a bit more challenging. However, I knew that no matter what, I had to make it work. We powered on, but after speaking with my crew, we all decided it would be best to finish at mile marker 22.
Right after that decision, both motors on Adam's exoskeleton broke, which meant we had to take an hour rest while it was being fixed. I ended up on the floor in a bathroom trying to get it together, and when they were ready I used every ounce of energy I had left to continue finishing what I had started.
We finished the race, crossing the finish line at 3:45 pm. Although we didn't complete our full mission, we still achieved something that has never been done before at the LA marathon. We walked for 40+ hours with almost no rest and completed 17.2 miles.
If I'm being honest, this experience ended up being completely different than what I had expected. I was pushed beyond my mental, emotional, and physical limits and did my best not to let outside factors impact my intentions.
I'm truly grateful for what I did to honor my parents and the disability community. The story above was just a small component in a much bigger plan. This journey continues, as I am always aspiring to inspire.
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