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'It's a dream come true': Quadriplegic veteran completes final kilometer of BOLDERBoulder

Mark Maloney participates in 2023 BOLDERBoulder
Posted at 4:41 PM, May 29, 2023
and last updated 2023-05-29 19:30:28-04

BOULDER, Colo. — There's nothing quite like the pre-race adrenaline rush, particularly with the added energy from cheering participants and supporters at the BOLDERBoulder.

Mark Maloney knows this better than anyone. At 87 years old, he has completed more races than he can count. 2023 BOLDERBoulder, though, will forever stand out as his most important.

"It's a dream come true," he said, choking up as he prepared to start the race.

Mark Maloney's injuries
Mark Maloney with severe injuries in his hospital bed, following a devastating bike crash

Maloney has dreamed of his return to the BOLDERBoulder for three years, after a catastrophic bike crash left him with a severe spinal cord injury and a loss of movement in his arms and legs. Through extensive physical therapy at the VA Medical Center in Aurora, and with the aid of its new Lite Run machine that assists quadriplegic individuals to walk, he has fought to make that dream come true.

Mark Maloney trains with a Lite Run Machine
Mark Maloney trains with a Lite Run machine at the VA Medical Center, preparing for his return to the BOLDERBoulder

Among the friends and family cheering him on in the race — each donning red "Team Mark" shirts — was Chris Brown, the man who found Maloney after his crash and called 911. At the time, the two were strangers. Today, Brown has been welcomed in as a "part of the family," he said.

"I'll tell you, he never quit. From the first moment I met him —he was barely moving. He just said, "I'm gonna walk again. I'm gonna race again." So, it's never been a doubt in his mind," Brown recalled. "He's an inspiration, something we can all hope to follow."

Mark Maloney participates in 2023 BOLDERBoulder
Three years of intense physical therapy culminates for Mark Maloney with participation in the 2023 BOLDERBoulder

Maloney told Denver7 he wanted to share his journey to be an inspiration to others, showing that they can do whatever they set their minds to, regardless of the obstacles they encounter. If the cheers and applause he received throughout the race are any indication, he's certainly accomplished that mission.

"I want to be able to finish my life strong, thinking I helped others," Maloney said.

As he entered Folsom Stadium for the final stretch towards the finish line, Maloney and his story were broadcast to the entire crowd on the big screen, where he was met with a hero's welcome of cheers. He completed the final kilometer in 27 minutes, accomplishing his goal, but the man on the move is already looking forward.

Next year, he'll aim for two kilometers, he said.

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