(MONUMENT, Colo.) — One quadriplegic army veteran from Monument was told he would never walk again. On Sunday, March 19, he achieved the impossible, walking one full lap around the Air Force Academy Fieldhouse indoor track.
Caregivers said that the doctors who told 87-year-old Mark Maloney that he would never walk again didn’t truly know Mark Maloney. This one lap around the track is the culmination of what he has been working on for the past two years.
“If I can walk around this track, that’s like climbing a mountain,” said Maloney.
Climbing mountains, running marathons, and participating in triathlons, is the life Maloney used to lead.
“I led a pretty active life,” said Maloney stated humbly.
At the age of 55, he became a competitive runner, sometimes competing in multiple races per week. He qualified for the Boston Marathon, won his age group at the Bolder Boulder 10k, and even climbed Mount Whitney, the tallest mountain in the United States.
So yes, Maloney’s life could have been described as “pretty active,” until June 3, 2020.
“I was riding my bicycle over a trail that I had probably ridden over hundreds of times… something happened… my eyes closed,” Maloney recalled.
Maloney ended up hitting a boulder head-on resulting in a severe C3 spinal cord injury.
“The doctor told my wife he didn’t think I was going to live. They later told me they didn’t think I was going to walk,” said Maloney.
After two years of recovery, Maloney defied all odds.
“He spent hours every single day standing in a stand-up machine using his arm bike and his leg bike and just fighting for incremental changes,” said Kimberly Gustafson, Maloney’s caregiver.
With the help of his walker, his caregivers, and family and friends cheering him along the way, he walked a full lap around the Air Force indoor track, the same track he used to train at when he was a competitive runner.
“I was part of Mark’s first sit-to-stand two years ago… to see him two years later actually using a walker is just mind-blowing to me… so yes, he is a miracle,” said Gustafson.
His hard work at physical therapy allowed him to join Gustafson in the father-daughter dance at her wedding.
I’ve lost my own parents, and Mark and Margie [Maloney’s wife] have been like parents to me… I’ve never met anyone like Mark…Everything you saw today is an effort of sheer will and determination,” said Gustafson.
Maloney, getting emotional at how far he has come, only hopes to inspire others to never give up.
“Be positive,” he said choking back tears. “Don’t let it get you down. There’s always hope, and it’s better to be positive than negative. But, don’t give up.”
Maloney urges anyone going through a similar situation to reach out to him by email: email@example.com.
While this was a valiant feat, Maloney says this is only the beginning. His next goal approaching soon in May is to participate and walk in the Bolder Boulder 10k, the same race he once won, before his accident. He has about two months, which he will spend in training and recovery for this race.