TORONTO – Robert Buren has always had a positive outlook on life.
A hardworking family man, Buren made sure he got the exercise needed to stay fit by cycling as often as he could, with hopes of one day completing a triathlon.
But suddenly all of that changed.
“It was October 2008, I was out for a mountain bike ride with a friend of mine and we came across this jump in the forest,” Buren told Global News.
“I thought I’d try it — it didn’t go very well. I ended up landing on my head and I broke my back. So I’m paraplegic.”
Buren recalls the first thing he thought of was his kids.
“I have two little daughters. How am I going to dance with them when they get married? First thing I thought of.”
Just four weeks after his accident, Robert was already doing laps around the hospital on a handcycle – a three-wheeled vehicle propelled by the arms instead of the legs. It was an indication that nothing was going to stop him from the active lifestyle he’d led his whole life.
“It was November 2008, and the Ironman in Hawaii, Kona was on TV and they featured this young kid, Ricky James from California, who had broken his back motor crossing and they followed him doing the full Ironman,” said Buren.
“I had always thought about maybe I could be a triathlete someday.”
So last October in Kona on the Big Island of Hawaii, after training for more than two years, Buren started the race at 7 a.m. and crossed the finished line thirteen and a half hours later, becoming the first Canadian paraplegic to complete an Ironman.
“It was the closure on many fronts,” said Buren.
“It was setting this really big goal to qualify, to compete, and to finish the race, but also to show my kids and my wife that we can still do these fun things and accomplish these big goals.”
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