Trevor Coey finishes ninth overall at the 2017 Finlayson Arm 50km ultra marathon. (Photo courtesy of Trevor Coey)

Trevor Coey finishes ninth overall at the 2017 Finlayson Arm 50km ultra marathon. (Photo courtesy of Trevor Coey)

Vancouver Island long-distance runner looks to regain his stride after losing leg

Running on a blade, a puzzle not easily solved

In 2017, Trevor Coey became a regular on Vancouver Island’s running scene.

He ran roads, trails and mountains, whatever was in front of him, and he had great success doing it considering he started at 39.

Coey, of Central Saanich, entered the 2017 Vancouver Island Trail Running Series and finished on the podium for six of the series’ short-course races, first in the overall short-course standings for the year. He was first in the Mount Washington and Burgoyne Bay (Salt Spring) races, second in Ladysmith and Mt. Tzouhalem and third at Royal Roads and Cobble Hill.

That September, he finished ninth out of 115 finishers in the Finlayson Arm 50-kilometre ultra marathon. It was his first ultra long-distance event. In early February 2018, Coey ran his second ultra-marathon distance, the Orcas Island 50km.

In short, the guy was flying.

READ ALSO: Masters of the mountain high

“I had dove big into big distance. After the second 50 km race I had every intention to step it up to a 50 miler (80 km), and had no question that I would be doing a 100km soon after that,” said Coey, now 44. “Time stands still when I run and everything else just disappears.”

But the Orcas Island was the last organized race for Coey.

Late in February 2018, he spent a day off in Ladysmith helping a friend when he suffered a catastrophic accident. He escaped death but lost his right leg below the knee. In total, he underwent 13 surgeries, nine of them within the first eight weeks.

“My (right) leg was crushed, pelvis shattered, and part of the surgery involved numerous steel bolts and plates, to put it back together,” Coey said.

READ ALSO: Popular Vancouver Island running series offers virtual challenge for 2021

In addition to the physical challenges there were mental challenges, too. Running became a hole his life that he’s had to live without, a daily ritual that he longs to return to. He even met his wife through running. They live together with four boys, aged 6, 8, 14 and 16. And even though he can’t run these days, it remains a priority in his life.

It was 10 months before Coey could work again. He leaned hard on a successful Gofundme fundraiser of $40,000 organized by friends.

Despite the downtimes that Coey has endured, he’s had many to thank since the incident, he says.

“During the two months in hospital the nurses would comment to my wife that we’re having too much fun, that I wasn’t like other patients. I had some down moments, but I don’t think, compared to others, I was that down,” Coey said.

Eventually, he tried enough ‘test sockets’ until he found the prosthesis that he uses for day-to-day use, but it’s not perfect. The shape of his amputated leg continues to change, making it difficult.

All the while, running again has remained his ultimate goal.

“I wouldn’t care if it was road, trail, or anything,” Coey said.

Coey approached some big charities and they’ve helped. The Challenged Athletes Foundation awarded Coey with a high-performance running blade. But right from the start Coey knew it was only a piece of the puzzle.

“I tried it and I felt I like I was running, it was amazing,” Coey said. “Unfortunately, the fit of the socket was not right. But the feeling [of running] was there.”

READ MORE: Central Saanich cop to run 50 miles for Greater Victoria at-risk youth

Another non-profit, Team Catapult, provided a specialty liner that Coey can use in the blade or for everyday use.

Again, it’s another piece of the puzzle, but he still can’t run consistently on the blade.

“It’s genius, such a simple modification,” Coey said.

In the meantime Coey’s tried lifting weights, he’s been cycling (with big thanks to CanAssist for modifying his mountain bike), and he’s spent time on the rowing machine.

But he’s limited on the bike, like the running blade, by the amount of time and distance his right leg can endure in a prosthesis socket.

“With that comes sores and problems, so it’s almost like I can go mountain biking for the exercise and thrill [but] I pay for it afterward, sometimes for months.”

Funding for prostheses is just as complicated. In B.C. you’re funded for basic mobility, Coey said, arguing that PharmaCare can’t dictate what his basic level of mobility is.

For now, Coey is grateful to have escaped the accident with what he did, and believes he might not have made it this far if not for a positive outlook on life that predates the accident.

“When I was in the hospital, this doctor said, ‘All that training you did for ultra running, all that you put yourself through, that mental anguish, that was training for what you’re going to go through,’ that I was about to run the toughest race I’ve ever done, and he was right,” Coey said. “The whole thing has been a race since the accident. I hit walls every day. It’s about adapting and finding new and different ways to do things.”

But Coey dreams of running again.

“I miss that freedom, that rhythm my whole body would get into. My heartbeat, the breathing, the sound of my feet hitting trail and pavement. I’m so happy to be able to have experienced it.”

reporter@oakbaynews.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

 

Trevor Coey atop Mount Work in September. Coey longs to run the roads and trails like he did before he lost his leg in an accident three years ago. (Photo courtesy of Trevor Coey)

Trevor Coey atop Mount Work in September. Coey longs to run the roads and trails like he did before he lost his leg in an accident three years ago. (Photo courtesy of Trevor Coey)

Just Posted

Although B.C. has not made masks mandatory in public indoor spaces, some business owners are requiring all customers to wear them before entering their store. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
EDITORIAL: Heightened tension over face masks

Incidents of anger and conflicts over mandated masks happening too frequently

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

A real estate sign is pictured in Vancouver, Tuesday, June, 12, 2018. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward)
Okanagan-Shuswap real estate market continues hot start to 2021

Sales in February were up more than 100 per cent over last year, reports the Association of Interior Realtors

The City Park dock in Kelowna was underwater due to rising Okanagan Lake flooding in 2017. (OBWB photo)
Okanagan facing extreme flooding risk

Water board calls for updated Okanagan Lake level management

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Interior Health reports 16 new COVID-19 cases

423 cases remain active in the region

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

John Hordyk said it isn’t fair to just look at COVID-19 deaths as many survivors are experiencing long-term impacts, himself included. (Photo by Rachel Muise)
Not getting better: Revelstoke man diagnosed with post-COVID-19 syndrome

‘I hope the damage isn’t long term, but it could be permanent’

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki responded to BC Housing minster David Eby’s remarks that the city has put themselves at risk of creating a tent city Wednesday, March 3, 2020. (Western News file photo)
Penticton mayor calls out BC Housing minister for ‘irresponsible fear-mongering’

Council recently rejected BC Housing’s request to keep a winter shelter open longer than first planned

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

Most Read