Run For Those Who Can’t: Wings For Life World Run

A man and woman in wheelchairs high five after completing the Wings for Life World Run.

Run For Those Who Can’t: Wings For Life World Run

A team of quadriplegics is asking Canadians to help them in their mission to run across the country. Yes, you could help them run from the West to the East Coast of Canada (that’s 5,500 kilometres), and you can do it from wherever you are in the world via an app.

#TeamCoast2Coast was started by Mike Shaw (from BC) and Jim Mullan (from NS) in 2017, with the goal of completing the distance from Vancouver to Halifax in the Wings for Life World Run. So far, they’ve not completed this mission, but if you add your kilometres to their cause they could make it this May 9, 2021.

Anyone anywhere can join the run via the Wings for Life World Run app ($28.92 CAD registration fee). The format of the race is fun and unique with a global start time (an early 4 AM start for us in BC), and a Catcher Car chasing runners like a moving finish line; once it catches up to you you’re done and the last person left running wins. One hundred percent of the money raised goes to the Wings for Life Foundation, a not-for-profit spinal cord research foundation with the single mission of finding a cure for spinal cord injury.

Meet #TeamCoast2Coast

There are over a dozen incredible ambassadors leading the run across the country as part of #TeamCoast2Coast. A former professional skier, a Paralympic hall of famer, a Humboldt survivor, a touring musician and many more incredible men and women are participating in this cause.

Based in BC, they have former professional skier Mike Shaw, former professional mountain biker Andrew Cho (Vancouver), Paralympic hall of famer Josh Dueck (Vernon), X-Games medallist Sam Danniels (Vancouver), and High Five Foundation athlete Olivia Rey (Whistler).

 

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A post shared by Olivia Rey🇨🇭🇨🇦 (@reyban0)

Run With Olivia (Digitally)

When Mike Shaw had his spinal cord injury in 2013, Olivia was training to be a registered massage therapist in Vancouver. She would visit her friend at the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre and treat Mike with her recently learned knowledge. In a tragic turn of fate, just a couple of years later the roles were reversed and Mike would come to visit her after she was involved in a car accident that left her with a C5/C6 spinal cord injury.

When Mike told Olivia about the Wings for Life World Run, she was in, and from 2017 onwards, she’s been participating in this run annually as part of TeamCoast2Coast.

When given the option between a powered or manual chair Olivia opted for the latter. She wanted a physical challenge to keep her fit and she got it. Whistler’s hills are world-renowned and pushing yourself up them using only your arms takes a huge amount of physical and mental strength, but Olivia was in for the workout.

In 2017, she competed in her first Wings for Life World Run, making it 2.3-kilometres before the Catcher Car caught her. Armed with a headlamp, she ran with friends and a few strangers who had heard about the event. It was fun, liberating and it felt good to be running / wheeling for such an amazing cause. To date, the Wings for Life Foundation has conducted hundreds of research studies, 38 of which have taken place in Canada, and 11 in BC.

“Sometimes people don’t realize how much of your body is impacted with a spinal cord injury,” explains Olivia. “It affects your bowels and bladder, your thermal regulation system, sexual function, and you get nerve pain and spasms. The research that’s being done is to improve the quality of life for people with spinal cord injuries. Obviously, it would be great to walk again one day, but each improvement makes things better.”

 

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A post shared by Olivia Rey🇨🇭🇨🇦 (@reyban0)

Whistler Adaptive Sports has been a positive force in Olivia’s life, becoming a way for her to reengage with the great outdoors. In the winter, she goes downhill sit skiing and cross-country skiing, and in the warmer months, she has access to e-biking, kayaking and a host of other activities. However, Olivia missed the healing side of her old job, the feeling she got when she could do something for someone else.

“It feels good to be able to help someone move forward with their injury,” explained Olivia. “I can’t massage people now, but during my own rehabilitation I had a counsellor, a neutral person I could talk to. It came to me pretty quickly that their job would be something I could do. “

Olivia is currently studying for her Master’s in counselling, with the aim of becoming a counsellor. Prior to Olivia regaining her driver’s license and owning her own adapted vehicle, one of her biggest challenges was getting to and from appointments, such as doctor checkups, weekly neuro physio sessions in Vancouver, and counseling appointments. Her vision is to set up an online counseling clinic catering to individuals with mobility issues to ease the struggle around getting to these appointments.

“Some of the adjustments that been made to deal with COVID-19 have improved things for me,” says Olivia. “Having access to my doctor online has made it a lot easier, it’s one of the positives to come out of these recent times and I think we can learn from that.”

Olivia has set up a YouTube channel detailing some tips and tricks she’s learned and wants to pass on to people in a similar situation. You can also follow her on Instagram at @reyban0, where she aims to inspire her peers not be afraid, to get back out in the world and enjoy doing activities. 

 

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A post shared by Olivia Rey🇨🇭🇨🇦 (@reyban0)

Get Involved in the Wings for Life World Run

A way you can support Olivia and her peers with similar injuries is by joining the Wings for Life World Run this May 9, 2021. It’s also the perfect run for our current pandemic climate as you can do it solo but be globally connected. Register, download the app, join #TeamCoast2Coast, get running at 4 AM on May 9, 2021, and raise funds for spinal cord injury research and be, quite literally, part of the race for the cure.

See you out there!

Dee Raffo

Dee Raffo

You can often find Dee exploring all Whistler has to offer with her three-kid tribe in tow. Originally from the UK, Dee enjoys balancing out high-thrills adventures with down-time basking in the beauty of the wonderful place she now calls home.

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