LOUISA COUNTY, Va. — From the very beginning, Ed Purcell has been climbing uphill.
When he was just five years old, Purcell fractured his skull after he collided with a car while riding his bike near his Harrisonburg home.
Doctors at the University of Virginia did not expect him to live through the night.
He survived but was left with a severe brain injury.
“I lost my memory completely. I had to learn how to walk again,” Purcell said. "I couldn’t pick things up real quick. Growing up I was bullied because I was slow and stuff like that.”
While scars inside lingered, Purcell persevered and overcame.
“I don’t think about it. I just go on with it,” he said.
In 1991, when he was 28, Purcell joined the Marines during Desert Storm.
“I was in the Marine Corps for four years and got out in 1995,” Purcell said. “My whole life changed forever.”
The Marine veteran’s life nearly ended during the summer of 2007 and Purcell was involved in a head-on collision.
“I swerved and missed him and went around it and hit a gold van. I remember the color of it,” he said.
The wreck left Purcell broken again.
“Being pinned in saved my life because when you break your pelvis you bleed out and you don’t have long to live,” Purcell said.
He spent weeks in a hospital and months in a nursing facility.
“Broke my patella, several bones. I had five pins coming out of my toes,” Purcell said.
Injuries to his right leg were severe.
“Pure hell. I’ll tell you right now I wouldn’t want my worst enemy to go through what I went through,” Purcell said.
In January 2019, he asked a surgeon to do the unthinkable.
“I said I’ve had enough I want my leg amputated. They wouldn’t do it. They said, ‘That is the last thing you want to do,’” Purcell said.
He went through with the operation. The loss of his leg turned out to be his rebirth.
“I got to do this. I got to get better. And I did,” Purcell said.
His new normal isn’t holding him back.
In fact, he is going full throttle with a new bladed prosthesis.
The 59-year-old is a fixture at Fisher’s Fitness. Purcell's favorite machine is the treadmill.
“No pain and you’re free running," Purcell said.
Trainer Cassandra Mihovetz said Purcell's inner drive motivates other athletes at the gym.
“He runs on that thing like 10 miles every single time,” Mihovetz said. “If I’m having a bad day and he comes in doing his thing and he’s happier than me I’m like maybe I should reevaluate. You know? Very blessed.”
Purcell is not confined to the treadmill. The man known as Blade Warrior is a fixture through the streets of Louisa. with Old Glory never far behind.
Jeremy Barker said his friend and fellow Marine’s grit is second to none.
“It released him being totally free,” Barker said. “He knows he can accomplish anything. He can handle anything. There is nothing that man cannot do. He is getting faster. I can’t explain how he is doing it.”
Ed Purcell has competed in several road races and marathons. He has his sights set on many more.
“I am better than I was before. I’m better stronger and faster. Nothing can stop me,” he said. “Just the energy has gotten into me when I had my leg taken off. Totally changed from being depressed to being hyped up.”
He has is proved you can accomplish much with a lot less.
“Several reasons why I run is because they said I couldn’t do it,” he said. “I’m just so proud to be here.”
Ed Purcell has been climbing uphill his whole life but sheer will and a single blade are propelling him to peak performance.
“You just feel the thrill of winning because when you run I don’t care if you come in last if you complete the race you made it. That is what it is all about.”
Purcell is competing in the Mr. Health and Fitness challenge. Click here if you would like to vote for the Blade Warrior in the competition.
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