“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”
~ Maya AngelouI first heard about Robbin Bryant last year at the Vancouver USA Marathon. Active and athletic his entire life, Bryant was paralyzed in a motocross accident at 21. At an age where most young adults are just excited to be of legal drinking age, Bryant was facing a sobering reality. Instead of allowing his accident to keep him down, Bryant found new ways to get active, including time at the gym bodybuilding and handcycling. He bought a bike and joined the Oregon Handcycle Alliance. For about six years he enjoyed recreational rides throughout the state with the group and time training on his own.
He decided to take it to the next level with some racing. Bryant traded in his cruiser for a competitive handcrank racing bike and decided to find some events. A handcycle is low to the ground with one wheel in front and two in the back. It has 27 speeds and can get up to 13 miles per hour along flats. Being strapped into the bike, all the power comes from the chest and arms.
He started with the Eugene Half Marathon in 2012, his first competitive race since his accident. The race didn’t go as well as he hoped. His chain derailed twice and he didn’t finish with the time he was hoping for, but he learned a lot and, more importantly, he had fun. He started Eugene Half Marathon with a little anxiety, and left knowing he could push through pain and never give up if he stayed positive. Every race teaches us something.
He went on to compete at the Vancouver USA Half Marathon and had a much better race, taking 20 minutes off his time. Getting up at crazy hours to train, getting it done in the gym and long rides all prepare him. I noted his comment “I want to do my best all of the time” in my list of mantras. I admire his fearless attitude and that ‘can’t’ isn’t a word in his vocabulary. It also doesn’t hurt that he’s a Duck football fan. He hasn’t allowed his accident to take away his passion for life and everything it has to offer, including his love of motocross. With a four wheeler instead of a bike, he can still enjoy the thrill of riding. Bryant has a never give up attitude that I need to adopt.
Life gave him another challenge in December, when he lost his dad to cancer. Once again, he demonstrates his amazing positive attitude, noting his races this year will be dedicated to his dad, a man who would go to the gym at 4 in the morning to spot for his son. It’s clear that dedication and determination runs in the family.
Bryant has a number of races to dedicate to his dad this year. It’s not as easy to find handcycle friendly races. Many events start or finish on grass, have uneven surfaces or simply don’t allow them. For 2014, he’ll be back at the Vancouver USA Half Marathon and the Eugene Half Marathon again. Also on the race schedule: the Foot Traffic Flat Half Marathon, the Greater Portland Half Marathon and the Canby Dahlia Run. He is staying active and definitely not giving his bike time to rust.
Life is full of challenges. I admire this man for refusing to be defeated by challenges that I can’t even comprehend. Taking a negative and turning it into a positive, I love that he is inspiring those around him. Not only showing others with disabilities that anything is possible, but reminding all of us to chase what we want. No excuses. Bryant has reminded me the importance of setting goals, accepting and learning from setbacks and most importantly never giving up.