Not all marathoners are runners.
Tavian Bryant, a Lancaster resident, will be participating in the Santa Clarita Marathon on Sunday. He’ll be sitting for the entire race.
He’s a handcyclist, and is paralyzed from the waist down due to a spinal cord injury that occurred in 1995. He was thrown from his car while driving without wearing a seatbelt.
“From the beginning, I wanted to stay active and so I purchased a used handcycle to try to get some cardio in and just stay in shape,” Bryant said. “And then as I started riding more and more and then got a little bit faster, I decided to upgrade my bike and start participating in some local marathons.”
He completed the L.A. Marathon in 2004 for a taste of the racing life, but didn’t get serious about it until 2013. The Santa Clarita Marathon will be his 14th career race. His goal is to reach 40.
Marathons have taken Bryant across the country, whether it’s Long Beach or New York. Racing is how he connected with Chris Sproule, a Las Vegas-based handcyclist who has family near Santa Clarita.
The pair met in Reno and had an instant connection.
“We were talking in the parking lot, and I could tell he was new because I hadn’t seen him before,” Sproule said. “But he was just trying to soak up as much knowledge as he could.
“When you see somebody who’s coming up in the sport, you really want to help them because I had a lot of people take me under their wing and really show me more about cycling than I never knew or ever could have imagined there was. It’s really part of the brotherhood of this sport.”
Sproule, who began handcycling in 2003, will be competing alongside Bryant in the Santa Clarita Marathon and has hopes of competing in the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics.
Handcycling has given both Bryant and Sproule a chance to live active lives and become competitive athletes, although the journey hasn’t been easy.
“It’s tough to find the motivation just to run, now put like 15 more obstacles in front of that,” Sproule said. “Like OK, I’ve got to get dressed, I’ve got to figure out how to get from my wheelchair to my bike and how do I go from my bike out the door? How do I shut the door behind me? And you haven’t even exercised yet.”
For the cyclists, overcoming the obstacles they’ve faced since their respective injuries is what makes completing a race so satisfying.
“When I’m out there,” Bryant said, “I feel like I’m in pursuit of a goal … I really am enjoying just chasing the challenge and testing myself for the most part and that’s what I’m trying to do when I’m out there.”
And, of course, looking good on the pavement adds to that satisfaction, too.
“I’ve been at the starting line of the St. George Marathon and somebody described to their kid that (we were) the Ferraris of the handcycles,” Sproule said.
These athletes also have a message. Bryant, who is a teacher at Quartz Hill High, passes on the lessons he’s learned through his struggles and triumphs to his students.
“I share with them my story of the accident, of the recovery,” he said. “My hope is that I can show them to see ability and not disability when they see someone with some sort of physical challenge.”
The Santa Clarita Marathon begins at 7 a.m. Sunday. The event starts between the Hyatt Valencia and Westfield Valencia Town Center.