Island-hopping athlete and his hand cycling relay team win the World Championships in Italy. He trains on Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island.
David Randall is no stranger to Lonbgoat Key’s bike lane.
Ever since he began handcycling, his six-day-a-week routine has been to roll out of his house in Bradenton and down the streets of Sarasota, Longboat Key, where he also visits Longboat Massage, and Anna Maria Island.
During his long rides, he travels about 55 miles in three-and-a-half hours. His short rides, which he does at a “smell the roses pace,” are an hourlong trip around Anna Maria Island.
“If I’m on the bike, that’s when I truly feel like life is just good,” Randall said.
Randall began handcycling after learning he had Von Hippel-Lindau syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that causes tumors in his brain and spinal cord.
Since he was 21, Randall, now 44, has had four back surgeries and five brain surgeries.
After a surgery in 2001, he woke up and something felt different. He discovered he could no longer walk. His doctors expected him to make a full recovery, but when he returned for a post-op exam, his condition had not improved. In 2002, he got a wheelchair.
Randall learned about handcycling online, and his first race was a 2004 marathon in Detroit, where he placed fourth.
In August, he won the World Championships in Italy with his two teammates in the team relay event.
“Italy has been the dominant team in relay for like six years. We haven’t beat them since then, so beating them in Italy was even sweeter,” he said.
Randall’s start at the national level began when the U.S. team returned from the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Randall was invited to a development camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, and the performance director told him he had potential. The next year, he made the world championship team. He has competed in the 2009, 2010 and 2015 World Championships.
Next, Randall hopes to compete in the Paralympic Games Tokyo 2020. His short-term goal is to win national championships.
“We train just as hard as the regular Olympians, so it’s not different,” he said. “We put the time in and the way it is now, I think just having visibility, I think that’s the big thing.”
“You know, the mind is so much more powerful than what we think it is because there are times in a lot of races that I feel like giving up.”
— David Randall
Prior to racing, which Randall does full time, he was in the Navy. In 1997, when he started getting sick, he was discharged.
The first six months in his wheelchair, Randall said he faced depression.
But then he adjusted to his new life and shortly after discovered handcycling.
“You see someone in a wheelchair, a lot of people say I’m an inspiration, which is great if they get inspiration from me, but I don’t feel that way,” Randall said. “I feel like I’m just living my life like everybody else. It’s a little different, but with how technology is now, if there’s something you want to do, they can pretty much make it for you. So I guess there’s no excuse for why you can’t get out.”
When he stops racing, Randall said he’ll continue riding because it’s fun, gives him exercise and keeps him healthy. It also shows him what he’s capable of.
“I think that’s what I like about it,” he said. “You know, the mind is so much more powerful than what we think it is because there are times in a lot of races that I feel like giving up. You feel like, ‘Oh man, this is way too hard of a pace. I can’t do it.’ So I do like that feeling, especially after the race, you’re totally exhausted and you feel like you’ve actually done something that maybe you were doubting.”