Pushing the Limits with Symbiathletic

Rand Surbey met Jason Cole three years ago when Jason was volunteering at the BC Mobility Opportunity Society of the Sam Sullivan Foundation. Rand, living with cerebral palsy, uses a power chair and communicates through a Vanguard alternative communication device. However, Rand does not let his disability confine him and through the BC Mobility Opportunity Society, he and Jason partook in outdoor hikes and other recreational activities.

Jason "Engine" Cole and Rand "Driver" Surbey

Jason “Engine” Cole and Rand “Driver” Surbey

Rand and Jason spent Christmas 2011 together going on runs and hikes. They then decided to participate in local marathons and outdoor challenges as a team. Jason explains that “there are no categories in marathons for people with disabilities, we either had to position ourselves in the special start zone or in the back with strollers”. Rand and Jason did neither, and instead decided to integrate with everyone else. “Don’t pity us, include us” says Rand.

Symbiathletic (a combination of symbiotic and athletic) was created in 2012 as a result of Rand and Jason’s partnership acting as “a catalyst in facilitating the participation of people in a wide range of physical and social activities that previously may not have been available to them”. Symbiathletic is the desire to do more than exist. Their emphasis on team work has led them to foster a community of people who partake in local races to push boundaries. Symbiathletic is also a platform for Rand and Jason to fund their competitions through donations and apparel sales.

Rand uses a custom-made athletic wheelchair that is lightweight and agile for the races. Jason explains that it is not easy to find these specialty chairs, with the cheapest on the market being $3500. As a result, Jason started to build custom chairs with scrap parts that were interchangeable. “I wanted to build specialty wheelchairs that would allow Rand and others with disabilities to compete in marathons but were also affordable with parts that were easily accessible”. The custom-wheelchairs designed and built by Jason cost around $500-$1000 each and he donates these chairs to people who can’t afford them so that they can have the opportunity to compete in runs.

Last year, the duo ran the Scotiabank half marathon using the custom-made wheelchair. They clocked in at a little over an hour and a half, placing them in positions 263 and 264 of 4077 runners. This year, they are planning to fundraise and compete in the Tough Mudder obstacle race with the custom-made wheelchair which will allow Rand to go off road and into the mud. Because Rand cannot propel himself in the races, the chair is designed for a driver and engine team, with one leading and one pushing.

Jason and Rand competing in the Scotiabank Marathon in 2013

Jason and Rand competing in the Scotiabank Marathon in 2013

Rand’s cerebral palsy is what drives him to inspire others in their pursuits. Rand is the “driver” of the team meaning that he leads the duo in the races. Jason is the “engine” of the team as he pushes Rand’s chair in the races. However, Rand is not just there for the ride. As a “driver”, Rand is the heart and soul of the operation. His desire to compete and push the limits is what motivates the team.

Jason was inspired by Rand’s courage and desire to push the boundaries of his life. He expressed that he “didn’t want to be satisfied with just extending the quantity of someone’s life, he wanted to extend the quality.” The strength and drive of Rand and Jason’s partnership led the duo to compete against seasoned runners in which they have regularly clocked in good times through constant training.

Together, they are supporting the Cerebral Palsy Association of BC (CPABC) because they want to inspire others with cerebral palsy to take initiative and live their life without limits. Rand and Jason will be running the Scotiabank Half Marathon and fundraising in partnership with CPABC under that name Symbiathletic. For Rand, the best part of doing the marathons is to simply “show people you can do it”.

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