Herriot, a native of Aberdeen, Scotland, is a jet-setting athlete who spends his time training for and participating in wheelchair and hand cycle races around the world. He is the current Scottish record-holder for all hand races from the 400 meter up to the marathon.
The hand cycle differs from a typical bicycle in that it is powered by a pedaling motion of the hands rather than the feet. It also sits much lower to the ground, allowing racers to rest comfortably, and it usually has three wheels in a tricycle-like formation for added stability.
Hand cycle races are a major event around the world each year; Rome, Ga., hosts a series of four-day hand cycle races known as the Clocktower Classic each April, and Herriot participates there regularly.
Of course, while he has always been an avid fitness fanatic, having once owned a gym, he never envisioned himself living, much less racing, without the use of his legs. Herriot broke his back and became paralyzed from the waist down after a motorcycle accident in 2008. He was 38 at the time.
“I never really got angry,” he said. “I was never depressed. I was 38, I had already lived half of my life. I don't feel like I was deprived of anything.”
He credits his racing career success to his fitness and his upbeat outlook on life. “I was positive and driven; it's just what you're dealt,” he said.
He became interested in hand cycling after his injury as a way to keep up his fitness and find a new outlet for his seemingly boundless energy. His first race was a 10-kilometer (6.2 mile) race in his hometown of Aberdeen. He posted a time in that first race of 46 minutes; he can now breeze through a 10k in just 17 minutes, an average of 23 miles per hour.
Along the way, Herriot picked up corporate sponsors -- he is currently sponsored by Hollister -- and took an interest in racing for charity events and fundraisers. He is a patron of multiple nonprofit groups in the U.K., including AbSafe, a children and public safety awareness group in Aberdeen. He has next year a schedule mountain climb in the works -- in which he is hoisted up a mountain by a group of volunteers -- to raise funds for this very group. Scaling mountains, he said, is a slightly uncomfortable but rather rapid way to have a fundraiser.
Many of his other charitable activities have not been so short; being hauled up even the tallest mountain in the United Kingdom takes only a day or so. Herriot has also made a number of cross-country rides, including across the whole of the British isles and even an American tour, a trek from San Francisco to New York City that helped to raise money for a child stricken with cancer, and during which he averaged a staggering 89 miles per day.
Where many others might be sad, Herriot is grateful for the opportunities afforded him by his injury -- the ability to travel and see the world, to meet new people and to help others, to name a few. He has now reached international acclaim, having raced and trained in places such as Japan, Korea, South Africa, Australia, Barbados, Thailand, Norway, France and 32 of the United States, among many others. Although he admits that Norway and Hawaii were among the most beautiful places he had seen, Herriot still insists that his native Scotland is the most spectacular place on Earth. In addition to beauty, he has also been able to evaluate the wide variety in levels of accessibility -- or lack thereof -- for those in wheelchairs.
“Paris is terrible for wheelchairs,” he said. He noted that many tropical locations, such as Barbados and Thailand, had little to no accessibility for him and were just “diabolical” to navigate.
Herriot has similarly found that the responses he gets from people, many of whom seem to shy away from him and his wheelchair, seem to vary from place to place as well.
“I like to be treated just like anyone else,” he said, noting that it's a particular pet peeve when people offer to help him out of places he had already successfully navigated into on his own. “How do you think I got here in the first place?” he laughed. “There's a way to do everything.”
Overall, though, Herriot is happy with what he does, though he admits he is slowing down his schedule somewhat as the years go by. “Up until 2008, I was doing about 40 races a year,” he said. Now, he prefers to spend some of that time doing charity work and speaking to the public instead.
He is proud of his accomplishments -- his records and his race wins, including two victories in the Las Vegas marathon and reaching the top of the tallest mountain in Great Britain, and hopes that he can inspire others to look past their own hardships to make themselves proud as well.
“You have to do something,” he said.