Last weekend I ventured out for my 2nd annual (of at least 40) PMC bike ride.
This year I was joined by my father on his first ride.
192 miles in two days from Sturbridge Massachusetts to Provincetown on a bike.
It’s 3:30AM on Saturday morning. My alarm is going off. So are many others throughout the Becker College dorm we are staying in for the night.
5,200 men and women are getting out of bed and heading from their hotels and dorms to the starting line in Sturbridge.
I’ve done this once and know the routine. All of the gear that’s coming with me on the bike goes into my shirt pockets, everything else into my bag. On the 30 minute bus ride from the dorm people are talking and getting to know each other. A man mentions casually that he lost his wife 2 years ago when she was 47. A young woman says she is riding for her mother. Another man is a survivor of 10 years who is riding to give back. I am riding for all of these people and my niece, Meg, especially. The mood is not somber as you might suspect. These people have dealt with this before and will again. But everyone is a bit tired and quiet while we pull in to the start. We thank the driver and head off into the day.
I toss my bag onto the truck headed to the midway point at Mass Maritime Academy and head inside for breakfast.
After breakfast the bottles get filled and I grab my bike from the rack where I left it the night before. Then I take my place at the starting line. Everyone is wearing the same exact jersey for PMC 2010. Name tags are attached both to bikes and to the repair bags under virtually every seat. A quick glance at someone’s name tag will tell you if they have raised enough money to qualify for “heavy hitter” status.
Normally I’d tell you that is why we are all there. Money. In fact, it’s easy to forget that each and every one of the people standing around me raised in excess of $4,200 for cancer research. The people that I can reach out and touch alone would total over $30,000 in donations and there are 5,192 others. But I don’t think that’s where it ends.
The money is our obligation to the cause. The ride is our reward. You may think that it’s difficult to ride 192 miles on a bike. I’d be lying to you if I said that it wasn’t. But that is the point. This is the “Pan Mass *Challenge*”. Every single rider here has been personally affected by cancer in some way. Some of them are cancer survivors. A few of them are actually missing one leg as a result of their cancer (I have no idea how they can pedal a bike with one leg, but they do). Others take the label literally and head out to New York to bike from there so that it really is pan-mass. A very large portion of these people haven’t trained nearly enough to not be in tremendous pain by the end.
All of us enter this event knowing that it will be a challenge. But we also know that it could never be tougher than not knowing if you will live to see tomorrow. And for that reason we accept this challenge willingly, eagerly and without complaint.
3:30AM and not a single person complained that it was “too early”.
192 miles and not a single person complained that it was “too long”.
In fact, the atmosphere is exactly the opposite. Everyone is sleep deprived and worn out, but you couldn’t find a happier bunch. They are happy because they have persevered.
But maybe I am speaking to much for others.
I spent just under 6 hours pedaling my bike the first day and I loved every second of it.
I did it again the second day and loved it even more.
Not only because there were miles and miles of people cheering us on from the side of the road.
Not only because I beat my time from last year by a healthy amount.
I loved it because it was my own personal challenge to endure.
I loved it because I was allowed to participate with the 5,199 other people who pushed themselves equally hard to endure their own personal challenge.
I am ever grateful to you for donating.
I also thank you for buying my ticket into this wonderful event.
If you can’t support me next year, I can only hope that it is because you have chosen to ride with us.