Pelotonia. You’ve heard about it, no doubt, from the thousands of riders, corporate sponsors, co-workers, friends and neighbors. In fact, many of you are likely riders or volunteers. Born from a mission to mobilize people toward one goal – to end cancer – Pelotonia has become a sustaining and far-reaching movement. The green arrows that are part of the brand identity can be seen in front of rural farms and as murals on the side of skyscraper buildings.
This is about my first experience with Pelotonia – as a rider this 10th anniversary year on August 4, 2018. While I had participated in other organized bike races/fundraising efforts in past years, I had hesitated to ride in Pelotonia because of the sheer numbers of participants. “The Greatest Team Ever” and over 8,000 bicyclists had seemed overwhelming and daunting to me. I had thought, with that many riders, how can it be well organized? Will I be “safe”?
I rode this year because I decided to step out of my comfort zone just a little – for my sister, Rachel, who suffered cancer twice in her life and fought the battle until August 25, 2012. I rode for my dad, who lived until nearly age 80 after his diagnosis of prostate cancer that was caught too late. I rode for my niece, Karen, my neighbor, Trish, and my sisters-in-law Adrienne and Marcy – all of whom have survived breast cancer. And so many others.
While I raised $1,685 for cancer research, I also raised my level of gratitude, humility and awareness of the far-reaching effects of cancer. To say this was an eye-opening experience would be an understatement. I was fueled by people whom I met before and during the 45 mile trek.
I had intended to ride with the Team Marion cyclists – some riding the century and others in the 45 route, like me. However, God must have had other plans for me because they hit the road early and I was left to find other cyclists to keep me company…not a difficult feat by any stretch! I’m a people-person, and before I had even checked in at the registration table – where volunteers cheered for me as a first-timer – I met a couple from my little hometown of Bellville, Ohio.
The couple, wearing Team Buckeye bike jerseys, happened to be the parents of a boy who has persevered through cancer and become well-known in my area for his inspiring and positive
attitude. After the initial, awkward, handlebar-to-handlebar start along High Street in downtown Columbus, I came upon a “Survivor” jersey in front of me, worn by a woman I’ll call Mary. I pedaled up next to her and we chatted. Mary couldn’t have been more than 35 years old, and she told me she had survived treatment for Hodgkin’s (or Hodgkin)-Lymphoma. What struck me the most was when she said this: “I had one of the most treatable kinds of cancer. With Hodgkin’s-Lymphoma, about 90 percent of those diagnosed see a full recovery after treatment, so I had a realistic hope that I’d be OK after undergoing chemo. There was light at the end of the tunnel. What I want to see – what I’m riding for – is all those other cancer patients…we should ALL be able to have that realistic hope for recovery.”
This Pelotonia rider couldn’t agree more.
Alice Hutzel-Bateson is the Communications-Marketing Coordinator for Alber Enterprise Center. For information about Pelotonia, visit http://pelotonia.org/