BUA Rides the Pan-Mass Challenge


It was dark as the national anthem rang out over a sea of bike riders. The race started and thousands of people all began to move. The riders took up an entire lane of the highway in Sturbridge, MA. The 5:30am start left everyone riding in a dense fog, but then the sun came up.

I was enthusiastic when Will Rose ’13 first asked if I wanted to do the Pan-Mass with him, and I still am enthusiastic. He convinced me, Simon Nichols ’13, Carlos Rotger ’13, and Caroline O’Leary ’13 to accompany him on this ride. (Caroline was unfortunately unable to go on the actual ride due to a last minute injury, but she still volunteered.) I wanted to ride to see if I could handle a 200-mile bike ride and because the money raised goes to the Jimmy Fund and the Dana Farber Cancer institute. This year’s goal for the PMC is to raise 36 million dollars.

Training began when we all had suitable bikes. As Team Willstrong (named after the bracelets given out during Will’s chemo), we went on rides near each others’ houses. The rides got longer every weekend or so from April until the Challenge. Training was difficult, but having a close group of friends to do it with made it easier.

When the sun came up on the first day the ride got hard. My mind entered a meditative state where I just focused on pedaling. I dreaded every uphill climb, and looked forward to every downhill slope. What really kept me moving were all the people cheering on the side of the road. My favorites were the bagpipes at the top of a hill, Cherry Street, where everybody came out to cheer, and the people spraying riders with hoses. The bell ringing and cheering never ceased after I registered and the volunteers applauded me for being a first-year rider. Every mile was made easier by the people sincerely saying, “thank you for riding.”

The outpouring of support for BU specifically was also incredible. While we wore the jerseys we got from the BU cycling team, people cheered us on saying, “Go BU!” We also met numerous alumni who were happy to see their alma mater represented. A confused member of the actual BU cycling team even saw us riding in the opposite direction.

The highlight of my entire ride was giving a spectator in chemo a high-five at the finish line on Saturday. It was a symbolic, “hang in there kid.”

The second day got much more difficult. Most of the distance was behind us, but the variable weather and wind of Cape Cod were ahead of us. The last five miles to P-town were a real struggle. The cross-wind threatened to topple my bike and the rolling sand dunes were a pain, but I still sprinted to the finish line.

The whole team agreed we had a great time, and we all want to do it again next year. Our ride may be over, but we as a team still needs to reach our fundraising goal. If you feel like supporting Team Willstrong, the Jimmy Fund, and the Dana Farber Institute in the fight against cancer, feel free to go to http://www.pmc.org/profile/TW0105 and donate. You can also find us by searching Team Willstrong on the PMC website.

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