Pedaling for a Cancer Cure; Lessons Along the Route

On Sunday I participated in the 34th annual American Cancer Society Bike-a-Thon from Philadelphia to May’s Landing, New Jersey. I completed the 63 mile ride (which includes the perk of riding across the Benjamin Franklin Bridge) American Cancer Society Bike-a-Thon Benjamin Franklin Bridgein a little over 4 hours of riding time. While I’ve done the ride several times, I haven’t done it in a few years. Unfortunately, with each passing year the list of people whose memory or survival I honor keeps growing longer and more personal. In a world that moves too fast, events like this are always rich with lessons and insights into how to live whatever time we have on this planet most fully.

While I have always enjoyed this ride as an opportunity to push my limits a little further than usual and to support a great cause, this year I found I enjoyed the journey more than any year Paula riding American Cancer Society Bike-a-Thon previously. I was able to drop the stress, expectations, and self-criticism and be fully present to the experience. Usually I waste a lot of energy burning out on wishing I were a faster rider, obsessing about some minute detail, or worrying about negative things (like crashing or bonking or getting injured, etc.). This time I simply didn’t. I pushed myself but not at an all costs frenzy (averaging around 14.7mph). I prepared well for the ride (both on and off the bike). I put safety first and kept good tabs on the state of my mind and body along the way, but didn’t let anything rattle me (not even the inevitable few accident scenes I biked past). Instead, I occupied my mind with enjoying the journey and reflecting on the true meaning of the ride.

Here are some of the insights I became aware of along the way that contribute not only to the success of my ride and the event as a whole, but translate directly to secrets of success in everyday.

Passion
The passion of the volunteers and riders that make the event happen is infectious. Here are thousands of people (there were over 4,000 riders alone) that freely donate their precious time, money, and energy to support a worthy cause. What better way to spend a Sunday than getting up at 4am with love in your heart and a passionate commitment to a cause bigger than yourself.

Love and Legacy
The powerful question at the heart of the bike-a-thon is “Who Are You Riding For?” Each rider, in his or her own way, paid tribute to loved ones they have lost or know who are battling and surviving cancer. I love to read the formal and informal tributes along the route. From people holding signs and cheering along the roadway to riders with written and pictorial tributes on their bike or jersey, I am always moved by the moment.

Support
The support teams on the roads and at the rest stops are great. The authorities and volunteers work together to make the day as enjoyable and as safe as possible. Families and friends come together to encourage one another on the bike or at the finish. Strangers shout words of encouragement to the riders who make the $1.6 million fundraising goal reality and pedal rain or shine in the heat of July.

Commitment
It takes commitment on the part of the riders to train for and complete the ride. Whether the person’s stretch goal is a shorter route of 30 -45 miles, the century (100 miles), or the traditional 63 miles (a metric century), it is the character, commitment, and perseverance that makes it a reality.

Honoring Yourself
It takes a village to put on this event and get the riders from Point A to Point B. I even had my own built in support team (for which I am mega-grateful) in my partner who selflessly gets up at 4am and sacrifices her Sunday so she can chauffer me around and cheer me on. However, it is strong belief in oneself that is most critical for success. You can’t rely on others to validate you, make decisions for you, or be responsible for your safety and well-being. Only YOU can make yourself feel worthy (which you inherently are!), take action, and make choices that honor your highest potential and best interests.

Enjoy the photos… and ask yourself, “How can I be of service?” Helping others doesn’t have to be a chore. Find an activity or role that turns you on and give back every now and then. It is guaranteed to:

  • energize you
  • put your life in perspective
  • help your karma because what goes around comes around and you never know when you may need the support of others
  • break you out of your rut and routine (a good cure for burnout, I might add)
  • Just plain feel good

American Cancer Society Bike-a-Thon Finish Line

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