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Closer By The Mile, Thanks To The PMC

This article is more than 9 years old.
Hundreds of cyclists leave the starting line at the 25th annual Pan-Massachusetts Challenge in 2004. (AP/PMC)
Hundreds of cyclists leave the starting line at the 25th annual Pan-Massachusetts Challenge in 2004. (AP/PMC)

Driving to Cape Cod on a weekend can take hours, and winding your way through traffic and rotaries amidst sweltering heat is always brutal.

And yet, on Sunday, I'll be one of the over 5,000 cyclists who will get to Provincetown by bike, looking fresher than a tourist who's made the trip in his Subaru.

This weekend marks the 31st edition of the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge — the landmark fundraising event that hopes to raise over $31 million for cancer research this year. It's the Jimmy Fund's single largest contributor, and thanks to sponsorships that pay for the ride's administration, every single rider-raised dollar makes its way to the charity.

Jeremy, right, getting ready for his first PMC with a pre-ride massage from Lee Joseph. (Courtesy of Beth Fredericks.)
Jeremy, right, getting ready for his first PMC with a pre-ride massage from Lee Joseph. (Courtesy of Beth Fredericks.)

I'll be riding from Wellesley to Bourne on Saturday, finishing the trip to Provincetown on Sunday. And, unlike everyone stuck in traffic on the Bourne Bridge, I'll be smiling, mile after grueling mile. You won't find a happier group of bikers this side of the Champs-Élysées on the final day of the Tour de France.

With each passing town, I'll know that I'm helping the millions of families touched by cancer each year. It's not just that my family has been personally touched by the illness (we have) but that yours has too (it has).

After months of training for what I know will be a tough ride, the biggest challenge of my PMC may be keeping a dry eye.

The cheering spectators that line the route are full of encouragement and hope, and are constant reminders of why I'm dragging all 200 pounds of my, ahem, muscle down the Cape without the aid of a motor. The one drawback from having the crowd's support is that I've found it hard to draw my breath while crying.

This will be my third time riding the PMC, but my first two-day ride. I've been gradually stepping-up my training and my goals, both in mileage and in fundraising. That seems to be a common thread among other riders I've spoken to.

The thing about the PMC is that crossing the finish line is really just the beginning. None of the riders that finish will feel that they have time to rest. As we know all too well, cancer doesn't take a break.

Jeremy, right, with his little brother Bryan, a cancer survivor. (Courtesy of Beth Fredericks.)
Jeremy, right, with his little brother Bryan, a cancer survivor. (Courtesy of Beth Fredericks.)

In its 30 years, the PMC has raised over $270 million. We know that money alone isn't the cure, but it may be able to buy the ones we love more time — even a lifetime. Fundraising organizations like the PMC are working hard to make sure that the incredible doctors, nurses, social workers and miracle workers at the Jimmy Fund have all the tools they need to expand the world's arsenal against one of its greatest foes.

Curing cancer isn't a sprint, and it isn't a marathon. It's years and years of hard work by scientists and doctors. But maybe, hopefully, a 163-mile bike ride from Wellesley to Provincetown can pay for just an hour of that doctor's time. If it can, my sore legs will call it a victory.

At the starting line on Saturday I'll swing my leg over my bike and perch myself on the seat, resigning myself to the long, arduous road ahead. But each mile-marker will offer a glimmer of hope, each rotation of my pedals bringing me closer to my goal. Not the finish line, but a world without cancer.

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This program aired on August 6, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

Jeremy Bernfeld Producer
Jeremy Bernfeld was formerly a producer for WBUR.

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