CUMBERLAND ‚ÄĒ At 56 years of age, Scott Miller, a small business owner, doesn‚Äôt have to take part in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge ‚Äď a grueling, two-day, 192-mile trek from Sturbridge to the tip of Cape Cod in Provincetown.
The Cumberland resident just chooses to, and he has dozens of explanations as to why he participates in the longest, most difficult version of the PMC.
‚ÄúI ride with a woman named Janet; she‚Äôs from South Attleboro, and we‚Äôll go over the Bourne Bridge and pick up the bike path that leads you down the canal,‚ÄĚ he stated recently. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs about seven-eight miles between the bridges (Sagamore and Bourne), and we ride parallel to Route 6. On (Route) 3A, there are a lot of people out there sitting and applauding you, all of us. They have little parties, and they have hoses to spray water on you. It can get hot out there, but everyone goes crazy.
‚ÄúOne really fun story I have is from years ago; I was a little heavier then, but still in shape. I was riding up a big hill down in Sandwich, and I was approaching a mother and daughter, the little girl, maybe three years old, yelled, ‚ÄėGet going!‚Äô The mom looked at her daughter and said, ‚ÄėHoney, you have to say, ‚ÄėWay to go!‚Äô I broke up laughing!‚ÄĚ
Again, he doesn‚Äôt have to do this but chooses to, and it‚Äôs because of all the friendships he‚Äôs made, the sometimes-hilarious, sometimes-frightful, tales he can recount upon completion, the satisfaction he feels upon raising money for the challenge‚Äôs contributions thousands have made to the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
When Miller takes to the starting line in Sturbridge at about 7 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 3, he will attempt to complete the long, winding course through 46 cities and towns through the Bay State for the 14th time.
The 34th annual Challenge, the nation‚Äôs first charity bike-a-thon that raises more cash than any other athletic fund-raising event in the U.S., will field not just Miller and Pawtucket resident Allan Johnson but approximately 5,500 other cyclists for the collective goal of accumulating $38 million to support adult and pediatric patient care and cancer research not only at Dana-Farber, but to The Jimmy Fund.
PMC riders range in age from 13-88, and some are seasoned triathletes, while others are mere ‚Äúweekend warriors‚ÄĚ who train for this excursion alone. It‚Äôs existed since 1980, thanks to PMC founder, executive director and participant Billy Starr.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a powerful and emotional weekend for everyone involved,‚ÄĚ he explained. ‚ÄúFrom the cyclists to the volunteers, staff and family and friends along the route, the PMC unified 10,000 people for one weekend to make a difference, and raise funds to eradicate cancer.‚ÄĚ
Offered Miller: ‚ÄúEveryone knows somebody with cancer, and they all take it personally. One hundred percent of the money raised goes to Dana-Farber for cancer research. We all know it‚Äôs for a good cause, and that (doctors and researchers) are making great strides. My mom is a 40-year survivor of breast cancer. When I was five or six, I had a 13-year-old cousin who died of a brain tumor, back in 1962-63.
‚ÄúWith research the way it‚Äôs been, she may have survived it, so those are the kinds of strides they‚Äôre making,‚ÄĚ he continued. ‚ÄúI had an uncle pass of colon cancer, and he was only 71 or 72. That was back in 1988, and ‚Äď given the research ‚Äď he could‚Äôve survived. My friend‚Äôs wife passed away of a brain tumor seven-eight years ago, and she left behind two children. My grandmother dies of breast cancer at 56 back in the ‚Äė40s.
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‚ÄúSome people have heart disease linked to their families; unfortunately, cancer is in mine. I could say it‚Äôs self-serving, because look at me. I don‚Äôt have it, and neither do my sister, my cousins, my nieces, but they could ‚Ä¶ I just did the Multiple Sclerosis ride (two weeks ago); we went from Hasbro in Pawtucket, stopped at Wheaton College (in Norton) and turned around and rode back to Hasbro.
‚ÄúWe did 156 miles in two days. I just do it because I know a few people with MS, and I want to help, but it‚Äô also a good training ride for the PMC. Cancer, MS and other (diseases), they‚Äôre curses that a lot of people have to go through, and I just want to help.‚ÄĚ
Johnson, a 52-year-old field service technician, will cycle the 50-mile route ‚Äď one of many PMC officials organize due to job, time and family commitments ‚Äď from Wellesley to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro on Sunday, Aug. 4 ‚Äúbecause that‚Äôs all I can afford,‚ÄĚ he noted.
It will be his third Challenge bike-a-thon.
‚ÄúThe fee to do the 192-mile, two-day to Provincetown is $4,300; that‚Äôs how much you have to pledge to take part. For the 50-mile, it‚Äôs only $1,000, and I‚Äôve already raised $950 ‚Ä¶ I married my wife, Teresa, 13 years ago, and the reason I do this is because her sister, Catherine Green, died of cancer Sept. 21, 2004. I remember that well, (as) it‚Äôs my father‚Äôs birthday.
‚ÄúCathy was only 48, and she left behind a daughter; she was only three,‚ÄĚ he continued. ‚ÄúI wanted to do this because I wanted to help people with cancer but couldn‚Äôt afford the cost of treatments. I also like riding my bike. It keeps me in shape, but ‚Äď more important ‚Äď it‚Äôs helping others.
‚ÄúCathy was the maid of honor at our wedding (Oct. 6, 2001), and she already had cancer. When I met her, she was still walking and in good shape. As it progressed, two to three months later, and because of all the radiation, the cancer spread into her bones and she couldn‚Äôt walk anymore.‚ÄĚ
When Johnson told Teresa about his idea of participating in the PMC, she squeezed him mightily. How proud was she?
‚ÄúShe was behind me 110 percent,‚ÄĚ he chuckled. ‚ÄúShe knew I could do it, maybe because I‚Äôve always been athletic, and I thought I could, too. I used to play volleyball and golf, and I did a lot of (weight) lifting workouts.‚ÄĚ
Cathy, however, isn‚Äôt the lone reason Johnson, a former outstanding sprinter for the Mansfield High track squad, continues to contribute.
‚ÄúI do it in memory of my sister-in-law, but I‚Äôve also had relatives pass away,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúMy uncle, Lewis Johnson, died of prostate cancer at about 60. My aunt, Ruth Millington, lived in Norton and passed of a cancer. My wife‚Äôs brother, Steve McDermott, had throat cancer, but he‚Äôs a survivor.‚ÄĚ
When asked how he trains to complete even his 50-mile jaunt, he explained he had biked over 150 miles over the previous three weeks.
‚ÄúMy minimum training session was 25 miles in a day, but I‚Äôve done 50 a couple of times,‚ÄĚ he stated. ‚ÄúI bike a couple of times a week, and they range from 30-50, so ‚Äď if I could get the sponsors and raise more money ‚Äď I‚Äôd do the two-day event every year.‚ÄĚ
When asked why, he immediately answered, ‚ÄúBecause I love the crowds and their enthusiasm. The camaraderie is incredible, not just from your fellow riders but everyone. I‚Äôve met so many people and become friends with them. I actually joined a (cycling) team, the Patriot Platelet Peddlers out of Foxboro; I did because I knew a couple of members, and it didn‚Äôt cost anything to join.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs all part of the PMC,‚ÄĚ he added. ‚ÄúI‚Äôm excited now as I‚Äôve ever been; it‚Äôs all about the people who ride for the cause in trying to find a cure. It think it brings more awareness to the public, especially with all of the Patriots‚Äô logos that go with it. The PMC has the Myra Kraft Initiative (New England Patriots‚Äô Owner Robert Kraft‚Äôs wife succumbed to cancer a few years ago).
‚ÄúI‚Äôm part of the Patriot Platelet Peddlers‚Äô team, and I love it.‚ÄĚ
Miller just exists to approach what he calls ‚ÄúThe Hedges.‚ÄĚ
‚ÄúYou‚Äôll be riding into Brewster, and there will be a sign that says ‚ÄėHedges, 2 Miles,‚Äô‚ÄĚ he laughs.
This comes after he‚Äôs already cycled an opening day of about 110 miles, and spent the night at Bourne‚Äôs Massachusetts Maritime Academy; some stay in dorm rooms, others choose to prop up a tent on nearby grounds.
He noted that after a full breakfast to ‚Äúfuel‚ÄĚ up for Sunday‚Äôs trek, he and pal Janet take to their bikes and begin their last trek to P-Town.
‚ÄúThere are a lot of bushes, and ‚Äď as you ride up ‚Äď a ton of kids will scrunch down behind them. When you pass, they‚Äôll run out and start screaming. It‚Äôs kind of like a weird ‚ÄėHide & Seek.‚Äô There will be 20 or 30 of them, and they come running up and cheer you on.
‚ÄúHonestly, you get so excited,‚ÄĚ he added. ‚ÄúThey really help you emotionally. You give them high-fives, and they‚Äôre so spirited! It‚Äôs a real pick-me-up. It‚Äôs such a good time. You‚Äôll have people watching you do that kind of stuff all along the way.
‚ÄúThere‚Äôs a guy in Rehoboth I‚Äôve got to know very well. He has an old-fashioned home, and I‚Äôll always yell out, ‚ÄėClean bathrooms!‚Äô Obviously, a lot of us want those. I joke with him all the time I‚Äôm going to put up a sign ‚ÄúClean bathrooms!‚Äô so a lot of folks will ask him (for usage).
‚ÄúThe thing is, he always provides water for me, and I‚Äôll stop and chat. He‚Äôs a great guy. I can‚Äôt wait to see him this year.‚ÄĚ
Miller, who already has raised about $3,400 of the $4,300 he needs, insists he‚Äôs not a biking fanatic, but just doing what he truly likes.
‚ÄúI just enjoy it, getting from Point A to Point B in one piece,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúA lot of people who do this know it‚Äôs for a great cause. I knew one guy who was overweight, he went about 225, and worked as a businessman. I talked him into doing this, and he slowly got into it.
‚ÄúAfter one year of riding, he took off 30 pounds; he had been on medications for high blood pressure, but he‚Äôs been fine for a long time. He likes to get out and do this. Now he bikes about 10,000 miles a year ‚Ä¶ You know, there are people who‚Äôll go out to a bar and order a beer, then another, and they‚Äôll get all depressed, but ‚Äď in the PMC ‚Äď you meet a lot of people. You‚Äôre all in it for the same cause. The endorphins start to fly, and you know you‚Äôre doing something constructive to help people.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs such a rush, and I always bump into someone I knew as a kid or teen. One time, I bumped into a friend of mine I do business with, and she‚Äôs from California. I see her every year, and we hug and talk for a little bit. In some ways, it‚Äôs like a reunion.‚ÄĚ
Anyone wishing to make a donation to Miller may do so by visiting www.pmc.org., or calling (800) WE-CYCLE. Checks may be made payable to PMC and sent to the same at 77 Fourth Ave., Needham, MA 02494.
Be sure to indicate the name of the cyclist you want to sponsor, as well as his or her town of residence and/or other pertinent information.