Doing what we can with what we have

28 08 2011

2010 IHC cinci 006The Iron Horse Challenge is so much an effort to do more than Hope; it may be an extension of hope. I certainly have hoped to make it a galvanizing event for the ALS and cycling community.   I also hoped that the IHC would grow to be a way of sharing the amazing beauty of Ohio’s Rails to Trails and our state’s native and agrarian diversity. Most of all I think I wanted the ride to be a celebration of unity and activism that might bring comfort to those that suffer from ALS – a chance for them to feel that there are those out there that care and are willing to go a bit further to support them in the War for a Cure.  So in that way, its an extention of the hopes that I have.  Its a way to turn that hope into action.

My family has each mourned my mom’s passing in their own way and each of us tries to honor the legacy she has given us.  My nature is to fight.  It’s to do something, move, act, confront.  When I connected with the online community and began developing relationships with others who were fighting this disease or who were themselves at War with the ALS inside them, my commitment to the fight kept growing.  It kept rebirthing my determination,  putting the struggle for action and awareness in the foreground; it just keeps growing.  There was no way I could let ALS keep destroying so many lives or let their voices be lost.  I just couldn’t back away from doing something.  Its the breathing of this that fuels the Iron Horse Challenge.

It was a major thing for the war on Cancer to have Lance Armstrong step up and joint with OSU’s medical center and bring the fight to Ohio with Pelatonia.  I was proud to know Ben Anderson, a once fellow assistant manager, employee, and Stauf’s Coffee Roasters anchor – who was doing his part.  He was working on his MBA at OSU and got in on the early stages of the development of Pelatonia and brought his years of pro/semi-pro cycling and his insiders track of being a pro-mechanic for Jelly Belly’s pro-cycling team to bear on the foundation of the event.  He helped build the bones for Pelatonia and helped me to appreciate how much work, money, and effort it takes to build something that could really capture the public’s imagination.  Now having just finished its 3rd year, Pelatonia is huge, with 2000+ riders and Columbus is littered with green arrows promoting the event.  I know so many riders who are doing this and it’s the buzz of the cycling community.  In many ways it has transformed the cycling community in Columbus and given it a new visibility; though not without eclipsing a few things in the process.

I think it was Tsururadio’s Super Awesome No-Frills Bike ride for Breast Cancer that really opened my eyes on charity cycling events.  No swag, no support just go out and ride, meet passionate cyclists, have fun, raise money 100% of which goes to charity.  No infrastructure, no bureaucracy, no politics.  It was the action that anyone could take and it could happen anywhere.  It was passionate, simple, local.  It was accessable to anyone: no excuses.  Act.  Do.  It didn’t involve months of fundraising, or depend on thousands of dollars in advertising, it didn’t get TV or news spots (though it should have), yet its motives were the same: Fight Cancer.

I guess I saw the advantages of both.  The public power of events like Pelatonia and the private and intimate ability to get out and ‘do-it’ that smaller venues managed to pull off.  The former comes with the potency of saying you were part of something massive and its public and powerful, creating a confidence that you ‘made a difference’ and an impact.  Yet its limited as well.  It lacks the grass-roots confidence that allows people to assemble in a parking lot and share stories about why they are there and who its for and why.  It creates such a whirlpool of media and fundraising that it brings with it the fear of “donor fatigue” – the concept that the broader public feels “they already gave” and they don’t have the interest or resources to give again.  Its one of the ‘political’ problems that put one charity ‘against’ another; even when the fight for the same thing – whether that be a cure for cancer, or a cure for ALS.

All of thes complicated considerations and comparisions is one of the reasons that so many events don’t gain the ground or recognition they deserve.  I think also the lack of ‘voice’ in both the larger and the smaller ‘get-er-done’ events, means that the ones that support (ride, donate, volunteer) don’t get the thanks they deserve and the meaning gets lost.  My friend Ed, running crew for the IHC, reminded me of how important acts of recognition are.  We were at Ha Ha pizza in Yellow Springs OH, at the finish of the Iron Horse Challenge Dayton ride, when he raised his glass and made a toast in tribute to my mom and to all the people who were at the table.  Its things like that.  It makes a difference.

Its another reason why the Tri State Trek is so amazing to me: it’s the balance of the massive action, the community, AND its about the transparency of the why, the what, and the who.

tri state trek 2010 sgt. patrone(Members of Team Claire and  Officer Sgt.Roger Petrone)

So I guess I’ve always wanted the Iron Horse Challenge to be somewhere between the TST and the shorter-more grassroots, intimate and local.  Not because I don’t want to make a larger impact – I would frankly love it if we could blow the whole thing up and have an army of organizers, support crew, volunteers, and an army of passionate riders.  I know it would mean taking on a role like Mat Mendel and maybe getting a chance every 4 years or so when you have a crew so amazing that you actually can get out and ride.

tst2011 020 (Matt Mendel featured center, surrounded by the army of TST riders atop John St. Hill)

At its most basic, knowing and having experienced what I have, The Iron Horse Challenge (even going on its 5th year) is still in its infancy.  This is mostly due to a significant lack of media/press (even though I do manage every once in a while to make it into a local paper or get a small plug in the Columbus Dispatch) and then also the failing of its founder – me – to get socially aggressive and find a way to appeal to the broader cycling community.  What it all comes down to is you do with what you have and if you can, finding in yourself to do more.

Seeing that I’m a ‘do-er’ I do manage to see and appreciate those that do the same.

A great example is the Marc Levison 5K Run/Walk to Fight Lou Gehrig’s Disease in Bexley, OH.  I stumbled across this event one day when I was out with my girl friend at the time Audra. We were in the Bexley area, trying to catch a movie at the local Drexel movie theater, when we dropped into the COSI sandwich shop and I stumbled upon the poster.

I had never heard of Marc Levison or of the run/walk and quite honestly it had been since high school since I had even participated in a 5K.  I’m a cyclist, not a runner, so I thought “Sure, why not?”.

Now my dad on the other hand runs and has run for his own mental/physical therapy for years and I figured we could do this together.  3 miles is nothing to my dad and it was a chance to poke ALS in the face, so one cold Sept. morning, he and I joined up and ran for the cause.

I managed to do the unexpected: I ran 7ish minute miles, came in before my dad, and second in my age, 27th overall out of a few hundred.  I even walked away with a medal – kinda surreal.  It was this event that convinced me that I might be able to actually do a triathlon and I really wanted to do more than the Spin-a-thon for Jon Blais; I wanted to honor this amazing man by an act that would be a kind of communion with him.

So next weekend in Bexley the run is happening again and I hope with any luck to run it again with my father.  With it being only a week away, I wanted to make another post to specifically publish the dates and get them out to any potential runners who might want to do this event.  Its again, about just doing what you can with what you have; but its another front in the WarOnALS and a chance to prove and celebrate how the memory of one man can inspire a legion of voices that says: we love you and won’t forget you.

Consider running if you in the area and contact me if you want to do it together.

Sunday, September 4th, 2011  8:30am


The Marc Levison Run/Walk for Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS) will raise money to be used toward researching a cure for ALS. Please consider supporting this Event. The money raised will help ALS research taking place at Columbus Children’s Research Institute.
Race day registration and packet pick-up begin at 7:30 am, at the Jeffrey Mansion, 165 N. Parkview Avenue, Bexley.

Entry fee is $25 through September 1st, and $30 after. Official event t-shirts will be included for the first 300 participants.!/event.php?eid=217902064926519

(this is published right from the facebook page so any further questions can be directed to Jennifer Brodsky who is hosting this.




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