Riding Is Another Way To Save Lives
By Christopher Tremblay
Stephen Chisholm has been saving lives with his fellow Norwood firefighters for years now, but this year he decided that he wanted to help even more so he decided to hop aboard a bike and ride the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC).
The PMC is a Massachusetts-based bike-a-thon that raises more money for charity than any other single athletic fundraising event in the country. All funds are raised for the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, a world leader in adult and pediatric cancer treatment and research. One hundred percent of all rider-raised funds go directly to cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber and the Jimmy Fund. The PMC is Dana-Farber’s single largest supporter and is more than 60 percent of the Jimmy Fund’s annual revenue. Since 1980, the PMC has raised $900 million for Dana-Farber.
Not only did Chisholm want to be able to help those individuals afflicted with cancer, but he noted that cancer is the number one killer of firefighters across the nation, giving him yet another reason to ride.
“I have always been interested in helping out, but never really did anything,” Chisholm said. “I’m not much of a runner, so marathons were definitely out. I knew that there had to be something that I could get behind to do and with the PMC all I had to do was ride a bike.”
Chisholm was convinced to join fellow riders Joe Mawn, Paul Ronco, and a bunch of other firefighters on the186-mile ride from Sturbridge to Provincetown. The first- time PMC rider found out rather quickly that the event was more than just riding a bike.
“The last time that I rode was on my blue and white mountain bike when I was around 15 years old,” Chisholm said. “The training was definitely an eye opener, and the event was much more than just riding a bike. I had to get myself a 10-speed bike and then learn how to use the breaks properly while shifting the gears.”
His fellow firefighters were there for him every step of the way as he began his training and they had him getting used to riding up and down hills with the mileage racking up on each ride. Unfortunately, we happened to have somewhat of a rainy summer, which made training tougher for the first-time rider, but he was able to get through it and by the time the actual ride came during the first weekend of August, the riders found themselves with two beautiful days to support Dana Farber and the Jimmy Fund.
Despite all the help from his co-workers, Chisholm found that during his first long ride, he was not ready.
“My first long ride (31 miles) came right after I got off my shift, so I grabbed a cup of coffee and went from there,” Chisholm said. “Not having any breakfast or water, I learned quickly that these are really important. It wasn’t long before I got some cramps that took me back to my high school football days. I was severely underprepared.”
According to Chisholm, it took him another four or five rides to get used to his new bike and he really wasn’t fully comfortable with it until right before the event.
The morning of day one of the event in Sturbridge, Chisholm packed his stuff into the bus, grabbed some breakfast, and made sure he was fully stretched out before he got onto his bike for the 100 plus miles that was in front of him. There was no turning back now.
Having ridden 80 miles on Saturday, Chisholm thought to himself that he still had another 30 miles to go before he could get off the bike and relax for the evening before he had to get up and do it all again.
“The hills of Sturbridge are unforgiving,” Chisholm said. “But once you get over them, its very humbling to see all the people cheering and thanking you. It’s an eye opener and gives you the sense of having to stay on that bike no matter how tough it is going.”
As he rode through the towns on his way to Bourne, Chisholm noticed a lot of signs that made him emotional. He recalls a couple that really stood out like ‘Layla is 25 now because of you and Dana Farber and I’m here as a survivor because of you.’
“Cancer is nothing that you can ever understand,” Chisholm said. “But by doing this we can make a difference. Having cancer is worse than riding a bike for 180 miles; it’s the least that I can do.”
One of the things that deters a lot of individuals from riding is the fundraising part of the event and how they are going to be able to get donations to participate, but Chisholm didn’t find that to be a distraction whatsoever.
“I have been lucky enough to have a great group of friends and family that helped me out with the donation part,” Chisholm said. “With that, it was always in the back of my mind as I rode, it was something that kept pushing me.”
After two days of sitting atop a bike and riding for 186 miles, Chisholm was finally able to see the finish line in his sights; knowing that he was coming to the end of the event.
“Seeing the finishing line was awesome,” Chisholm said, “I was so pumped up, I began to pedal faster to get across the line, but as soon as I crossed it I realized that I had to slow down so I wouldn’t hit anyone.”
Just like that Chisholm’s first PMC ride was in the books, and depending on how his body feels, he’s hoping to do it all again next August, with the second time around being a lot easier.