I have an ambivalent relationship to charity rides and races. I’ve done them – you can check out my posts about my craziest charity challenge ever, the Scope London-to-Paris 24-Hour ride I did in 2013 – and have enjoyed the riding/racing part, but I find the fundraising really tough. I like to give my time and effort to causes I believe in, and because I’m lucky to have a well-paid, salaried job I happily donate money every month to charities that represent my core community values (the Daily Bread food bank and Humane Society in Toronto; Women’s Community House in London, Ontario). But asking friends for money, over and over? Organising events to raise money, usually inviting the same friends to attend? Huge respect for people who do this well, but I find it really hard.
So this year I did not sign up for the One Run charity ride, a spin event at a local gym here in London that supports the amazing annual breast cancer fundraiser powered by survivor Theresa Carriere. One Run is a superb event that funnels the money it raises mindfully into three causes: a patient assistance fund, a research and tumour biobank, and an awareness/education program, all in London, Ontario. (For those from away: London is a university town with internationally known clinical and research facilities, part of Western University and the London Health Sciences network.) Theresa, meanwhile, is a total inspiration: HER part of One Run, in addition to marshalling her numerous volunteers and managing many, many fundraising events, is to run 100km in one day, from London to Sarnia, Ontario (on the Michigan border) as part of the charity’s marquee event. You can take part in loads of One Run’s great fundraisers simply by contributing a donation fee (please check out all of its awesomeness here; if you don’t live in Ontario note that you can also donate on the web), but stuff like the 100km group ride encourages participants to fundraise too. So even though I’ve enjoyed riding this event in the past, this year I balked. Too much on my plate right now to think about asking friends for cash.
Then I had a series of really bad days. An accident at home, the result of anxiety-fuelled sleepwalking; a car accident (nobody was hurt, thankfully!) on a major highway far from home. I posted some stuff to Facebook, trying to keep it light but alerting friends to what I was going through. (See here for my post about reaching out – I believe in asking for help from loved ones when, or ideally before, you need it.) And then I got a message from my friend and spin guru extraordinaire Michelle Kerr.
There was a spare bike for the ride, the next day; did I want to come out for some sweat-it-out love with her, and my other gym/spin gurus extraordinaire Lore Wainwright and Rachel Skinner?
I was planning on heading out on the road with Sam and our club, the London Centennial Wheelers, for my first ever Saturday Tour, but suddenly I felt the overwhelming need to be in the hot-house studio with my longtime friends and more than 50 other cycling buddies. So I jumped on Michelle’s spare bike, and I was not disappointed.
The amazing thing about the simulated 100km ride event (like all One Run events I’ve attended) is the atmosphere: it’s a vivacious, hilarious, supportive community that welcomes all comers, all body shapes and sizes, all levels of experience. In the back, a “team” of friends in matching kit road their own road bikes on their trainers. In the middle, loads of us on the many extra spin bikes brought in for the event wore everything from T-shirts, shorts and runners to full-on cycling gear. Some sported pink feather boas and other festive attire. A mass of volunteers refilled our water bottles and offered fruit and granola bars for fuel at regular intervals. Every 45 minutes or so we slowed, rode easy, snacked, and waited for another prize draw. (I won a waterproof iPhone case – hooray!) We whooped and shouted and cheered each other through tough drills, as some of our favourite spin instructors took the stage in teams to guide us through. Michelle made her usual mix of corny jokes and inspirational cat-calls; Rachel kicked everyone’s ass; Lore talked us through a tough endurance drill; and Theresa rode us home.
It might seem kind of weird, for regular readers of this blog who know me as the girl who likes to ride major distances and up killer hills (see here if you’re interested), to imagine me inside, in a windowless gym warehouse, on a sunny Saturday morning when I could have been out with the club. But I’m one of those cyclists who loves all forms of riding, because what gets me most worked up about the sport is the incredible, supportive community of men AND women it attracts. Yes, there are gendered differences we are still working through: there are more women than men on stationary spinners at the gym, and more men than women on road bikes, helping to propel the sport’s “Mamil” culture. But events like the One Run 100km ride remind me that we are all strong, and all capable of being loving, accepting, and supportive toward each other: after all, it takes all kinds to make a sporting community.
There might not have been sun, but this year’s One Run ride was exactly what I needed. Thanks, Michelle.