Cycle for the Cause cyclist Marcus Woollen contributed this post about his motivation and training to do a very important charity bike ride, Cycle for the Cause. There’s nothing quite like completing a challenging bike ride for a cause you truly care about, so read on to be inspired by our Guest Author.
From September 21-23, I will join hundreds of other cyclists traveling from Boston to New York City with Cycle for the Cause, the Northeast HIV/AIDS bike ride. We will ride for three days and 275 miles, all to raise crucial funds and awareness that support the New York City’s LGBT Community Center’s HIV prevention and support services. Since it began in 1995, the Ride has raised over $12 million for this cause. Thanks to this and the awareness it creates, The Center is able to reach thousands of people each year — including, starting back in 2003, my husband Jesse and me.
Shortly after our 10th anniversary together, Jesse was diagnosed with AIDS. He had virtually no immune system, and while he was in the hospital I was told to be prepared — it was likely he would not survive. After a few weeks, however, he began to get better, and was finally able to come home. With no health insurance, no ability to work and no idea what to do, he went to The Center.
The Center connected Jesse with immediate medical care, social workers to help navigate the world of temporary disability and Medicaid, a nutritionist, and counseling for people newly diagnosed with HIV. I was HIV negative, and they found me a support group for negative partners. The Center truly is a hub that helped connect us to whatever we needed, when we needed it. And there was never any charge for any of The Center’s services.
So, when I first found out about Cycle for the Cause in 2011, I jumped at the opportunity to participate. It was a perfect fit for me, as a cyclist and someone affected by HIV: I could spend three challenging days on the road to support the organization that had helped Jesse and me through our most challenging days.
My preparation for the Ride largely involves working training into my everyday life. I bike commute into Manhattan fairly often — it’s only six miles each way from my home in Queens, but there’s a nice hill, so that helps me keep a base level of endurance for most of the year (admittedly, if it’s below 20º or the roads are icy, I’ll skip it). I also compete in triathlons during the warm months, so I have additional training to support my commuting rides. And then, usually about four to eight weeks before the Ride, I try to do two bike rides of at least 100 miles as well. Once Cycle for the Cause begins … I just keep pedaling. I’ve told my donors that as long as I’m able, I’ll cycle every mile, and so far I’ve been lucky enough to not have any injury or mechanical problems that have prevented me from doing so.
It’s been 15 years since then; Jesse’s virus is now undetectable in his blood, and he’s healthier than ever. I remain HIV negative. In the years since, I’ve had too many other friends receive the same diagnosis, and we’ve always referred them to The Center, where they all received the same personal attention and care that we had. We do the Ride because, as long as HIV/AIDS is still with us, we want to make sure that the same expert care from The Center is available to anyone who needs it.