Well, now I guess we can call it the worst kept secret of the Pan Mass Challenge: The riders get as much – or more – out of it as anyone else.
Yeah, you read that right. 190 miles in the saddle. Sore backs, sore legs, tense arms, and sore rear ends (that all the chamois butter in the world can’t soothe). Callouses, blisters, chafing, swelling and abrasions. Some years, a flirtation with heatstroke (not 2014). Miles under a relentless sun (also not 2014). Others, a battle with torrential rain and a brush with hypothermia (Ding! Ding! Ding! That would be PMC 2014!).
But none of it matters. None of it.
Because for two days, for the small price of the above, you get to see the best – THE ABSOLUTE BEST – that humanity has to offer. I guess (though doubt) that it is possible that the people who ride in and volunteer at the PMC might be absolute jerks for the other 363 days of the year, but for those two golden days, they are: Selfless. Loving. Reflective. Caring. Friendly. Emotional. Open. Thoughtful. Committed.
And it doesn’t stop with those who are directly affiliated with the PMC. All along the 190 mile route, there are people who come out to support the riders.
At 6 AM.
Through late afternoon.
With cowbells, kazoos, bullhorns, Gatorade, water, bubbles, costumes, bagpipes, percussion bands, food, lollipops, twizzlers, pompoms, music, signs and words of support. And Thanks. So, so many thanks.
I saw people standing in the pouring – AND I MEAN POURING – rain along some roads on Day 1 just to point out potholes to riders so they could avoid them. And in the last miles of the Day 1 route – when the going had gotten tough, and in many ways, stayed tough, for miles and miles and miles, what did I see? A man, standing in the pouring rain – no hat, no umbrella – saluting the riders as they passed. Just standing there, rain pouring over him, with a perpetual salute. I didn’t pedal that last stretch to mile 110 on Saturday. No. I floated those last few miles, on air and a limitless supply of tears.
So that is the real secret of the Pan Mass Challenge. For the price of some discomfort, you are given the opportunity to live in a loving, caring supportive world for two days. To see what life is truly like when people come together for a common cause and forget about themselves for a little while. Such a small, small price to pay for such an amazing experience.
It’s no wonder that riders and volunteers come back. Year after year.
It’s no wonder that almost every picture from the PMC shows a rider or volunteer with a smile on their face.
Between the 5500+ riders, the 3000+ volunteers and then the countless supporters along the route, you realize two very important – and uplifting – things that stick with you long after the muscles have recovered, the wounds have healed, and the soreness is a distant memory.
One: There is still a lot of love and caring in this world. There is still so much good that people have – and want – to offer, even though we can’t always see it.
Two: we’re all in this together.
It might take time – it will take time – but with commitment like this?
Cancer Doesn’t Stand a Chance.