Why I PMC - Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff - Lydia Bogar

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Bill Alfano

Why I PMC - Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff - Lydia Bogar

PMC guest blog by Lydia Bogar

A PMC Retrospective: Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

There is a lot of small stuff and a lot of sweat at the Pan Mass Challenge. The number of volunteers confirms that; everything from Rider Registration on Friday night to Site Beautification on Saturday night.

And it is the small stuff, the chores and the volunteers who make the BIG STUFF – raising money for Dana-Farber – come together. This is an event that is on the “Bucket List” of thousands of New Englanders. It is as traditional as “chowdah” and “The Sox.”

In my first year, I didn’t really know what I was doing but was told that showing up is half the commitment. Easy peasy. Under a tent in a parking lot at Babson College on a hot and humid summer’s eve, I checked in with volunteer registration, put on my name tag and volunteer shirt, and introduced myself to Karen. She is a force to be reckoned with, a lady about my age but with the verve of my six year old grandson. She has volunteered at the PMC for over twenty years, loves her volunteers and her riders. It has become personal for her, not a small detail.

One highlight of that Friday night, was greeting my friend Dave who had ridden in memory of my daughter the year before. The smiles and tears confirmed that I was in the right place, at the right time.

Two long rows of tables sandwich two dozen volunteers, all smiling and dressed to work. The tables behind us hold a hundred boxes of riders’ shirt packets, alphabetically ordered and ready to distribute. The tables in front of us carry socks and other gift items to add to the riders’ bags, which are now stashed under the tables. The bags are bright orange. The shirts are green, and the smiles on the riders glow in the dimming light.

The rain starts but that doesn’t slow anyone down, certainly not the riders who are thinking that they will have to ride through this rain tomorrow morning.

Every first time rider is given a cheer and the ringing of cow bells. Some are embarrassed, some are thrilled. Veteran riders recall their first cheer, whether it was last year or twenty-two years in the past. Seventy-five percent of the riders have done the PMC before. Eleven hundred riders have done the ride for at least ten years. Another not-so small detail.

Outside the tent, bikes are tagged and racked. Seat covers are orange. None of the PMC colors are small.

There are trailer trucks lined up with signage to indicate where riders should leave their luggage. Tomorrow night some will sleep in tents at Mass Maritime Academy. Others will sleep in the dorms. And a third group will sleep aboard one of the MMA ships. Only exhaustion is a requirement.

Others will not sleep in Bourne tomorrow night. They will meet their families and go home. For them, the ride ends at 82 miles. It is enough or maybe too much. Nobody will judge them, either way. Neither the effort nor the love is a small detail.

Friday dinner is a long buffet line of food donated and prepared by local bakeries and restaurants, and served by gloved volunteers. Hundreds of riders and their families, and volunteers, gather around the feast to reunite with friends from years past, and connect with new friends. Pasta, of course, but also watermelon, grapes, chips, brownies and a multitude of different cold drinks. Dozens of tubs of ice, another small detail.

The smiles and cheers carry out of the tent and into the night. Hundreds of hats, shirts, socks, signs and cow bells. And a lot of joy. Not so small, but so warm and oh so right.

The televised start on Saturday morning and the good vibes of the thousands of families across the state could never be written accurately in a Hollywood script. Whether from the Sturbridge start or Wellesley, it is pure love.

As I drive south on Saturday afternoon, I pray for the riders on this perfect summer day.

What is the pull of the PMC? The physical challenge of 82 or one hundred and eighty-eight miles? The spiritual need to raise more money to enable more researchers until successful treatments are found, and eventually a cure.

Six thousand riders. Six thousand.

Cheered and supported by over three thousand volunteers, from ages 13 to 84. Another, not so small number. If there is a word that supersedes huge, this would be the place to use it.

Are there volunteers here who do not have a dog in the fight? Are they here just to be here? Listen to the cheers and the applause, and you will know that answer.

More food. Salad, burgers, dogs, chicken, fruit, ice cream and beer. Families are not permitted here, only riders who have had a shower, been to the medical tent, grabbed a nap in the shade or stood in line for a massage. Oh baby, this is the glory road.

More cow bells and a few tears. This hurts until the adrenaline (and the beer) kicks in. Bands play on the stage as many riders stretch out on the grass with new friends, and old. Their cell phones bring the love and greetings of their children, partners and parents. Photos are taken. Photos that will appear on desktops, in cubicles, across the country on Monday morning.

Mechanical assistance for bikes and riders; water stops and thousands of cheering residents along the local roads that make New England feel like home to many, in the rain or heat or

crosswinds. None of these numbers are small. There is the power, the spirit that moves the feet, the smiles and the fundraising.

As the sun begins its descent into Buzzards Bay, the purple shirts are distributed. This is Living Proof. These are the men and women, and a small group of children, who have beaten cancer. The photograph will stay with us throughout the seasons, and call to us again next year.

We are survivors and we are proud.
For some, this is full blown remission.
For some, it is a holding place between treatments and/or surgeries.
For right here, right now, we are the gladiators whose prayers are answered.

My day here is over but I will come back, hopefully for many years to come, in memory of my father and my daughter who watch over all of the riders and the volunteers. Me, a novice volunteer, cry as I am thanked by riders for bagging trash.