June 15, 2015 / By Mark Beal
Annually, I set several personal fitness goals: run a half-marathon, complete a triathlon and cycle 100 miles in a single day, although I’ve yet to accomplish that one. All of these goals, however, are selfish. They are all about one person: me. In May, my wife came across a story about the inaugural Great Cycle Challenge USA.
The challenge was simple: cycle as many miles as you possibly can in June while raising awareness and funds to fight children’s cancer. This was a test of fitness right up my alley: I could challenge my strength and endurance while helping others. I could also pay tribute to one of my heroes, my 11-year-old nephew, Thomas Saacks, who battled and defeated cancer two years ago.
I registered with no intention of proactively soliciting donations. I simply set out to donate $500 to earn the official cycling jersey and commit to riding 500 miles throughout June. All of that changed, however, at the end of May, when I announced on my Twitter, Facebook and Instagram pages that I would be participating in this event. Immediately, the responses to my posts arrived in the form of donations and well wishes. Right before my eyes, the sharing of my participation in the Great Cycle Challenge USA resulted in friends and family taking action and advocating for the cause – helping find a cure for children’s cancer.
With that, I used every milestone moment to continue telling my story. From my first ride on June 1st in the pouring rain, to my 100-mile first weekend, to my longest ride of 70-miles, I continued to share my experience with my followers and the response has been overwhelming. To date, they have donated more than $1,500 on my behalf to support the cause while also posting, tweeting and encouraging their friends and followers to join the movement. The social media support arrived in many other forms as well. A friend, training buddy and top photographer reached out to me and asked if I would pose in my cycling gear for a studio session as a way to amplify the movement. My favorite running store, SnB Running, not only made a donation, but gave me a free entry for a local running race. They knew I couldn’t live on cycling alone for a month.
To date, I have cycled 292 miles towards my goal of 500 miles in the month. With so much support, however, and donations totaling $1,535 and counting, I now have my sights set on 600 miles before July 1st. More importantly, I am part of a larger cause and effort. I am one of 11,000 cyclists across the nation participating in the Great Cycle Challenge US. As a group, we cycled more than 400,000 miles and raised more than $1 million with two weeks still remaining in the campaign. When you combine the social media influence and power of 11,000 cyclists biking for the same cause, you mobilize a movement. A movement such as this one is much more impactful and engaging than a single individual running, cycling or swimming for their own personal achievement.
While I continue to set my sights on cycling 600 miles to fight children’s cancer, I am already eagerly looking ahead to the next fitness challenge. In the future, I can join forces with others across the nation or around the world and utilize my social media platforms for a greater cause.