Two-hundred-and-twenty-seven kilometres is a long way to bike in two days, but a few current and former Hay Riverites – along with about 1,800 other people – did just that August 9 and 10 to support cancer research.
“Doing this sort of thing really changes you,” said Wally Schumann, who got involved when his brother-in-law and former Hay River resident Ken Jacobson asked him to participate. “One of the most awe-inspiring things was seeing people go to the end … one lady did the whole race with a broken leg.”
In all, the approximate 1,800 riders raised $7.6 million to fund cancer research and care in Alberta. Hay River’s Bonnie Caruthers also participated. Schumann said the effort will help Northerners in a roundabout way as many head south for treatment for the disease.
“It all comes right back to us,” he said. “We all go down there at some point.”
Schumann said he participated for a number of reasons, not least to help achieve his own personal fitness goals. Cycling 112 km the first day and 115 the second demanded training and discipline, though he did note that it took him about seven hours each day.
“There were all kinds of bikers there,” he explained. “Some, like Kenny, have been doing it for years and finished in four hours both days. Others were doing it as training for triathlons and stuff, and they finished in three. Then there were a lot of people like me, taking a bit longer.”
The main reason Schumann signed up was in memory of those he has lost to cancer and support of the people he knows currently battling it. He had a sticker made for his bike with the photos of some of those people and said that’s what kept him going when he wanted to quit.
“It affects so many people,” he said. “You have to do something.”
This year was Schumann’s first Enbridge race, but the fifth for Jacobson. He said this was the biggest race he had seen yet.
“It was great to see so many people out riding,” he said. “Sometimes you’re shy to keep asking the same people for money year after year, but then you think about what it’s for and you get over it.”
He said one of the best things about funding the Alberta Cancer Society is the localized care they can deliver by divvying up the money to worthy community programs and centres helping people on the ground.
“In the end, it’s all for a good cause,” he said. “It’s an important issue that really touches everyone.”