The air was slightly muggy at Columbus Commons as 6,722 bike riders made their way toward the starting line at about 6:40 a.m. Saturday.
Pelotonia, Ohio State’s three-day bike tour for cancer research, kicked off its fifth annual tour with an opening ceremony Friday before riders began their routes Saturday morning.
Because of insufficient government funding of cancer research, cancer survivor Tom Lennox and OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center director Mike Caligiuri rode 163 miles across Cape Cod, Mass., in 2008 to benefit the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. The adventure inspired Lennox to join Pelotonia, which then had its first race in 2009, according to Pelotonia’s website.
More than 11,100 riders raised more than $53 million in Pelotonia’s first four years, and funding from partners such as Nationwide Insurance and Limited Brands has ensured that all money raised goes directly to research. This year saw more than $11.2 million raised.
As the race began, the question of the day seemed to be not why, but who people were riding for as some riders rode for loved ones.
“I’m riding for my dad, who’s a cancer survivor, for my best friend, who lost her 12-year-old daughter in March and for my boys, so they never have to know what cancer is,” Deanna Jones of Columbus said.
Race day morning brought riders in to embark on journeys of varying lengths. Riders chose from 25, 50, 75, 100, 155 and 180-mile routes through northeast Ohio, with each route assigned different fundraising goals.
Riders could choose to sign up in groups of five or more, called Pelotons, to pool their funds. This year 248 Pelotons registered, including Team Huntington and Team Buckeye.
Some riders have a strong sense of purpose behind their miles, no matter the distance.
“I’m riding for my grandmother,” said Paige Leathers of Akron of her 25-mile endeavor. She said her grandmother died in 2006.
Kelly Harrmann of Gambier took on the two-day, 180-mile trek for her mother, who died of cancer seven years ago.
Harrmann said she chose Pelotonia as her way of helping fight cancer because she enjoys riding.