The Ohio State University Alumni Association

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Pelotonia riders say they are moved by the connections they make with one another and with supporters along the route each year.

Jo McCulty

Riding for one purpose

Whether they ride for a few hours or over the course of two days, Pelotonia riders attest to the emotional power of the event.

Now a decade old, Pelotonia is well-known for its ties to bikes and fundraising for innovative cancer research. Yet the event has become so identifiable because much more emanates from the philanthropic riders taking to the roads of Ohio each summer.

For participants and volunteers, Pelotonia provides a palpable sense of connection. That community feeling often is expressed to Doug Ulman, a three-time cancer survivor who led the worldwide cancer advocacy nonprofit LIVESTRONG for 14 years before joining Pelotonia as president and CEO in 2014.

“I think from the outside, for people who haven’t participated, Pelotonia seems like a cycling event,” Ulman says. “But when you participate, you realize it’s an emotional experience. When you have a combination of a cause like cancer, which impacts all of us, and then you introduce a fairly simple way for people to be connected to one another while doing something good for the world — that is what is special about Pelotonia.

“The bike happens to be sort of the medium. Cancer research is the cause. But the human connection is the lasting piece of this that I think people have really felt.”

That feeling will bloom again at Pelotonia’s 10th anniversary ride Aug. 3–5, with 100 percent of the money raised going to The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute.

Cancer researcher Morgan Schrock ’12 DVM, ’17 PhD felt the collective connection the two times she rode in Pelotonia as part of Team Buckeye, the huge riding group — or superpeloton — composed of Ohio State students, faculty, staff and alumni.

“It really took my breath away, when I was doing the ride, to hear people say, ‘You saved my brother. You saved my sister or wife or daughter,’” Schrock says.

Those sentiments provided her with perspective in the laboratory while conducting cancer research as an Ohio State doctoral student backed by a Pelotonia-funded fellowship.

“You don’t always understand how important your work is until you get out there and meet patients,” says Schrock, now a researcher with The James’ Department of Radiation Oncology. “When you ride in Pelotonia, you meet all these people at once. You meet them along the side of the road. It’s so empowering, so motivating.”

This year, Schrock will ride in Pelotonia with a more personal perspective. This spring, her 4-year-old daughter, Emery, was diagnosed with leukemia. She’s in remission now, and her mother has extra motivation to get on the bike.

“I’m ready at this point to make something good come out of this,” Schrock says. “So many people have reached out and want to help. If I can take that energy and do some awesome fundraising for Pelotonia, that will be great.”

The energy of goodwill that Remy Powell ’18 experienced when he rode as a teenager in the inaugural Pelotonia in 2008 prompted six more years of participation and a path of study.

“I knew I wanted to go into medicine, and I think my experience with Pelotonia is really what convinced me to pursue cancer research when I got to Ohio State,” says Powell, who was a Pelotonia Undergraduate Fellow in 2016.

Such an emotional connection has been the heart of Pelotonia, giving hope that together, someday we’ll cure cancer.

Join the greatest team ever

Learn more about riding in or supporting Pelotonia — set this year for Aug. 3–5 between Columbus and Gambier.