Going the Distance

By Abigail Lennon

Most people need not look far to find someone they know or love who has been touched by cancer.

Whether those loved ones are in a fight for their life, have beaten the diagnosis again and again or have lost the battle, everyone has a story to tell. Cancer does not care about age, color, gender or ethnicity. In Georgia alone, cancer is the second-leading cause of death, and 1 in 5 deaths are related to cancer.

Would you go 25 miles to find a cure for cancer? What about 45 miles, or even 100? On May 29-30, the community will have a chance to do just that at the second annual Paceline Ride.

Paceline is a new nonprofit that is striving to set a new pace for support of cancer research. Its mission is clear: to find a cure for cancer faster, together.

In its first year, Paceline proudly raised a cool $250,000. This year, it has its sights set on reaching $500,000, with every penny benefiting cancer research at the Georgia Cancer Center, located right here in Augusta. 

“It aims to be a year-round movement of community organizations all working together toward one common goal, which is to cure cancer faster,” said Paceline President Martyn Jones.

“Paceline” is a biking term that means “a formation in which riders travel in a line, one close behind the other, in order to conserve energy by riding in the draft of the riders in front, thus enabling the group to travel at a faster rate than any of the riders in the group could do alone.”

May’s Paceline Ride is the culmination of yearlong fundraising efforts by teams comprised of corporate businesses, family and friends. The unique team environment is at the very heart of Paceline’s mission.

“It takes a village. It really is a community effort to combat the disease,” Jones said, adding that nearly 40 teams have been working since September 2019 to raise funds to benefit cancer research. And all of their hard work will culminate in May.

The Paceline Ride will begin at the Summerville Campus at Augusta University. Bikers will travel 25 miles to Harlem High School. From there, riders will have the option to complete the 45-mile ride into Thomson in McDuffie County. From there, bikers will have the option to travel another 55-mile loop through the McDuffie County countryside, to complete a total of 100 miles.

The ride is a unique, fully supported bike ride, not competitive, and is intended for participation, not athleticism. Riders will enjoy police escorts along all bike routes, volunteers cheering on the sidelines and rest stops stocked with food, drinks and even sunscreen, Jones said, calling it “Georgia’s ride to end cancer.”

“We have these stops intended for rest and recuperation,” he said. “It’s broken down to make it as easy as possible, to encourage people to finish, in the spirit of togetherness and the cause.”

The mileage can be intimidating, but Jones said the ride is doable even for those who do not consider themselves athletic or physically fit. And no fancy biking equipment is needed.

“There are plenty of really good sources of used bikes out there for very little money,” he said. “You don’t have to invest in a fancy bike — you can borrow a bike, you can hire a bike. If you have a bike already, great; just make sure that it’s safe to ride, that it’s road-worthy, and you are good to go.”

No matter your motivation, Paceline has something for everyone, and its mission brings myriad benefits to the community, beyond even its primary focus of funding cancer research.

The event is gaining steam and growing in popularity, with some riders expected to travel from as far away as Mississippi, Pennsylvania, New York and beyond. Not only attracting tourists, Paceline will also be promoting the communities.

“It’s in that spirit of bringing communities and organizations around this common goal, to find a cure faster for cancer together,” Jones said. “It’s a great showcase of some of Georgia’s finest countryside. We are working with the mayors of each of those towns to ensure that everyone who takes part has a real experience in Harlem and Thomson.”

Jones believes that if Paceline meets its goal this year, the event will arguably be Augusta’s biggest-scale event of its type, in terms of nonprofits.

And while Paceline pulls ahead of the pack, it is determined to stand out from other nonprofits doing great work in the community. A point of pride for Paceline, Jones said, is the fact that every penny goes to benefit the Georgia Cancer Center directly. And the impact is potentially global.

“One hundred percent of all funds raised — every cent, every dollar — from Paceline stays in our community, in our state,” Jones said. “Any potential cures or breakthroughs in research at our Georgia Cancer Center have much further-reaching benefits. If they find a breakthrough in immunology, that could benefit people far and wide, even globally. That’s happening right here on our doorstep, and we are proud to support that.”

The event is open to the entire community. “It’s not being about an athlete, it’s not about being fit: It’s about coming together around this cause,” Jones said.

Donors who want to get involved with Paceline can register as a volunteer, a rider or a virtual rider. Visit www.pacelineride.org to learn how to get involved.

Photos courtesy of Paceline

Appears in the April 2020 issue of Augusta Magazine.

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