The PMC ride

In 2011, the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge will team up with WCVB-TV Channel 5, Boston’s top rated news station as its media partner. Coverage will begin early in the summer on “NewsCenter 5” as well as on the station’s website, In addition, a special edition of “Chronicle” will air on Friday, August 5, the eve of this year’s Pan-Mass Challenge.

“Our partnership with WCVB will create the opportunity to bring our cause to more people, grow our ridership and our donor base and ultimately raise more money for cancer research and treatment at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its Jimmy Fund,” said PMC Founder and Executive Director Billy Starr.

The Pan-Mass Challenge, which is set for August 6 & 7, 2011, is the most successful athletic fundraising event in the nation. It raises two to three times more money for charity than any other and it contributes 100 percent of every rider-dollar raised directly to the cause. Since 1980, the PMC has raised and contributed $303 million to Dana-Farber.

“We will be proud to bring the stories of those who ride and raise money for cancer research to the public and increase exposure for the event,” said WCVB President and General Manager Bill Fine. As part of its sponsorship, the station will air an hour-long PMC kickoff show on Aug. 5.

The new sponsorship replaces a longtime relationship between the PMC and NECN. “NECN was a tremendous help in increasing public awareness about the PMC and we are grateful for their 12 years of support,” Starr said.


Sometimes it is important to just sit back and think about what life is all about. If anything, riding in the PMC gives you that opportunity over the course of three days (and more if you take into consideration the letter writing campaigns and conversations). PMC 2009 did not let down in that area.

Phil’s Phriends 2009 was made up of 15 riders with 15 stories.  But among the individual efforts was one goal — the eradication of cancer.  As Jeff Nutting indicated in an e-mail to the team, there is a feeling of synergy on this team.  And as he noted, “We ride to try and make a difference and we ride for hope.”

Here are some of the things that stand out in my mind from the 2009 ride:

Meeting up with the team in Sturbridge and then riding together is key.  Julie phrased it best saying:  “These last four years have really taught me the meaning of the word team. I can’t stress enough how important you all are to me, laughing on the road, waiting for each other at the water stops, sitting together for our meals. I am always blown away by what a team can accomplish — there is no way I could ever pull this off alone.” 

Of course, in our sophisticated discourse, we learned and shared a lot of new phrases along the way.  Among them were: “More cowbell”; “Dropping the kiddies off at the pool”; “pain is temporary”; “Don’t draft me”.  They’re all colorful new additions to our vocabulary.

Seeing Phil’s wife Mary, their two children, and our other phriends and phamily at the Franklin water stop is a special moment.  We are reminded of our loss, but we see their growth and strength.  Brian will be playing football next year, and like his Dad, I’m sure he’ll be the most liked player on the turf.  Kelsey is going into 5th grade and has blossomed into a beautiful young girl.  And Mary continues to keep the MHS students on the right path.

The ride down Cherry Street is always memorable.  The street was colorful as ever, and the energy that is emitted by the people there makes the 27 mile ride to the lunch stop seem easier.  It was also a nice touch seeing that the band on the street has moved into acoustic rock.  I did miss not seeing Jean dressed up in her clown costume.  She was ill on the morning of the ride and couldn’t be out there, but we were thinking of her.  All of her signs made it out to the side of the road, however.

And speaking of signs, a lot of great people put messages out there for us along the way.  Some hold signs while others post them on their lawns or mailboxes.  Whereever they are, it’s nice to know that people are thinking of the ride and take the time to make the pathway brighter for everyone.

Meeting up with our pedal partner Emily and her family was rejuvinating.  We were about 85 miles into the ride and exhausted when we saw Emily in a Phil’s Phriends shirt with a bright smile and matching straw hat.  She was surrounded be her family in orange.  Michelle summed it up nicely noting that our being fortunate enough to get to know the Taylor family has been huge.  We look forward to staying in touch and watching as Emily continues to thrive and crank through her treatments.  We received a heartwarming note from Emily’s Mom at the end of the ride:

WOW… We are so very proud !! You guys are our ultimate inspiration. Tears are welling as I type. Please give a huge hug to everyone for us. Em felt like a princess yesterday… We love you all and feel like we’ve know you for years. Thank you for all you do….team emily oxox

Watching Ethan grow as a rider and participate with the team was encouraging.  As his Mom wrote:

I can NOT tell you how much it meant to me that my Phriends accepted Ethan, a 13-year old, into the fold of our team.  I was so nervous, writing that first email back in March, asking if Ethan could tag along on our Sunday team ride.  I really wasn’t sure if I’d be dragging the team down, or changing the dynamic, or breaking an unspoken team rule by adding my kid to the mix.  He’d never ridden before, wasn’t used to riding such a skinny, light bike, and was probably as nervous about the whole thing as I was.  This is a kid that has been taken under the collective wing of Phil’s Phriends. 

The isolation on the roads on the Sunday morning ride from Bourne to Wellesley was different from our experiences in the past along the Cape route.  Those gaps were filled in nicely by our teammates.  And when we did catch up with pockets of people along the way, the parrot squeezes were in full force.

The one downside of the weekendwas meeting up with the doctor (I’ll affectionately refer to him as the “order-giver”) on Sunday morning.  We were riding a nice paceline led by Michelle when we were approached by a 3-pack of riders led by one obnoxious order giver who was riding in the caboose position.  They proceed to pass us, pulled in front of Michelle, and then slowed down.  Of course we were perplexed and Michelle maneuvered into a re-pass, and got out in front of the group.  The hoots and hollars from the order-giver resonated.  With Michelle in front, the 3-pack slinked in to a paceline to draft off of Michelle.  I, being next in line, proceeded to nuzzle up to the back tire of the order-giver and enjoy the draft.

Within seconds, the order-giver turns around to tell me not to draft.  “I don’t like people near me,” he barked.  I couldn’t help but wonder what he was doing on a group ride with 5,000 others if he didn’t want people near him.  It turns out that Denise had a similar experience when she attempted to “draft” the order-giver.

As luck would have it, the order-giver turned out to be the same obnoxious person who turned us off during the opening ceremonies with his comments about smoking and obesity. 

Despite that one downer, it was a great weekend.  And we were even able to turn that event into a laughable story.  As Neil Young sang:  “Don’t let it bring you down, it’s only castles burning.  Just find someone whose turning, and you will come around.”

Kris’s note from Sunday night was a touching conclusion, and good way to wrap it up:

I also wanted to say I am so proud of all of you. This weekend has two meanings for me and the first being for Phil.  He and Mary became part of our life back in 1990 with their friendship and then the ugly cancer piece.  Becoming part of Phil’s Phriends had a huge impact on Bob and his desire to help erase cancer and the personal goal to get in shape.

The second part for me is the anniversary of Bob’s death.  It is ironic that he passsed away during PMC time.  He was so happy doing the PMC and that always gives me great comfort.  The weekend is a struggle of happy and sad emotions but I cannot imagine not spending the weekend with anyone else than Phil’s Phriends and famly.

I am so proud of all of you for riding hard and doing good for the world of cancer!!! 

PMC 2009 was another memorable weekend and I thank everyone for being a part of this effort and touching my life.  Billy Starr said it best when he wrote that a “unified force of people made whole by the belief in a single mission has the ability to improve the human condition.”

Here is the 2009 Phil’s Phriends team at the starting line in Sturbridge. This photo was taken at approximately 5:10 a.m. (which accounts for the tired look on our faces). At this point, we were facing the prospect of 110 miles to Bourne.

I’m happy to report that we all made it safe and sound, and did our part to raise funds for the fight against cancer. You can see more of our adventures on Flickr by clicking here .

The Pan-Massachusetts Challenge (PMC) raised a record-breaking $35 million for adult and pediatric cancer research and care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute through its August cycling event, which is $2 million more than it raised last year.

The $35 million gift, announced by the organization tonight, is more than twice the amount ever raised for a charity by an athletic fundraising event in the country. It is the single largest contribution made to the Jimmy Fund, representing almost 50 percent of the charity’s annual revenue.

“That the PMC exceeded its fundraising goal in this very troubled economy is a tribute to PMCers’ commitment to raising money for cancer research and care,” said Billy Starr, PMC founder and executive director. “It also shows that the importance of public and corporate funding for cancer research is widely understood.”

The check was presented to Dana-Farber President Edward J. Benz, Jr., MD at a ceremony attended by 500 PMC cyclists and volunteers. The contribution represents 100 percent of every rider-raised dollar, a charity pass-through rate that is nearly unparalleled within the $1.64 billion athletic fundraising event industry. Since its 1980 inception, the PMC has raised and contributed more than $239 million to the Jimmy Fund. “The money the PMC raises is critical to our mission to eradicate cancer,” says Dr. Benz. “It enables us to invest in major new patient care and research initiatives that could otherwise go unfunded.”

In 2008, the PMC attracted 5,232 cycling fundraisers, about 300 more than last year. Riders came to Massachusetts from 36 states and eight countries. Each cyclist was required to raise between $1,300 and $4,000 to participate, depending on the chosen route. More than 90 percent of PMCers raised more money than they were required to, according to Starr. “Almost one-third of the pack raised twice as much, which is a testament to the PMC’s fundraising culture,” Starr said.

Founded in 1980 when 36 cyclists rode across Massachusetts and raised $10,200 for the Jimmy Fund, the PMC is known today as the “gold standard” of athletic fundraising events, due to the unprecedented sums it raises and its consistently efficient charity pass-through rate.

The PMC was among the very first athletic fundraising events in the nation and it was a pioneer in the way it focused on raising money for charity. While a handful of walks and rides were held to raise awareness about a cause, the PMC put fundraising first and continues to do so. Registrants must back their applications with credit cards to ensure their contribution commitments are met, whether they ride or not. The fundraising minimum increases considerably each year, yet the ride’s most sought-after routes “sell out” by the first week in February, just weeks after registration opens.

Click in the picture below to watch our photo album from the 2007 Pan Mass Challenge ride. 

Two years ago at the finish line in Bourne, NECN caught up with me to talk about the look on my face. If a picture paints a thousand words, I know my face that year captured a novella. You’ll see one happy man on that video who made a vow to keep riding until we find a cure.

As I crossed the line that day, many things passed through my mind, particularly the horrible cramping I experienced on my first year’s ride in 2003. But it was the thought of all the names on my shirt, and their suffering, that got me through and back on the bike for a second year. I figured the pain I experienced for a few hours that day paled in comparison to what they experienced with cancer. When I crossed the line pain free on my second ride, I was beaming, and I knew the additional training had paid off.

As I get ready for my 5th ride, I think back to how I first got involved with the PMC; I think of Phil telling me he’d be there with us; I think of Herby joining the team this year as living proof that cancer can be beat; I think of Rob’s post-chemo party on July 22 and his talk about the “gifts” of family and friends he has received since his diagnosis; and I think of all the new friends I have made along this journey. We have a ways to go with this disease, but just as we do when climbing hills, we have to just put our heads down and forge ahead.

Being a part of Phil’s Phriends has been a great experience for me. I have seen firsthand how a small group of dedicated people can make a difference in the world.

It was fitting that we ran into Mary during our training ride yesterday; she continues to be inspiring. I feel as strong as I ever have in five years and I know it’s because I’m standing on the shoulders of giants.

I’m looking forward to a great ride with all of you!

One of our team members put together an oustanding slide show of the 2006 ride from Sturbudge to Provincetown. You can view the slideshow by clicking either the picture or here.