COLUMBUS (WCMH) — Last year, Jim Coleman was amongst the group of cyclists at the Pelotonia starting line, and it was far from the first time.
“[I’ve] been cycling most of my life and when Pelotonia came out, I started in the very first year,” he said. “I’m a member of the “dirty dozen” – this’ll be my twelth consecutive ride, so I’ve ridden every single year.”
Over the last few weeks, Coleman has been worried he would have to wait another year for that special twelth ride with COVID-19 changing everything.
“All of a sudden, ride after ride was being canceled, and we all had hope that something would come of it, but we weren’t sure exactly what it was going to be,” he said.
On Tuesday, May 19, the Pelotonia community got its answer as CEO Doug Ulman posted a video on YouTube announcing the group’s plans and saying, “Pelotonia is not canceled. We will never cancel Pelotonia. Instead, we are adjusting course.”
That new plan is actually something the group has been considering for a while, and was hoping to put into place for the 2021 ride. Instead, the coronavirus sped up the timeline a bit to this year.
“This was a challenging decision to not have the traditional Pelotonia weekend,” Ulman said. “But I can tell you we make all the decisions through the lens of what’s the best decision of our community. And that community cancer patients and survivors whose immune systems are compromised. We’re launching a new platform called My Pelotonia. It will allow people to go to a new website on June 2 and literally put their fundraising goal and their activity goals. So I may choose to ride 100 miles from Columbus to Cincinnati, someone may choose to run 20 miles, another person may choose to ride their bike with their kids 10 miles.”
Yes, you read that right: it’s not just about cycling this year. Any activity that can bring purpose to someone’s life is fair game for fundraising.
“I was on a call today when people were talking about running, they were talking about their kids doing something, there is somebody who is making masks and that’s how she’s raising money for Pelotonia – so everybody is taking something they’re passionate about a goal that maybe they’ve never ever looked at or a goal they’ve always wanted to try and they’re going to put it into action this year for Pelotonia,” said Coleman. “It’s all about effort and passion this year. So, there was somebody today whose daughter is going to do 10 burpees a day starting June 2 to August 7. And that’s amazing! I couldn’t do that!”
“We’ve always wanted to sort of democratize Pelotonia: bring in more people into the community,” Ulman added. “We have eliminated the registration fee this year. And we’ve eliminated the need to commit to a certain level of fundraising. So if you want to raise $100, $200, $500, we are just so humbled and honored to have that support.”
Ulman said it’s all about making the event personal: participants can select their activity, select their fundraising capabilities, and even also do everything on their own time. This was important for Pelotonia organizers as there is one group that has always been very involved, that right now especially doesn’t have a lot of extra time on their hands.
“It also includes hundreds and hundreds of first responders: police, EMS, physicians, nurses, who are really needed to execute the traditional ride weekend,” Ulman said. “We didn’t want to distract that group of people in any way given that their focus is on, frankly, keeping all of us safe right now.”
Coleman said he and his friends have already planned their specific ride for this year. In the past, he and his fellow Pelotonians had always had their friend, Terry Fasbold, take pictures of them after their 25-mile ride to Pickerington. Afterward, they would always hug. A few years ago, the moment took on a special meaning.
“Three or four years ago [Terry’s] son was diagnosed with cancer. Two years ago, he was cleared and we met him there and all jumped off our bikes and jumped in and gave him the biggest hug. Last year he rode and this year he’s riding with his newborn daughter Hudson. So me and my team and my friends, we’re recreating the hug at Pickerington 25-mile mark and then we’ll turn around and go home or go our way and figure out what the rest of our rides will look like,” Coleman explained. “The big thing we need to understand is cancer is not canceled.”
The My Pelotonia site launches on June 2. On Aug. 7, what would’ve been the Pelotonia opening ceremonies, there will be a live broadcast to bring the community together featuring entertainment, inspiration, and of course an update on the fundraising and cancer research that’s being supported through the event.