Imagine taking a long-distance bicycling trip, through winding roads, with a group of supportive friends, surrounded by beautiful landscapes and stunning views. The American Lung Association Treks allow for just this, but make no mistake, it's an endurance sport that lasts several hours or even days. It's physically challenging but it's also an inspirational experience that builds a sense of community and lasting bonds.
As an endurance sport, cycling and lung disease may not seem like a natural fit, but for our growing, nationwide Trekker community, it's a match made in heaven.
You may find it even more surprising to learn that many participants are in fact currently battling different lung diseases—from asthma and COPD to lung cancer. One rider in Maine, Brett Hoskins, rode in the Trek Across Maine last year just 21 months after a bi-lateral lung transplant. Another, Eric Bergeson, has been riding the Cycle the Seacoast Trek in New Hampshire since 2010, following a lobectomy of his upper right lobe and has continued to ride or volunteer almost every year since, despite a 2014 diagnosis of Stage 4 metastatic lung cancer.
You may ask, "Why?" Why would people who struggle to breathe sign up to push themselves to bike 25, 100, or up to 180 miles?
In the words of Bergeson, "I fell in love with the Trek on my first ride, and I won't let lung cancer beat me. It's easy to feel down when I think about my health challenges, but when I'm there, cheering people on, or on my bike in a crowd of other people with lung diseases, I only feel strong, and brave, and positive about what we can accomplish together."
Sherry Price, a 16-year veteran of the Clear Air Challenge in Alaska and captain of team Pedal to the Medal, says even her asthma can't keep her from her annual Trek participation. She says, "The Trek is a rolling party! Every year I pound the pavement raising as much money as I can to help American Lung Association help others with lung problems. I ride in memory of both my parents, my husband's mother and sister, and several other family and friends that have had lung health problems. I was born with asthma, so it's been a battle my whole life—but riding is my passion, and I will keep on putting the ‘pedal to the medal' to help others with lung problems."
The Treks are often not easy, but according to our most practiced and passionate riders, it is always worth it. Simply, the Trek events symbolize what is possible with healthy air and a community of supporters. Trekkers become family who bond over shared struggles and accomplishments, and come back year after year to check in on team members.
"Everyone has their own reason to ride. Some do it to support research, to memorialize a loved one, or to support the fight against air pollution, and some do it just to prove they can," says George Eastman, 20-year Trekker and Lung Association volunteer. "The truth is, by the time each trekker crosses the finish line, they leave with a million new reasons to come back, new friends to fight for, and a sense of community that stretches much further than the ride itself. After 19 years I still get choked up crossing the finish line knowing that I have accomplished this amazing event once again, made a difference in the fight against lung cancer and lung disease, and that my wife, a 19-year volunteer, is there supporting me."
Trek veteran Doug Haskins did his first Autumn Escape Bike Trek in 1994, and has been participating ever since, making 2019 his 26th ride. Over the years, his team, named Team Mohawk, has grown to include his daughter, community members and even strangers. While he started without a connection to lung disease, he says, "Lung disease has now hit most of the team in one way or another—and it's nice to have this family to go to that understands the challenges lung disease presents. The Trek has not only given us this great group of friends, but it empowers us to fight for each other in this unique and meaningful way."
Since the Lung Association began its first Trek event in Alaska in 1984, it's grown to 9 events in 2019 spanning Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, West Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Oregon, Washington, and it continues in Alaska. In 2018 alone, these events have raised over $3.1 million for lung disease research and have connected thousands of cyclers. What began as a simple bicycle event has grown into a nationwide movement that has changed the game for lung health everywhere.
The best part about the Trek? Anyone can do it.
"Our treks welcome people of all ages and abilities—and we've had riders as young as seven years old join us," said Jeff Seyler, Chief Division Officer of the American Lung Association. "They've morphed from just a bike ride into a community that has a deep understanding of the importance of every breath each of us take. You can come show up feeling heavy with grief, or in celebration of a second chance at life—and on the route, we all carry each other. It's not a race, it's an experience."
The American Lung Association's Trek season kicks off this year on May 5, 2019 at the 10th Annual Cycle the Seacoast through New Hampshire, which offers riders stunning spring views of the northeast with 25, 50 or 100-mile route options. Trek events are scheduled throughout the spring and fall for 2019, and registration is now open. Check out the comprehensive list below and stay tuned for EACH Breath blog posts on training tips and rider recaps!
5/5/2019 Cycle the Seacoast, Portsmouth, New Hampshire
5/11/2019 Clean Air Challenge, Talkeetna, Alaska
5/16/2019 Greenbrier River Trail Bike Trek, Marlinton, West Virginia
5/18/2019 Reach The Beach, Oregon
6/7/2019 Fight For Air Ride, Crystal Lake, Illinois
6/14/2019 Trek Across Maine, Brunswick, Maine
9/27/2019 Autumn Escape Bike Trek, Cape Cod, Massachusetts
9/28/2019 Reach The Beach, Westport, Washington
Blog last updated: April 13, 2020