Goal of Pan Mass Challenge Hits Home for Local Cyclists

Published in the July 25, 2007 issue of Stow Independent

By Jordana Bieze Foster


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Ruth Kennedy Sudduth loved riding with her husband Andy on a tandem bicycle. On August 4th, just over one year after Andy lost his battle with pancreatic cancer at the age of 44, Ruth will honor his memory by riding in the Pan Mass Challenge on a bicycle built for just one. But she won't be alone.

Almost 5000 bicyclists, including four others from Stow, will also undertake the two-day, 192-mile ride from Sturbridge to Provincetown that aims to raise $27 million for cancer research and treatment at the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston via the Jimmy Fund. Some Stow riders – Sudduth, Craig Fifield and Jeffrey Kimmelman – will be taking on the challenge for the first time. Others have been planning their summer schedules around the event for 10 years or more. All agree that the physical challenge of the event is matched by the significance of its objective.

“I think we have the easiest job. We just keep pedaling forward,” said Henry Fisher, who lost his uncle, Jack Zipperman, to leukemia in March. “It's all these other people with cancer who are really going through pain and suffering.”

Fisher, who will be riding in his 10th PMC, and Chris Spear, whose first PMC was in 1989, are longtime cyclists who have appreciated the opportunity to combine their favorite athletic activity with a worthy cause. Although event organizers and participants emphasize that it is not a race, Spear takes some pride in having been the first person to cross the finish line on the second day for the past three years—almost as much pride as he has in the $130,000 he's raised in the last two decades. Spear and other riders also underscore the fact that, thanks to sponsors and an army of volunteers, 99 cents of every dollar raised by PMC riders goes directly to the Jimmy Fund.

Not only has the event grown by tenfold since Spear's first ride, his reasons for participating have also intensified. In 1995, he lost his father, grandmother, uncle and cousin, all to cancer.

“It brings it a lot closer,” Spear said. “Even if people start off just riding for the fun of it, it's probably very rare today that you find someone who hasn't lost a loved one to cancer.”

PMC rookie Fifield will be riding to honor his girlfriend Corina Marshall, a breast cancer survivor, his uncle Dick Fifield, a survivor of prostate and lung cancer, and close friend Mark Klauk, who remained dedicated to his job as a clinical social worker in Stow until just before his death from colon cancer in October. Another lifelong cyclist, Fifield is looking forward to testing the limits of his endurance.

“The most I've ever ridden is 80 miles, so it'll be interesting to see what doing 100 is like,” Fifield said. “But one of the great things about riding with a whole bunch of other people is that you get a good draft. I never get a draft when I ride by myself.”

Ruth Sudduth, although active in masters swimming as well as running and skiing, does not consider herself a cyclist. It was Andy, a two-time Olympian in rowing and five-time winner of the Head of the Charles in single sculling, who had embraced road biking for its similarities to rowing in terms of requiring endurance and power. It was Andy who helped Ruth buy a bike. And it was Andy, diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in September of 2005, who had hoped to ride in the 2006 PMC as a way to repay Dana-Farber for the quality of care he had received there.

“Dana Farber is amazing. People really just went out of their way to make sure he was comfortable,” said Ruth Sudduth, who married Andy in January. The two had known each other since both competed on the junior national rowing team, but only started dating in 2004.

Andy Sudduth's brother, Matt, rode in his place in the 2006 PMC and will ride again this year.

“I think he would get a kick out of the whole thing,” Ruth Sudduth said. “I think he'd be pleased that people who cared about him would be supporting Dana Farber. It was really important to him.”

For more information about the PMC or to make a donation, visit www.pmc.org. To donate on behalf of a particular rider, search for his or her profile by name or enter his or her eGiftID number.

Copyright 2008 Jordana Foster – 24 Kirkland Dr, Stow, MA – Email: – Fax: (815) 346-5239