Hopkins 4K for Cancer

The mission of Hopkins 4K for Cancer is to unite communities across the country in the fight against cancer by spreading awareness, raising funds, and fostering hope.


June 10, 2007

by Shantha Parameswaran
Today we woke up at 4:30am to heavy metal blasting in the aerobics room in the Bloomington/Normal YMCA. It took me 20 minutes to have the energy to even say a word—the longest that my “morning silences” have required thus far. I remembered to write the thank you note after seeing the note I left for myself on my hand the night before. Afterwards, we packed the vans, ate cold pizza and pork BBQ with a few pb & j English muffins, and were ready to count off. This morning I dedicated my ride to my friend’s dad who was battling cancer. I think of him every morning and dedicate my ride to him silently, but this morning I finally vocalized it aloud. We entered the regular routine of inflating our tires, applying sunscreen, and working out the kinks with directions before I left with my pre-assigned group: Becca, Eric, Devin, and Jared. I was a little worried because we had to go 102 miles today and our hosts at the Illinois College in Jacksonville, IL were expecting our arrival between 3-4pm—much earlier than all of our previous hosts. The morning was pretty chilly and I felt like I was wearing a scuba suit when I put on my leg warmers over my spandex. We set out and at a pace of 13mph later, we made it to the first water stop. It was a nice break, and all the groups were there for a snack and to fill up on water. Unfortunately, the first day of the trip I jumped into the shower with my cell phone still in my jersey pocket. I have been functioning without a cell phone for basically the entire trip which basically left me clueless as to the time, date, or day of the week. I have become pretty good at telling time based on the position and length of our shadows on the road. Anyways, I’d say we left the first water stop at around 8ish and headed for our second water stop. Here’s where our already physically challenging day became filled with even more obstacles. Arun and Jen were a little lost and apparently had chalked the wrong road. They were waiting for us by the Harley Davidson while all we saw for miles were cornfields. Alice had to backtrack and bring us whatever food and water that was left in her van, which wasn’t very much. I had collapsed on the ground and enjoyed the few bites of powerbars that Devin and Drew so graciously put into my mouth for me. I was too exhausted already from the morning’s ride with cyclists who accustomed to traveling much faster than I do usually. I slapped on some sunscreen and tried to rest for a few extra minutes as my group started to get antsy. Anyways, before I knew it we were back on the road again and I assumed the “defeated biker” position with the drooping head staring directly at my front wheel. Here’s when the physical battle now became a mental one. This was by far my worst day—even worse than the Appalachian Mountains. My mind started to wander and I began to think of my friend back at Hopkins. I thought about his dad and how he told me the night before I left that the doctors said his father only had a few weeks to live. Since I was without a phone for the last two and a half weeks, I had no way of calling my friend or getting his number. I wondered if his father was still alive and realized that this was probably one of the most depressing thoughts that I had ever pondered. I wondered if there was funeral and who came to it. Before I knew it, another 20 or 30 miles had rolled by as I stared at the gray pavement and we were ready for a lunch stop. Unfortunately, Arun was still miles away, so we picked a spot in a park and waited. I sat on the swing and tried to preserve whatever energy I had left by not speaking or moving. I tried stretching a bit because my legs were so sore and my knees were beginning to hurt. Alice, Nicole, and Christine came to our rescue with a few DQ cheeseburger, pb & j bagels, and fat-free, sugar-free, low calorie ice cream popsicles. We joked about how it took more calories to physically eat the bar than the 60 calories that we would absorb from metabolizing the smartie/chalk tasting orange-vanilla bars. After waiting at the lunch stop for almost an hour, all of us were basically seething and very frustrated in our state of starvation and desertion. Then, Arun and Jen finally arrived and unloaded bags of food donated from McDonald’s, which I inhaled and later regretted because I was tasting McDonald’s for the rest of the day. With no time to digest, we were back on the road again. It started to rain and my knees began to really hurt as I drooped my head and thought of my friend’s dad again. I’ve never had to battle anything like cancer before and neither has any member of my family. I wondered what it must feel like and how heavy of a burden that must be. To be honest, I really have no concept of what it must be like. I hoped that I would be blessed with a life where that would remain the same, but I was pretty sure that wouldn’t be the case. Anyways, a few miles and later through a little rain we made it to another rest stop. I put icy hot on my knees and laid down in the wet grass like a soldier wounded in battle. It felt like 5 minutes later I was awakened to group members ready to take off again. I can’t remember much of biking those next 13 or 17 miles. But I do remember the surprise waiting at mile 90—a chocolate/vanilla frosty from Wendy’s for each of us! We crumbled some generic Oreo cookies in the frosty and enjoyed a delicious desert in the lawn of some very generous motorcyclists. They were intrigued with our mission and journey, and brought out chairs for us to sit down and rest for a while. We took a bunch of pictures with them—hopefully one makes it to the website—and then began our 13 mile trek to Illinois College. I was so glad to be at the back of the caravan (with no vans) since my body had been in overdrive the whole day. We were pacelining at 21mph at one point and then hit the base of a hill and kicked it up to 25mph! My little body was not used to more than 17-18mph, and I was pumping to keep up the entire day. Anyways, I gladly took the caboose with Olympia, and tried to enjoy the last few miles with cornfields on either side (though not really a new sight). We rolled into Illinois College a little later than expected, but was greeted by applause and camera flashes. I felt like such a celebrity! The reception was so incredible and nothing like we had experienced before—free t-shirts, bottled water, fresh fruit, and energy bars. We took a group picture on the stairs of one of the buildings that appeared in the local Jacksonville paper the next day. Soon afterwards we unloaded our belongings and got the keys to our rooms. We were all pretty stoked about the mattresses we were going to sleep on that night, but when we saw pillow I thought that I had to be dreaming! We had a incredible dinner—I ate a salad for the first time in 3 weeks—at the dining hall that they specially made for us. It was amazing. Then I showered and called it a night at 7:30pm as did a few others. It was quite a day.