Muskokans’ support helps cyclists conquer marathon ride
Throughout a two-day bike ride in Quebec, thoughts of loved ones affected by cancer and the support of Muskokans was what pushed a pair of cyclists through the gruelling trek.
MARATHON BIKE RIDE..
Graeme Murray (top right) and Claudia Larouche (bottom) are joined by teammate Jean Labonté in the two-day Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, which took place in Quebec on the first weekend of July. Both Larouche and Murray say the support of locals and the thought of loved ones affected by cancer was what pushed them along the 230-kilometre journey between Montreal and Quebec City. (Submitted photo)
Claudia Larouche and Graeme Murray spent the first weekend of July pedalling 230 kilometres from Montreal to Quebec City as part of the 2012 Enbridge Ride to Conquer Cancer, a fundraiser for cancer research and care in Quebec.
Larouche had lost her grandmother to the disease at a young age, while Murray, a professional sledge hockey player, has had a number of teammates affected by cancer. Both also have a mutual friend — former Canadian national sledge hockey team captain Jean Labonté — who suffered an amputation because of the disease.
“We all cycled for the same goal — to fight cancer. We shared a common bond that could be felt all weekend. We didn’t even know people, and we just became friends with whoever we talked with,” said Larouche. “My sweat and stiffness is nothing when you think about it, my grandma suffered for four years. My sweat and fatigue was nothing. I thought about it while pedalling.”
Though the pair had taken on long-distance bike rides before, they had said they initially felt a bit intimidated about cycling as part of a pack of nearly 2,000 cyclists.
“I was really nervous about the ride and wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it, but one of the biggest pushes to do it came from all the Muskoka residents that supported us,” said Murray, a Gravenhurst resident. “Their support is what I needed to wake up with the sun and ride all day. I can honestly say that the people I rode for would be proud.”
Murray and Larouche cycled as part of a team called Gatineau Contre la Cancéro, a team of 46 cyclists.
“Our team was amazing, we were the only team that crossed the finish line together,” she said. “Because it is such a long day on both days, people go at their rhythms to manage energy and strength. But our team agreed on a meeting place six kilometres before the finish line so we could arrive together.”
Having lost the use of both legs at a young age when a virus attacked the nerves in his lower spine, Murray completed the marathon ride on a hand bike. A career athlete, Murray was part of the Canadian national sledge hockey team that won the country’s first gold medal in the sport during the 2006 Paralympic Winter Games.
Similarly, Larouche is also no stranger to overcoming hardships. Though she was born deaf, she went on to hold a successful sports and media career that included jobs at various news outlets.
Both Larouche and Murray had spent the weeks before the ride training on the back roads of Muskoka. Their preparation included regular rides between Muskoka Beach Road in Gravenhurst and Highway 118 in Bracebridge, on top of working out at the gym.
But even with all their training, Larouche said she still felt humbled by the sight of so many other riders all cycling for the same goal.
“It was humbling because all those people from different ranges of skills cycled, sweated and worked hard physically in memory of loved ones and everyone that died, die and battle cancer every day,” she said.
Cyclists along the way also lent moral support.
“The most common phrase on the course was ‘lâche pas’ (an expression roughly meaning ‘don’t give up’),” said Murray. “The words were like a physical push helping us along the way.”
Murray raised over $1,440 in the ride, while Larouche raised over $1,600. Collectively, their team has raised over $103,000. The event itself raised over $7 million.
Larouche and Murray thanked the Muskoka community for supporting them on their journey and for the turnout they received during their barbecue fundraiser at the Gravenhurst Beer Store on June 23.
Though this year’s Ride to Conquer Cancer is now behind them, the two cyclists said they are already planning to take on the challenge again next year. In the meantime, they say they will be continuing with their weekend rides in Muskoka. They are also thinking of making a cycling trip in the Niagara area, and also near Véloroute des Bleuets, Quebec, where Larouche’s mother lives.
Donations can still be made by visiting their individual web pages at the Ride to Conquer Cancer website at mo12.conquercancer.ca. Donors can find their pages by clicking on the donate button at the top of the main page.