The world’s longest charity bike ride made its way through the Border City this week in a cross-country fight against cancer. The Texas 4000 sees dozens of students from the University of Texas travel one of three routes from Austin, Texas to Anchorage, Alaska each year.
The journey, more than 4,000 miles long (about 6596 km), divides 83 cyclists among three different routes. The Ozarks route brings these intrepid individuals through Lloydminster by way of Winnipeg, via Saskatoon and North Battleford. It’s the route with the most miles, compared to the Sierra by way of the west coast and the Rockies via the Rocky Mountains.
Each rider is dedicated to the trip on a mission to fundraise for cancer research and support services. Months of training is involved with a base fundraising of $4,500 USD. Each person joins the route for their own reason. Amrit Gonugunta, equipment and gear chair for the route, rides for one of the organization’s three pillars; hope, charity and knowledge.
“The one that resonates with me the most is knowledge,” says Gonugunta. “I come from a background where education is emphasized, and my parents always encouraged me to focus on my education, because education is opportunity.”
Gonugunta saw the impacts of medical research has on patients during a research experience. He’s observed the implications of studies and how medical knowledge transforms the way a physician treats their patient. Unconventional sources of knowledge, such as memoirs and the experiences of others, also inspire his ride.
Gonugunta sees the book When Breath Becomes Air by Dr. Paul Kalanithi as the embodiment of a person’s journey through cancer. The posthumously-published memoir by Dr. Kalinithi recounts his experience as a doctor and a patient battling stage IV metastatic lung cancer.
Perhaps the most apparent part of his bike route is the generosity of strangers. Gonugunta says that many approach him and his team to share their stories and donate to the cause. The trip is a journey he says highlights cancer’s prevalence throughout our world.
“I think this ride, and the cancer experience is something we’ll all take with us wherever we go.”
The riders will soon make their way to Edmonton, before driving to Dawson Creek to catch up to teams on different routes. Anyone who would like to support them can give them money if they catch the team on the road, or by visiting Texas 4000’s website.