Students bike to Alaska with Texas 4000
More than 80 UT Austin students biked on the Texas 4000 team from Austin to Anchorage, AL in support of cancer research this summer.
“We are a cancer-fighting organization; basically the whole point is that we cultivate the next generation of leaders and activists in the fight against cancer,” said Anjali Sethi, who plans to bike to Alaska next summer. “What a lot of people think we do is just raise money, but its so much more than that.”
Texas 4000 has three pillars that the members aim to embody: hope, knowledge and charity. Along with raising at least $ 4,500, or approximately one dollar for every mile that each rider bikes, Texas 4000 team members volunteer with local cancer fighting charities, give presentations at community and research centers and visit cancer patients in hospitals around the country.
Texas 4000 applicants begin their journey 18 months before they complete the ride. During this time they train, volunteer and get to know their teammates at meetings Monday evenings.
“Every Monday night we start off with ride dedications,” Sethi said. “We have ‘Why I Ride’ presentations- so that’s when you really get to know your teammates, and they give you even more of a reason to fight. You fight for each other, you hear their stories of what initially attracted them to Texas 4000 and then why they’re here now, today. Their stories have changed, but that initial reason is still there. Every week we have more people to ride for. “
While Texas 4000 is an immensely athletic challenge, members of the organization do not come from exclusively athletic backgrounds. In fact, some members of the 2014 team did not know how to ride a bike when then joined the organization. What the members of Texas 4000 do have in common is a motivation to make a tangible difference in the fight against cancer.
“As cliché as it sounds, Texas 4000 attracts people who truly do want to change the world,” Kevin Helgren, who completed his ride this past summer, said. “One of the alumni has told me-and this has stuck with me for so long- ‘It’s awesome to be proud of Texas 4000 and everything that it represents, but don’t ever let Texas 4000 be the biggest or best thing that you do.’ We have different stories, we want to do different things with our lives, but at the same time we’ve all been effected by cancer.”
Riders undergo a rigorous training program during the 18 months leading up to their ride. Despite having to log more than 1,500 training miles before their summer journey, Helgren insists that it’s impossible to fully prepare for the ride itself.
“You apply 18 months in advance with the idea of preparing yourself physically, mentally and emotionally for the ride, but at the end of the day, those 18 months don’t mean a thing once you get on that bike,” Helgren said. “Every single turn was unpredictable. We didn’t know if we were going to turn down a road that had construction covering the entire road or that we would make a right turn in the middle of British Columbia and see a pack of bison covering the highway. At the end of the day nothing can quite prepare you for a 70 day bike ride, which for me, made for a very exciting summer.”
Texas 4000 alumni describe the ride as a truly life changing experience. Now, in the months following the ride, Helgren reflects on the lasting impact of his Texas 4000 experience.
“My two big take-aways from Texas 4000 would be just how important vulnerability is, and how important it is to let others experience your pain, and to let others relish in your successes,” Helgren said. “And just how important it is to live every single second you’re given with complete purpose and absolute intentionality.”
Well before the ride begins, Texas 4000 members contemplate the impact this experience will have on the rest of their lives.
“When I come back I don’t want to just be like, ‘Oh, I did my part, I’m done,’” Sethi said. “I want to have that purpose to bike 100 miles every day to carry through every day in my life. I want to live every day with that resilience and that passion and that constant fight for something.”
For the team members of Texas 4000, the ride is a testament to what any person can accomplish with hard work and motivation.
“You apply thinking ‘this isn’t possible,’” Helgren said. “You start to experience Texas 4000 leading up to the ride and you think ‘this is totally possible.’ You finish the ride thinking anything is possible.”
Visit Texas 4000’s website (http://www.texas4000.org/) for more information about the organization and how you can support this years riders.