Kansas City Man Will Ride Over 500 Miles To Help The Fight To End HIV/AIDS

marc harrell bike photo.jpg

While most of us do yard work or sit by the pool this weekend, Marc Harrell and his friends will be pushing their bodies to the limit cycling from San Francisco to Los Angeles as part of AIDS/LifeCycle. In case you don’t have a map in front of you…that is 545 miles! I can barely make it through the trails at Shawnee Mission Park before collapsing with exhaustion.  I’ve watched Marc, my friend and coworker at Steel City Media, plan, train, and host fundraisers for this huge undertaking for months. I, on the other hand, have never had the stamina to run a marathon or ride a bike across an entire state and I wanted to know more about why this experience was on his bucket list.  

Teresa: Why THIS event?

Marc: When I lived in Los Angeles back in 1999, I had a friend who worked with me who told me all about this event she was doing...a bike ride from SF to LA, called AIDS Ride.  I thought it sounded awesome and since then, it was always my goal to do this event, however, at that time, I wasn't even riding.  Then when I started cycling seriously about 7 years ago, it was my immediate goal to do this ride.  Now keep in mind, I was going about 8 miles per day. LOL. But a good friend said to me, "Why don't you start out with a smaller ride, say the MS ride, and then build your way up."  So that's what  I did.  My first year of riding, I completed my first MS ride and rode a  total of 175 miles.  Since then, I've done Kansas City's MS ride every year,  as well as Dallas' MS ride a total of 3 times and New York's MS ride once.

Teresa: How long have you trained?

Marc: Not as long as I wish I have.  Winters are brutal here and I'm a  fair-weather rider.  I probably started doing spin classes in February.  Then got out on the road in March/April.  I flew down to Dallas in May and completed 165-mile ride, but it's flat there.  I did go to SF and do Day on the Ride, which is a training ride that simulates what a day on the ALC route will be like.  That one was brutal.  There were some terrible climbs and hills.  At this point, could I have trained more?  Sure, but you just  have to jump out there and do it.

Teresa: Do you feel prepared?

Marc: As much as I can be at this point.  I think it's more of a mental challenge now.  My body can handle it.  You can actually train your body into shape on these long rides.  Several people have told me that it's harder to do one and two-day rides than it is to do 5 or 7-day rides.

Teresa: Are you nervous about the terrain, especially the hills in San Francisco?

Marc:  I am nervous.  Coming out of SF on Day 1, there is the largest elevation gain of 4700.  Day 3 is called "Quad buster." It has the 2nd biggest elevation gain of 4500 ft.  Day 4 has two big hills called "Evil Twins" that you must climb.  I don't think it will be easy.  When I went out to the Day on the Ride, instead of shipping my bike, I rented one.  I rode it to my hotel which was on top of Nob Hill.  I did ride it straight up and was impressed with that effort.

Teresa: What do you think will be your biggest challenge?

Marc: I think my biggest challenge will honestly be seeing how my body takes  everything.  I have done multiple day rides and 2-day events, but never 7 
days.  I was born with both of my feet clubbed.  My left one corrected itself but my right one had to be surgically corrected.  In doing that process, there was more damage that came from how they corrected. Since then, I have always had severe pain walking and standing.  I wear braces and after rides, I'm extremely sore.  So, I am worried about how my ankles will hold up.  It is much better than running (which I cannot do), but I still think this will be a big challenge.

Teresa: What are you looking forward to the most?

Marc: When I think about crossing the finish line, it brings tears to my eyes.  Just to finish this ride and have family and friends in Los Angeles, as we come into the finish line, just makes me smile.  Not to mention, we finish in LA during Pride.  I used to live in LA and LA's Pride is one of my favorite Prides in the country, so I'm excited to celebrate finishing, who I am as a person, where LGBT people have come from and all of the work that's left to do.  It's going to be overwhelming.

Teresa: Each night you stop and camp along the route. How do you feel about sleeping in a tent?

Marc: Most people do camp out in a tent each night.  I will not be!  First of all, I am not a camper.  Second, I cannot imagine sleeping in a tent after being on a bike for 100+ miles.  I need a bed and a real shower.  People swear by the comradery of the camp sites, so I do plan on enjoying the festivities (food, entertainment, etc.) but then go to a hotel room and getting a good night's rest.  We stop in some small towns and if you knew some of the chain hotels, then you would think I'm roughing it already.  The good news about not camping is that I don't have to pack the items that you need to camp out.  When you camp, you must find a tent mate or get one randomly selected, so that would not be good with me.  What if they snore bad?  Plus, my partner Ken was not super excited about me staying in a camp site with 2000 people…including a large number of hot gay men.  😊

Teresa: Will you have family or friends following you and supporting you each night when you stop to camp?

Marc:  I have family and friends coming at the end.  Most rides don't want  people following you on the road because it can be dangerous.  They do have hundreds of volunteers, or Roadies as they call them, that go along the route to fully support the ride.  There will be people taking your bags to each 
stop, volunteers to man the rest stops that are every 10 to 15 miles, support vehicles that ride along for any accidents or mechanical issues,  etc.  We will be well taken care of.

Teresa: How can people follow your journey and help?

Marc: People can support me by sending good vibes, checking into my FB page to  check my progress and most importantly, donating to my page.  All the  money goes to research to end AIDS.  We are on the brink of some major progress but people are still dying, and we need to support all the money  that we can to take care of these individuals and stop this disease.

The Aids/LifeCycle consists of over 3,000 riders and volunteers from all over the United States…all walks of life. Men, women, gay, straight, young, old… with one common goal…to raise money and awareness for the fight against HIV/AIDS.

You can still donate to Marc’s fundraising page, www.tofighthiv.org/goto/MarcHarrell and follow along with his extraordinary 7 day journey on social media:

Instagram: MarcandKen

Facebook: Marc Harrell

Teresa Maxwell