It’s Not About When You Finish, It’s How You Finish

“I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.” ―John D. Rockefeller

Meet Bradley and his mom, Kim. At 21 years of age, Bradley is an avid cyclist and has clocked more than 5,000 miles on his latest road bike, which he bought just last year. Surprisingly, the 2018 Victory Ride was his first ever organized ride.

I met Bradley at mile 37 of the 60-mile route on May 19. He was slowed by an old ankle injury that was flaring up and decided it would be best to catch a ride with me and sweep the rest of the way to the finish line. As he turned to secure his bike on the rack-mount on the minivan, a lump formed in my throat; he had carefully pinned a “SURVIVOR” bib just below his rider bib on the back of his jersey.

When he was a freshman in high school―just weeks after turning 15―Bradley was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Only 7% of cases are diagnosed in boys and adolescents, putting him in a very small group. But with the support of a great team of doctors at Duke Cancer Institute and multiple rounds of aggressive chemo, Bradley is on the other side of his diagnosis. And these days, he wears his survivor status proudly.

After pulling back out onto the route, we followed his mom, Kim closely, as she powered through the cold, driving rain―mile after mile―determined to see every inch of the Victory Ride route. From the comfort of the dry minivan with heated seats, we swapped stories of road cycling, bike parts, families, school, work, and everything in between. He told me that he’s the more serious cyclist of the two, but that his mom was so strong and would finish the ride, no matter how long it took, or how cold, wet or tired she was. It was clear how proud he was of her. Incredibly clear, too, that she was a mother on a mission.

It’s true what they say: teamwork makes the dream work.

Just before we pulled into the next rest stop to wait for Kim, we noticed another cyclist along the route who was carrying his bike and running in bare feet. As soon as we started asking around to other Victory Ride volunteers and staff members, we realized this guy had a fire burning inside him, too. His bike had broken down just outside the last rest stop, but he wanted to finish every last mile of the Victory Ride. His jersey said it all: the names of four loved ones he was riding (now running) for, and Jim Valvano’s famous words, “Don’t Give Up . . . Don’t Ever Give Up!”®

As Patrick, the barefoot cyclist/runner, hustled into the rest stop, everyone asked what he needed. “If there’s a bike mechanic here, I could use some help fixing my chain.” Overhearing that, Bradley walked over to Patrick and asked if he could take a look. He had a few select tools on him that day, and knew his way around a chain, crank and derailleurs.

After 15 minutes, with hands blackened from the grease and dirt of the chain, both Bradley and Patrick stood up. Although they didn’t have all the tools necessary to fix the bike on the route, Patrick was so grateful for a fellow rider stepping in to help him in his time of need. They shook hands and were getting ready to part ways.

But as Patrick was asking a sweep vehicle to transport his bike to the finish line so that he could finish the last 8.4 miles on foot, Bradley stepped up again. “Do you want to ride my bike the rest of the way?” he generously asked. “I’m not using it and I know you want to finish your 100 miles today.”

After a quick assessment of pedals, clips, cleats, shoes and the saddle―and a promise to meet up at the finish line―Patrick hopped on Bradley’s bike and rode out of the rest stop, waving excitedly.

As Bradley and I climbed back in the car, I asked him if he was really alright with loaning out his bike to someone he doesn’t know. “What I really love about cycling is the community. We’re both here on a mission today, and I had an opportunity to help him get to the finish line. I’m mostly worried that he’ll think the noise my crank makes is his fault!”

Rounding the last corner of NC State University’s Centennial Campus, Bradley marveled, “This event is incredible. I enjoyed every mile I put on my bike today. And I already know I’ll be back next year. I need to finish this, too.”

We look forward to cheering you across the finish line in 2019, Bradley.

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