Why We Ride: Mike Karlson

Life’s not always fair. We’re told that from the time we’re young. For Mike Karlson, he truly realized that when his father was diagnosed with brain cancer. In December of 2009, his father’s condition worsened while Karlson was deployed in Afghanistan as a new Army officer. Fortunately, he was able to make it home to spend a few final days with his dad.

“My Dad fought cancer. His body may have succumbed to the disease, but he beat cancer. He beat it by the way he lived,” said Karlson. “He volunteered his time at our local hospital while he was a patient going through treatments and did everything he could for my Mom. He was a loving father and mentor to my brother and me. He also maintained a great sense of humor and tried to enjoy everything that he could with the people he loved.”

Karlson has been familiar with the V Foundation’s work for some time, even pulling up Jim Valvano’s 1993 ESPYS speech on YouTube after his dad’s diagnosis. As someone who loves cycling, the Victory Ride was an easy choice for how to get involved.

“I signed up for the century ride and I know it will take more than physical ability alone to push through a North Carolina summer day,” said Karlson. “I hope to put my mind, heart and soul into that ride. And I am inspired and humbled by the fact that it will only be a fraction of the mind, heart and soul that people like Jim Valvano and my dad showed just to get through a single day.”

With an in-person Victory Ride returning on August 28 this year, Karlson is looking forward to getting out on the road, looking around and knowing everyone else on a bike is pedaling for the same purpose.

“I am looking forward to looking down at my handlebars and their grey bar tape and thinking about my Dad’s fight against brain cancer. I’m looking forward to not shutting out thoughts about that time, something I have done so often in the past, and just being present in those moments,” said Karlson. “I am sure I will enjoy the start, and I am positive I will enjoy the finish. But like cancer, one’s start-point and end-point can vary so much depending on circumstance. I think the one thing that can bind us all together as human beings is what we do in the moments in-between.”

Victory Over Cancer has many definitions and is unique to each individual. For Karlson, it’s a simple image in his mind.

“Victory Over Cancer looks like hundreds of cyclists, each with their own story, coming together for one hot day in August to ride for their own minds, hearts and souls.”

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