How would you travel from Manhattan to Niagara Falls? Fly? Maybe drive? Plainview’s Steve Mars will go via bicycle, spinning his wheels for charity for seven straight days from July 31 through Aug. 6—an average of 74 miles per day, rain or shine.
Mars will be a proud member of the 2016 Empire State Ride (ESR) to end cancer. The fundraiser benefits Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, often referred to as the Memorial Sloan Kettering of upstate New York. The group, about 75 strong, is raising awareness and funds for the facility’s cutting edge cancer research. More information can be found at www.empirestateride.com/the-cause.
Well past his initial fundraising goal of $3,500, Mars has been blown away by the overall outpouring of support that’s extended beyond financial.
“I’ve received such kind and encouraging messages from people, some I haven’t spoken to in more than 10 years,” he said. “And I’m so grateful to all those who’ve donated to this important cause.”
Currently at $4,760, Mars is now aiming to surpass $5,000 before he kicks off from Manhattan’s Upper West Side.
In addition to packing safety and hydrating gear, memories of Mars’ mom will be tucked inside his heart as he makes his way north then west. His mother Estelle succumbed to metastatic breast cancer in 2008, the same year Mars was fortunate to detect, treat and overcome his own cancer: Stage 1 non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Missing barely a week of work during his treatment, Mars chose to scooter down 67th Street to his daily radiation appointments. He toted his daughter’s Razor in a backpack for four weeks. It was “all downhill from the subway and a lot faster than walking.”
Mars’ love of cycling is rooted on Long Island where he was introduced to the Greenbelt Trail. He and his cycling buddy are frequent riders from Haypath Road to the Massapequa Preserve. Mars’ mountain bike was made for the “off-road riding,” but when it came time to train for the ESR, it was time to switch gears and hop on a road bike.
With winter slowing them down on the trails and six months to train, Mars decided to join a gym that offered spin classes. Starting serious training in February, he revved up the room at Dynamixx Fitness in Old Bethpage to build his stamina. As soon as the ground thawed, he was pedaling outdoors—often from his front door to Tobay Beach or north to the water in Caumsett State Park to “get in some hills.” By May, he was riding 40-50 miles at average speeds of 17 mph, all recorded on his Strava app. Training total so far: 50-plus hours at spin class and about 1,500 miles logged on the road.
In June, Mars completed a 100-mile ride in the Hudson Valley area, a pre-challenge to tackle elevation and distance. He crossed the finish line in just over six hours, noting, “It was definitely an emotional ending. Now I can only imagine how I will feel after the 540 miles in August.”
In the second best physical shape of his 55 years—he was on the Brooklyn College wrestling team in 1979—Mars feels ready to roll. “I’m looking forward to being motivated by the other dedicated riders—and to motivating them as well,” he said.
He assumes some days will be more difficult than others; just like the hills and valleys people face when battling cancer.
To view Mars’ personal Empire State Ride page, visit www.bit.ly/2ac55ng
Barbara Mars is Steve’s proud—and moderately worried—wife of 26 years. She also pens the Plainview-Old Bethpage Chamber of Commerce column for the Herald.