Melissa Cooksey began using Pelotonia's Pulll app the day it was released: May 4, 2018.

“I had been waiting for it,” said Cooksey, a 42-year-old New Albany resident.

TWITTER POLL

Have you tried using Pelotonia’s Pulll activity-tracking app?

Read about the first year of the@Pelotonia fundraising app here:https://t.co/XPSBXnqlV3

— ThisWeekNEWS (@ThisWeekNews)March 29, 2019

Pelotonia, the Columbus-based charity bicycle tour and nonprofit organization that raises money for cancer research at Ohio State University’s James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute, launched its free activity-tracking app last spring.

Users like Cooksey are able to track cycling, running and walking on the app, which is installed on a smartphone or mobile device, to unlock caches of sponsor-donated money to be directed toward cancer research at Ohio State.

The money comes from a number of companies and organizations from which Pelotonia has secured charity commitments. It is unlocked in small increments that correspond to an exchange rate for activity, such as 9 cents per mile for outdoor cycling and 2 cents per minute for indoor running.

Cooksey is employed at Hamilton Parker, a commercial and residential design company in Columbus that for the past two years has fielded a peloton fundraising team for Pelotonia.

Pelotons are organized by businesses, communities, academic or social organizations or simply like-minded individuals, and their members are among the thousands of people who participate in the annual August bike ride that includes one- or two-day route options of varying mileage for which cyclists commit to raising corresponding amounts of money.

Over the years, Pelotonia has transformed from a bike ride to a movement, Pelotonia CEO Doug Ulman told ThisWeek before the 2018 ride, which was Aug. 4 and 5.

Community members have become active beyond the three-day event through year-round physical activity and fundraising, as well as community-building, he said.

Pulll users don’t have to be from central Ohio; they don’t have to register for or ride in Pelotonia (though they are able to do both and use the app, too); and they don’t have to commit to any fundraising. But with any physical activity they track, they can join Pelotonia’s fight against cancer.

Cooksey said she uses the app every time she walks her dog, Mylo, and when she runs and cycles, both indoors and outdoors.

Through the end of March, the activities have unlocked $221 for cancer research, she said.

She was able to put $130 of that toward her fundraising requirement for Pelotonia last year, and the remainder of that total will go toward this year’s Pelotonia fundraising, Cooksey said.

Since its launch, the Pulll app has raised $458,162.44 from activities and from a “boost” function that allows someone to donate an amount of their choosing to a user’s fundraising total when he or she tracks physical activity, said Simone Attles, Pelotonia’s marketing manager for Pulll.

On average, the app unlocks about $100 per month in the peer-to-peer “boost” donations, she said.

On Wednesday, April 3, Pelotonia is expected to unveil updates that will offer new ways for people to raise money for cancer research.

As requested by users, the Pulll app will allow people to track swimming and gym classes, such as yoga or boot camps, said Wes Sims, head of product at Pelotonia.

The app updates will include a leaderboard feature to recognize the users who are doing the most to help Pelotonia and Pulll grow, Sims said. The two primary ways users do this is by telling friends and family members about Pulll and by asking friends and family to give “boost” donations, he said.

“The leaderboards allow us to show the user community which users are helping spread the mission and raise money in support of it,” Sims said. “So while we’re not necessarily rewarding each user on the leaderboard, we’re showing the community who among them is really giving their best effort in support of Pulll.”

In May, Pelotonia plans to roll out more user-generated and Pelotonia-generated content on the Pulll app, Sims said. It will appear on users’ feeds and via direct notifications, he said.

Users already may connect Pulll to such fitness-tracking apps as Strava, MyFitnessPal and MapMyFitness, he said, and Pelotonia is working on a partnership with an app called Zwift that allows users to participate in activities virtually with other people.

About 35 percent of Pulll users use the app at least once a month, Sims said, and 72 percent of users have logged an activity this year.

However, when asked about the number of downloads and active users for the app, Sims said he would not provide that information because “our policy is to not comment on the number of downloads or active users.”

Immediately before last year’s Pelotonia ride, former Pelotonia chief operating officer Miguel Perez said the app had 8,500 users.

For perspective, more than 8,000 people are expected to participate in Pelotonia this August, according to Attles.

The app’s name is a reference to a cycling term, Sims previously told ThisWeek. “Pulling” describes when a lead cyclist in a group rides in front to draft for companions and “pull” them along, he said.

Pelotonia leaders thought the name signified a team effort, Sims said. The extra “L,” he said, symbolizes the movement’s continual push for “one more” activity, person or breakthrough in cancer research.

Michael Polce, a retired 63-year-old who lives in Hudson in northeast Ohio, said he averages 60 miles a day on his bicycle outdoors, and he tracks the activity on the Pulll app.

Polce, who has unlocked more than $1,700 via Pulll, said this year he would participate in Pelotonia for the first time, and he will do so as a virtual rider.

>> 5 things to know about Pelotonia <<

Pelotonia virtual riders make a minimum $100 fundraising commitment without riding or volunteering, according to pelotonia.org. On the other hand, riders on the shortest Pelotonia bicycle route, 25 miles, commit to raising a minimum of $1,250, with fundraising commitments increasing incrementally for the longer routes, maxing out at $3,000 for the two-day, 200-mile route, according to pelotonia.org. A “High Roller” option of $5,000 also is available.

Like Cooksey, Polce began using the Pulll app shortly after it launched. A breast-cancer survivor, Polce rides in the VeloSano charity bike race – a Cleveland-based fundraising initiative he said is modeled after Pelotonia and raises money for the Cleveland Clinic.

Polce said as someone with a background in science – he has a Ph.D. in chemistry – he knows how important money is for research. Using the Pulll app is easy, he said, because he can tie it to his Strava app to track his cycling.

“I try to recruit people all the time,” he said.

Pelotonia has increased its annual fundraising over a 10-year period from $4.5 million per year to almost $28 million per year, Sims said.

The goal with Pulll, he said, is to leverage it to help Pelotonia raise more than $100 million per year.

“Pelotonia has a story to tell, and we built Pulll to make sure we can tell that story to everyone in America that holds a mobile phone and has a connection to cancer,” he said.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah

Pelotonia 45-mile route (most popular)

.embed-container { position: relative; padding-bottom: 56.25%; height: 0; overflow: hidden; max-width: 100%; } .embed-container iframe, .embed-container object, .embed-container embed { position: absolute; top: 0; left: 0; width: 100%; height: 100%; }