Hilliard resident Eric Olsavsky's feet, not wheels, honor mom in Pelotonia

KEVIN CORVO
kcorvo@thisweeknews.com
Eric Olsavsky of Hilliard plans to run and walk 100 kilometers in 24 hours as part of his contribution to Pelotonia. Participants have created their own fundraising challenges this year in lieu of the typical bike rides, canceled due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. Olsavsky is pictured at last year's Pelotonia with his wife, Sarah, and their children, Mason, Chase and Reagan, who are contributing in their own ways to this year's Pelotonia.

There's more than one way to raise money for Pelotonia, the signature event of the Ohio State University's James Cancer Center and Solove Research Institute.

And not all of them involve two wheels and a seat.

Instead of pedaling a bike, Hilliard resident Eric Olsavsky, 42, is running 100 kilometers – about 62 miles – in 24 hours for his part in the 2020 Pelotonia, which, just like any other activity or event scheduled this year, has been significantly altered by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Typically, thousands of riders pedal a variety of routes throughout Ohio on the first Friday, Saturday and Sunday in August.

The fundraising ride first was held in 2009, but this year, it will live only in the virtual realm – with lots of company.

Because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and a desire to keep participants, volunteers and supporters safe, Pelotonia in May canceled its annual weekend ride and in-person events, which were slated Friday to Sunday, Aug. 7 to 9.

But the reimagined 2020 Pelotonia has been rolling on virtually, with participants setting their own fundraising and activity goals and tracking them through mypelotonia.org to continue the mission of supporting cancer research at the James Cancer Center and Solove Research Institute.

Olsavsky is not only a participant but a staff member for Pelotonia; he's served since 2018 as its director of community engagement and partnerships.

This is his third consecutive year and fourth overall taking part in Pelotonia.

His mother, 73-year-old Janet Olsavsky of North Royalton, is a three-time breast-cancer survivor – and his inspiration for joining the mission of Pelotonia.

"That was my 'a-ha' moment," he said.

In each of the past 11 years, Pelotonia participants rode bikes on routes of varying lengths, but this year is different, including the lack of an in-person rider send-off.

It still will include a unifying event in the spirit of Pelotonia's traditional opening ceremony: a special broadcast called Legends LIVE! that will be streamed on pelotonia.org/rise, Facebook (facebook.com/pelotonia) and YouTube (youtube.com/ridepelotonia) from 7 to 8 p.m. Aug. 7.

"As we've had to pivot away from our traditional mass physical gathering this year, our priority has been to create new opportunities for our community to engage and continue to raise critical funds for cancer research," said Doug Ulman, president and CEO of Pelotonia.

This year, given a choice to set alternate, individual goals brought about by the modifications that COVID-19 caused, Olsavsky chose running.

"I wanted to do something audacious (for my mother)," Olsavsky said.

Recalling that his mother underwent surgeries and chemotherapy, Olsavsky said, he set his goal of 100 kilometers in 24 hours knowing he might struggle to achieve it.

Olsavsky said he also planned to complete a secondary goal of a 25-mile bike ride as part of what would have been his Pelotonia team.

Olsavsky already would have completed his run, but a family funeral caused him postpone it to Oct. 3 and 4, he said.

At 7 p.m. Oct. 3, Olsavsky said, he will begin his running goal, traversing a 2.5-mile loop that starts and ends at his Hilliard residence.

He will rest after completing each circuit – running two loops and then walking one loop – beginning each new loop at the top of each hour and continuing for 24 hours.

"Different people have signed up to join me on each of the loops," he said, and many of them have made donations to Pelotonia.

The Olsavsky family also is supporting Pelotonia.

Eric's wife, Sarah, has hand-sewn about 500 masks for people who make donations to Pelotonia.

Their son, Mason, 13, will walk 15 miles in one day; his brother, Chase, 12, is in the midst of a 1-mile-a day walk from June 2 to Aug. 8; and their daughter, Reagan, 9, is performing daily burpees, a strenuous full-body exercise.

kcorvo@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekCorvo