Marie Gibbons' Pelotonia duties change; commitment remains

SCOTT GERFEN
editorial@thisweeknews.com
Marie Gibbons of Canal Winchester

Marie Gibbons is the type of person who likes to get involved.

So in 2009, when her then-employer, the Ohio State University Foundation, announced a charity bike ride, Gibbons was ready to ride in the very first Pelotonia.

The mission: to support cancer research at Ohio State University's James Cancer Center and Solove Research Institute.

She hit the road after finding a hybrid bike but didn't get too serious about training or pay much attention to those who told her the hybrid wasn't appropriate for a long ride such as Pelotonia.

That all changed when she won $1,000 on Twitter two weeks before the event.

"I went and bought a road bike," Gibbons said. "It was a very difficult 45 miles. I did not train correctly. There were so many real cyclists. But I was really inspired. I went out to the finish line the next day to see the 180-mile cyclers come in and I thought, "I really want to do that someday.' "

In 2014, she participated in her first 180-mile Pelotonia ride.

"The whole Pelotonia community is cheering you on the entire ride," said Gibbons, who has raised more than $20,000 in the past 11 years for cancer research. "It's really an experience that everyone needs to have."

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

A reimagined 2020 Pelotonia has been rolling on virtually, with participants setting their own fundraising and activity goals and tracking them through mypelotonia.org.

Although Gibbons, 60, won't be on her bike this year, she remains devoted to raising money to help cure a disease that in 2018 claimed the lives of her ex-husband Edward Gibbons, a Columbus firefighter, and his sister.

The Canal Winchester resident now is the manager of the Pelotonia Fellowship Program at the James, which "trains promising and accomplished undergraduate, graduate, medical and post-doctoral students from any discipline who have the potential to become independent cancer researchers," according to the The James website. Fellows are required to participate in Pelotonia in some way, Gibbons said.

"I think Pelotonia is doing an excellent job keeping the community feel," Gibbons said. "But there is something about ride weekend. You can show up on Friday night and know so many people there, and even people you don't know are so friendly. It's just a wonderful experience."

As this year's team captain of Pelotonia Fellows, Gibbons set a goal of raising $1,250 and performing 25 acts of kindness. She started her acts of kindness by dropping off masks at the Ronald McDonald House, and she's organizing a food drive for the Buckeye Food Alliance, a food pantry for students.

"When I first started, I thought it was going to be little things, like drop off a bottle of wine for a shut-in neighbor or give blood," she said. "Then I thought, why not make it a little bigger and organize a food drive instead of just giving to a pantry."

This year's Pelotonia format also includes 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.

"The My Pelotonia platform and upcoming Legends LIVE! broadcast on Friday, Aug. 7, allows anyone anywhere to participate in Pelotonia's mission this year. Legends LIVE! will be a celebration of what we've accomplished so far and the important work still to come – featuring moving and uplifting stories of survival, research successes, musical performances and many special guests."

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