Day in and day out, Collingswood High School senior Conor Urian pushes himself as a member of the Panthers’ cross country team. For many runners, the 3.2-mile course represents the most physically demanding event in which they will compete, but Urian is used to a much greater—and more important—physical challenge.
Last month Urian, along with cross-country head coach Lisa Hall, joined thousands of other participants in the Bike MS: City to Shore ride. Bike MS fuels critical services, education and wellness programs for the 14,000 local families living with multiple sclerosis (MS).
Urian, Hall and David Walsh (a science teacher at Collingswood) combined to raise $1,000, and then took the long journey down to the shore.
The decision for Urian to become involved with the race was a combination of passion for biking, and a personal connection to a woman stricken with the disease.
“I started working at a bike shop and got really into bikes,” said Urian, who first rode during his freshman year.
“One of my neighbors was actually diagnosed with MS and was bedridden for 15 years," he said. "We started doing it for her, and unfortunately, this past year she passed away.”
Although Urian has a personal reason to help raise money for families of MS, he has also ridden to raise money for the American Cancer Society, while keeping his endurance up in several triathlons.
Hall has been doing the ride for seven or eight years, she said, but only started riding up and back when Urian pushed her to do it.
“He challenged me to do the whole thing,” said Hall, who previously rode the 25- and 50-mile portions. “He did it, so I knew I had to take him up on the challenge and do the whole 150. I have been doing that for about four years, going 75 up and 75 back. I do the last 75 with Connor because everyone on my team just does the 75 up, because it’s so rough.”
The City to Shore Ride begins in Woodcrest and finishes up in Ocean City,
with a pair of grueling bridges awaiting before the finish. This year’s field had an estimated 7,000 riders who raised over $5 million.
“It’s really amazing,” said Hall, who also rides for diabetes, cancer and ALS. “Everyone is nice and everyone is usually there for some specific person. There are rest stops and people cheering you on that are part of the organization, and then just people who are so used to this coming through their town every year that stand out there with water, or dress up and cheer you on. It’s a great atmosphere and a great time.”
Urian also credits the crowd support for helping to push him through some of the difficult portions of the ride.
“It’s pretty exciting,” he said. “What I especially like is seeing all the volunteers really pumped up about everything. They just make you feel really good about yourself.”
The Panthers’ trio reached out to friends and family for donations and exceeded the minimum requirement to enter the race thanks to the generosity of many around the town.
“We sent out an e-mail everyone we know and we got very positive feedback,” Urian said. “Everybody is very giving and generous and that’s what really counts.”
Urian will likely continue riding in the event well past graduation, and has a couple other challenges lined up this summer. He plans to compete in an Olympic triathlon and couple-hundred-mile bike tour, neither of which is a surprise to Hall.
“He’s just a great kid,” said Hall. “He’s committed to the team and committed to the cause.”