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Cycling for a cure for cancer: Keedysville woman bikes from Baltimore to Seattle

August 25, 2013|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE | crystal.schelle@herald-mail.com
  • Katie Marshall of Keedysville biked from Baltimore to Seattle for 4K for Cancer.
Kevin G. Gilbert /

KEEDYSVILLE — When Katie Marshall of Keedysville heads back to classes Aug. 26 at Salisbury University, she’ll have one amazing what-I-did-over-summer-break story.

Marshall, 22, who is a senior, took part in 4K for Cancer’s Ride Across America in which she bicycled from Baltimore to Seattle — a 70-day 4,423-mile trip — to help bring awareness to cancer.

According to the organization’s website, 4kforcancer.org, 4K for Cancer is a program of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. Its mission is “dedicated to empowering young adults in uniting communities across the country in the fight against cancer through community service and support.”

Marshall, a 2009 Boonsboro High School graduate, was part of one of four teams. Her team, called Team Seattle, left Baltimore on June 2 and arrived in Seattle on Aug. 10.

She said she decided to do the ride, which a friend suggested, because her own life had been touched by cancer — her grandfather, Franklin Shifflett, had died of cancer. And a teammate from her rugby team at college had an older brother who died of cancer.

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“Really that was the first time that I realized that it does affect the younger community,” she said.
In order to participate, each rider had to raise $4,500. After he or she raised $2,000, the participant is given a Cannondale bike to use on the trip. Marshall’s is now decorated with stickers from the places she had been as well as a “Bless this Bike” sticker.

“It started out really nice,” she said of the bike, “but after that many miles you get some wear and tear on them.”

Before the trip, Marshall wasn’t an avid biker. But, she said, neither were many in the group before starting. To help the new bikers, she said they were given a bicycling crash course.

“We went through training day and they taught us how to fix our flats, how to do all of that stuff, how to oil our chains and everything,” she said.

All four teams left Baltimore, Marshall said, before heading out to their separate destinations — Seattle, Portland, Ore., San Francisco and San Diego.

Marshall said leaving Baltimore was emotional. Her family and friends had come out to cheer her on.
“It was really touching that many people had come out and supported us,” she said.

The group dipped their back tires into the Inner Harbor before heading out to their next destination. The 28-member Team Seattle headed north to York, Pa., weaving through New York state, then dipping back to Erie, Pa., crossing Ohio, Michigan, Indian, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana and Idaho before finally making it to Washington state.

She said it included a lot of tough terrain including a few mountain ranges.

“I guess I learned the difference between a hill and a mountain on this trip,” she said.

Marshall said they did have to also battle weather, including hail, but overall she said the weather wasn’t too bad.

“A lot of times we had to ride through the rain. Sometimes we’d have to stop. There was thunder, we’d have to wait it out or lightening,” she said.

Throughout their trip, they slept at churches, YMCAs or in people’s homes.

Marshall said what got them through the physical and mental hurdles was knowing who they were biking for. She said every morning each person would dedicate his or her ride to a person whose name was written with permanent  marker on the back of one of their legs. They would also meet cancer patients who they kept in touch through email throughout the trip. Those patients were the people who inspired the riders.

“You don’t think you have it in you when you’re going up a mountain — we crushed so many mountain ranges — you don’t think you have it in you, but you do,” she said. “Your body can do it. And just thinking about how much cancer patients go through really gets you through those hills.”

When Marshall arrived in Seattle, she said it was overwhelming again mostly because she had to say goodbye to her new friends.

“It was really overwhelming to know that these people that were complete strangers 70 days ago — we had never met before — were now some of my best friends and I loved all of them,” she said. “It was crazy to experience people (who) had a deep passion for something.”

Making the trip even more bittersweet for Marshall was that she had brought some of the ashes of her grandmother, Connie Shifflett, who died in January. At the end of her trip she was able to scatter her grandmother’s ashes in the Pacific Ocean.

Marshall said the experience taught her many things about herself. One was learning to be independent. She also learned to share because the group shared everything. But most of all, it taught her to care about others.

“Showing people that you care is the No. 1 thing in this world,” she said.


To know more     

For more information on 4K for Cancer, go to 4kforcancer.org. The organization is still accepting donations.


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