By Daniel Krieger
Most students use their bikes for short distances. Perhaps to get to school, or go to a friends house. You might ride a mile, maybe two. Usually you’re not going for a ride that’s over five thousand miles long, though. But that’s exactly what Ananya Murthy, an East alumna is doing. And it’s all for one reason: cancer.
Murthy grew up accustomed to cancer. Her grandfather died before she was born, and lost both her great-grandmother and her aunt to cancer in middle school and high school. But the hardest thing for her was losing her grandmother to ovarian cancer.
He grandmother was getting ready to board a flight for India when she received her diagnosis. She died soon after her surgery from a heart attack. Murthy and her whole family was devastated.
Losing her grandmother was very difficult for Murthy, but it also gave her a goal in life: end cancer. She wants to do this in all the ways she can. A junior at the University of Texas at Austin, she dreams of being a physician-scientist, focusing her life on oncology, the study and treatment of tumors.
In an interview with the East Side News, she said, “I started doing research projects and volunteering. I immersed myself in that world and learned more of people’s stories about how they have been affected by cancer. It really motivates me to do something like this.”
What “this” is is the Texas 4000 for Cancer. The Texas 4000 for Cancer is a 501 non-profit organization. Annually, it holds the longest charity bicycle ride in the world – twice as long as the Tour de France.
People who volunteer to ride go from their university in Austin, Texas, all the way to Anchorage, Alaska. Last year they raised over 640,000 dollars.
This group started sixteen years ago when a cancer survivor and student at the university decided to establish this non-profit.
Murthy said, “He realized he couldn’t do it on his own and it just kind of grew over the years as an established part of my university.”
There are three different routes that the riders can take: Sierra, Rockies, and Ozarks. Murthy will be taking Ozarks, along with twenty-seven other University of Texas at Austin students. There are a total of eighty-six students participating in the Texas 4000 for Cancer in 2019.
The 5,027 mile trip is seventy days and has volunteers biking through Houston, New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Winnipeg, Edmonton, and Whitehorse.
Her ride will begin in June and end in August. Since they have been doing this charity ride since 2004, they have thought of everything.
During the nights, she and the other riders will have places to stay. “What we do is we contact people in every city we go to, to see if people will volunteer to host us overnight, so a lot of churches, recreation centers, or schools, will often offer us a place to sleep overnight,” Murthy explained, “and sometimes we’ll just set up a camp if we’re going through a national forest or something.”
This means that the charity will not be wasting money on providing a place to stay each night for all eighty-six riders.
“We also talk to people in the area about food donations and about where we can do programs about cancer prevention and cancer treatment,” she said.
This is what the Texas 4000 for Cancerkip is about. It’s not just about raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for cancer research. It is also about these riders going through cities throughout North America. It gives people the opportunity to see these people trying so hard to end this terrible disease and hopefully inspire the people in these cities to do the same.
Murthy and the other riders will be talking to people throughout the country about their experiences and how to help prevent and cure cancer.
The riders expect to face some hard conditions, but they are not worried. “We will bike through rain,” Murthy said, “but if there is a high risk of a thunderstorm, we have two people who drive with us in a U-Haul who will pick us up.”
The other issue could be the rough terrain, but this is not something that she is not worried about either. The riders go through a lot of training and she feels prepared for what is ahead of her.
“We definitely do face some steep terrain, but we train a lot for that over the year,” she said.
Murthy explained that their training is divided by the two semesters of the school year. For the first semester, her and her team just did physical activity a few times a week, such as playing soccer and other exercises.
The second semester, they started using their bikes. “We started doing about a twenty mile ride, and by the end of the semester we were doing forty mile rides,” she said. “You need to hit two thousand training miles before we could be qualified to go on the ride.”
All the riders go through the same extensive training, and Murthy believes they are all ready for the five thousand mile trip. She is confident that she and her fellow riders will all make it to the distant finish line at Anchorage.
“The only case where people have to leave is some people have to leave to start medical school, but that’s about it,” Murthy said.
Murthy thinks that with all the training each rider has to go through, they are all more than prepared for the journey.
Ananya Murthy is a woman who has dedicated her life to solving the enigma that is cancer once and for all. She has experienced the heartbreak that this disease can bring and has not only committed herself to a life of medical research in oncology, she has also decided to go on a seventy day bike ride from Austin, Texas to Anchorage, Alaska solely for raising money and awareness about cancer.
Her dedication and commitment is admirable, but not everyone can focus a majority of their life on ending cancer. What can everyone else do?
When asked what people can do to contribute, she answered, “The best thing you can do is to be there for everyone in your life that has been affected, to donate or volunteer, if you have the ability to do so, to educate others on how they can prevent cancer and stay safe, and to help people find resources for treatment. These are all ways you can change someone’s life.”
She went on to say, “You don’t have to be the one diagnosing them or treating them to help someone with cancer.”
Students can donate to support the Texas 4000 for Cancer and Ananya Murthy at http://bit.ly/t4ananya