Published by the Students of Johns Hopkins since 1896
May 26, 2020

Students bike across country for cancer - Senior David Courson describes his experience biking with Hopkins 4K for Cancer

By David Courson | September 12, 2002

How special was this summer? When I am asked this question I respond, "After being hit by a truck I was angry not about the hit-and-run accident but about the fact that I couldn't ride my bike for a few days."

Are you crazy? "Maybe."

What was this trip for and why did you do it? The trip was called the Hopkins 4K for Cancer and was the brain child of Ryan Hanley, now a junior here at Hopkins. Ryan's father died from cancer when he was a boy. As it does with so many people, cancer had touched his life in a negative way, but unlike most people Ryan decided to fight back.

With the help of four other Hopkins students, the trip was transformed from an idea to a feasible project to a reality. All in all, 24 riders took to the roads, 18 from Hopkins and six from other east coast schools. Each rider dedicated their rides to someone he knew who had been affected by cancer. My trip was dedicated to my parents, both cancer survivors. I rode for the cause, for my family and on a more selfish note, for the experience of seeing the country in a unique way. In the end, every rider would agree that we were successful on all fronts. We raised $41,000 for the American Cancer Society, we brought pride to our families and hometowns and we had the summer of a lifetime!

I can't possibly sum up a two month adventure in one column; there were too many incredible moments, though a few memories do stick out in my mind. I drove one of the support vans during the first four days of trip due to an wrist injury. Nearing the end of the first day I had already picked up one rider who was feeling ill. Having spent the day trailing people in the van, I needed to do something, so I asked the rider to drive so that I could run the last seven miles into the town we were stay in. She agreed. When I got out we were at the base of a large hill. I passed five riders while running up the hill some of whom were walking.

A month later we were in Estes Park, Colo. preparing to ride over Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuously paved road in the nation, in Rocky Mountain National Park. The mood the night before was apprehensive, people still remembered the Appalachians. The next morning everyone was excited for the challenge. A few hours later every rider was standing at the top of the pass. No one walked, no one complained, we just looked around at the mountains and valleys on every side and stood in awe of what we had accomplished. None of us will forget that day.

Going into Cedar City, Utah, I was riding in a lead group of three riders. We had spread out to go down an 11 mile descent into the town. Our LeMond bikes are quite fast. Going 40 miles per hour down even short hills was common and many riders reach speeds of near 50.

On this day I was going about 40 miles per hour when an impatient truck decided to squeeze between me and oncoming traffic. The pick-up made it by me, but its trailer did not. It sideswiped me and I was thrown from my bike. This trip was full of amazing people. One such person, Rick Haynie, saw me lying on the side of the road, and rather than driving by like many others, stopped, picked me up and took me to the Cedar City emergency room. I was fine and just had some bad road rash. Rick did not stop there, however. During the wreck I had destroyed my bike gloves. When I returned to the group later that night, some of the guys told me they had met Rick in a bike shop in town and that he had purchased me a new pair of gloves. Sometimes it is the simplest of gestures that touches you. I will never forget Rick's kindness. I hope I can do the same for someone else someday.

All 24 riders had their own reasons for riding. Few of us knew each other before the trip. I now have 23 new friends for life. They supported me when I was hurt, they encouraged me on tough days, they shared many personal stories and experiences and they never stopped making me laugh and smile. This truly was the summer of a lifetime. I can't imagine a more rewarding way to spend two months. I love them all and will never forget this summer or those other 23 characters.

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