Ride to Conquer Cancer

It is no surprise that med school involves a lot of studying. But that doesn’t keep Penn Med students from getting involved in amazing initiatives outside of school. Last fall, a group of Penn Med students went on a 150 mile bike ride…the weekend before our first anatomy exam. 

My eyes were fixed on the saddle of the bike in front of me and all I could hear was the persistent humming of the tires on the road. Our tires inched dangerously close as we tried to maximize draft in the paceline. The hard work we put in weeks before was finally paying off as we flew down Martin Luther King Junior Drive pushing thirty miles per hour. It’s hard to believe that just that morning we were in the anatomy lab searching for the epiploic foramen.

My teammates and I were training for the Philadelphia Ride to Conquer Cancer benefiting Penn Medicine’s Abramson Cancer Center. The 150-mile bike ride took place over two days: October 11th and 12th 2014. Each of us raised upwards of $1,500 for cancer research. The fierce Penn Med student team included Emily Martin, Benjamin Emert, Elliot Stein, Robert Schwab, Tom Liu, and myself. Although we were only two months into our 1st year of medical school, our time together in preparation for the ride made it seem like we were old friends.


The early hours of Saturday, October 11th were cold, wet, and windy. I don’t think the conditions could have been any worse for a bike ride. But we reluctantly pulled ourselves out of bed and made it to the starting line by 6AM. The first leg of the course was treacherous to say the least. Some of us arrived at the first rest stop bleeding and with our bikes in pieces. But this was only a small road bump for the fearless student team. Ben endured the rest of the ride with his road bike turned into a “fixie,” with only one gear to crank on. Tom pushed through the road burn on his leg (after fainting, of course). We trudged our way through the first 75 miles of the event and finally made our way to base camp as the sky cleared and the sun came out. My body was utterly exhausted and I wondered how I would make it to the finish line the next day. After some warm showers and copious carbohydrates, the Penn Med student team retired to one of the tents to study for an upcoming anatomy exam.


We awoke early the next morning with ice covering our tents. Thick fog hovered over the baseball field that had served as our camping grounds for the night. As the sun rose over the trees and began to warm our faces, the excitement fluttered through the air. In stark contrast to the prior morning, Sunday held the perfect conditions for a long distance bike ride. We set off through the farmland west of Philadelphia and made our way back towards the familiar city. The course became increasingly difficult as we crossed over the Appalachian foothills and encountered steep grades that required the lowest of gears and unlimited endurance. In the end, we crossed the finish line in Philadelphia with the crowd cheering, a smile on our faces, and jelly for legs. Overcoming this physically and mentally challenging event as a team put medical school in an interesting framework. With the ride conquered, we stepped into the classroom looking for the next challenge.

Want to see more? Check out this video.

Anthony Martin is an MS1, originally from the Miami, Florida. He graduated from the School of Engineering at Penn in 2014, majoring in Bioengineering. On his free time he enjoys sleeping, photography, bike riding, and watching quality films.


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