LOWVELO Attracts Young And Young At Heart
Jack Judge (far left), pictured with his family, is LOWVELO’s youngest participant at 8 years old. At right, Dick Stifel, Peg Higgins and Len Hanson are part of LOWVELO’s most mature peloton.
Health and fitness have no age limits. And this year, neither does LOWVELO. LOWVELO 2020 going virtual has allowed runners, walkers and cyclists of all ages to log miles anywhere, anytime to raise money for lifesaving cancer research at MUSC Hollings Cancer Center.
LOWVELO 2020’s youngest rider is 8-year-old Jack Judge. Jack lives in Gainesville, Florida, with his parents, Andy and Sarah, and his four siblings: William (14), Charlotte (11), Abby (5), and Harry (3). He has been riding his bike without training wheels since he turned four and has a message for anyone who thinks they are too young to participate in LOWVELO:
“No one is too young, as long as they know how to ride a bike!”
In 2019, Jack’s dad Andy was contacted by his good friend Denis Guttridge, Ph.D., a Hollings Cancer Center researcher, about LOWVELO. They had previously ridden together in Pelotonia, a three-day ride held in Ohio to raise funds for the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.
“Being a cancer researcher at the University of Florida, I’m very dedicated to the cause,” Andy said. “Denis and I have been good friends for about 15 years, so when he moved to Charleston and asked if I’d come ride in LOWVELO, I said ‘of course.”
Andy enjoyed the inaugural LOWVELO so much that when he saw LOWVELO 2020 was going virtual and had no age limits, he immediately spoke to his three oldest children about joining. They have a blast riding together as a family. Their regular route is a 7.5-mile loop throughout their neighborhood that allows them to watch deer graze in the early morning mist as they cycle by. As fun as their rides are, Andy wanted to make sure to talk to his kids about the meaning behind the event as well.
“They have two grandfathers and one grandmother that are all cancer survivors. We also have some close friends whose 9-year-old was just diagnosed with osteosarcoma in July. So, Jack and his siblings definitely understand what the ride is about,” he said.
For Jack, the two best parts about LOWVELO are riding with his family — especially when they stop at Starbucks halfway through their ride — and knowing that he is riding for his friend who is fighting cancer.
“I’m riding for Oliver Coombes, who is a friend of our family, and people like him. He’s only nine and has bone cancer,” Jack said. “I want for people with cancer to get better.”
The Judge family has an overall mileage goal of 1,600 miles — 100 miles for each child, 1,000 miles for Andy and 300 for Sarah. They also strive to raise the same amount of dollars for cancer research. If they ride more than their original goal, their fundraising goal will increase to match their total miles.
There are 70 years that separate Jack and the oldest LOWVELO participant, and when he learned about LOWVELO’s oldest participant, he exclaimed, “I hope I’m still riding a bike when I’m 78!”
LOWVELO’s most mature peloton, Team I’On, has members ranging in age from 69 to 78. The team members are: Peg Higgins, Len Hanson, Cynthia Webb, Joe Fanelli, Penny Leighton, Francis Jacobs, and Dick Stifel. The group gets together every Thursday morning for a 10-mile ride, with the route always changing. The farthest ride they’ve taken so far is to the bridge at Sullivan’s Island, a 14-mile trek.
“Five miles is relatively easy for me,” said Peg Higgins, I’On team captain. “And I can do 10, but I am huffing and puffing in this heat!”
Although she stays active with lifting weights, swimming, and other activities, Higgins hadn’t been on a bike in years. A neighbor told her about LOWVELO in 2019, so she and her husband decided to host an event at the I’On club to spread the word and introduce more people to the cause. Former Hollings Cancer Center director, Gustavo Leone, Ph.D., was the speaker that evening. Higgins says he was absolutely dynamic and got the crowd fired up. She made a deal that evening with her friend Len Hanson — “If you do it, I’ll do it!”
In the inaugural LOWVELO, Higgins, Hanson, and Cynthia Webb all rode the 25-mile route together and had an amazing experience.
“I’d never done a marathon. I’m not a racer or a runner, so it was a new experience. Len, Cynthia and I all thought that it was pretty cool coming through at the end where everyone was waiting and cheering for you. It was very fun!” Higgins said.
Higgins shared that while all the members of Team I’On are active, biking has been a challenge. Whether it be playing golf, doing yoga, lifting weights, or swimming, each member stays fit and healthy in some way, but most of them hadn’t hopped on a bike in several years.
“We’re definitely not the serious bikers covered in spandex doing 50 or 100 miles in one weekend,” Higgins said, laughing.
In fact, Higgins is still riding the bike her parents gifted her on her 30th birthday, a red Miyata ten-speed. She had to get new handlebars and fix a few other small things, but it still was ready to ride, all these years later.
Team I’On’s total mileage goal is set at 425, which Higgins said they will blast right by soon. They hope to raise at least $8,000 for cancer research this year; last year the three founding members of the group raised $5,000. While Higgins and her team love riding together and are enjoying their new activity, they also are fully committed to the cause of raising funds for cancer research.
“Yes, it is good for me personally, physically, but it’s also good for others, for fighting cancer. We’d all agree, we aren’t wasting our time. We are getting personal benefits out of it while doing something philanthropic. It’s a great cause,” she said.
As far as Higgins and the rest of Team I’On is concerned, no one is too old to ride a bike. She admits that as you age, balance can be more of a challenge, and some people are afraid of falling, but she would encourage anyone who isn’t sure if they can to just hop on a bike and see what happens.
“I have a friend who is an artist, and I once told her ‘I could never do what you do,’ and she quickly responded, ‘Well have you ever stood in front of a canvas with some paint?’ I said no, and she countered, ‘Well how do you know you couldn’t do it then?’ It’s the same thing — how do you know you can’t ride a bike if you don’t try?”
At age 8 or age 78, trying something new, or something you haven’t done in many years, can definitely be a challenge, but Jack Judge and Team I’On are proof that your age should never hold you back. Anyone can be a part of LOWVELO this year — just start walking, running or dig that 30-year-old Miyata out of your garage and hop back on. Higgins hopes her group can be an inspiration to others her age, and also to kids like Jack, to show age is simply a number and not a limitation.
“I hope Jack doesn’t ever give it up!”