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Brotherly Love
Bike trek raises funds for lung cancer research

Ronald E. Kodish. Photo by Cindy Davis Meixel.

As an athlete, coach and teacher, Ronald E. Kodish has made a lifetime commitment to keeping fit and staying healthy. That purposeful pursuit wound its easterly way along Route 6 over the summer, as enduring love fueled a memorial bicycle ride through the picturesque Northern Tier.

On July 25 – four years to the day since his brother, Raymond S., succumbed to lung cancer at age 60 – Kodish embarked on a 404-mile journey in “Bear’s” honor. His wife, Teresa, an elementary teacher in the Keystone Central School District, followed him with the family dogs and a pop-up tent, setting up a home away from home at a strategically chosen chain of campgrounds.

From northwestern Pennsylvania to New York state, the 63-year-old assistant professor in Pennsylvania College of Technology’s physical fitness specialist major averaged a little more than 57 miles a day on his weeklong fundraising trek. (He had two days of 61 miles each and one “short” day of 47.)

Ever health-conscious, Kodish calculated his average speed at 16.6 mph, with a caloric expenditure of about 3,500 per day – the equivalent of one pound of body fat.

All proceeds from the 11-county “Bike for Bear” benefited the LUNGevity Foundation, the leading private provider of research funding for lung cancer; Kodish set a modest $2,000 goal … but shattered it by attracting $2,610 in pledges.

“What an amazing experience this was! And to have Teresa with me every day was even more precious to me,” he said. “The western side of the state was a much more pleasant ride, with better roads and wider, cleaner berms, and motorists that were much more biker-friendly.”

The west was also less hilly – not without exertion, but with no climbs for which Kodish’s training hadn’t prepared him. The unexpected waited until his penultimate day, when he was delayed by a serious car/truck accident that closed roads for almost two hours and required a medical helicopter.

“Teresa had stayed behind when I left, as she always did, to update her Facebook, letting folks know where we were and where we were heading that day. She saw all the emergency vehicles going by, with flashing lights and sirens, and of course thought it was me,” he said. “I had started riding back toward her when she drove up, and believe me, she breathed a big sigh of relief!”

“If life’s not a challenge,
it’s not much of a life.”

That was also Kodish’s most difficult day on the bike. Due to the late start, temperatures were near 80 when he finally got under way – and the 61-mile stretch from Laceyville to Waymart included the most climbs of his trip.

“I was completely exhausted when I finished,” he said. “The bright spot was a surprise roadside visit from a longtime friend and Penn College graduate, John Nolan, and his son, Aiden, who flagged me down just outside Towanda to give me a few words of encouragement and motivation. Teresa knew about John’s surprise and had kept it from me for three weeks!”

As tired as he was, no amount of fatigue could have prevented Kodish from finishing his ride the next day: a hot and humid 57-mile finale that took him across the Delaware River to his Port Jervis, N.Y., finish line.

He was as inspiring as he was inspired by the experience, drawing upon friends and family, his brother’s undying spirit, his students and campus colleagues, and his simple desire to achieve something that matters.

“I’m trying to make the most of my ‘dash,’” he said prior to the ride, referring to those years represented by the line between one’s birthdate and death. “My mother said, ‘You’re always challenging yourself.’ And I told her, ‘If life’s not a challenge, it’s not much of a life.’”
- Tom Wilson, writer/editor-PCToday

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