Pelotonia: A Chapter in Tim Hamburger’s Story
When I decided I was going to write a blog on Tim Hamburger, the first thing Tom Lennox said to me was, “Make sure you read one of his letters.” A few days before I was going to sit down with Tim, I walked over to our bulletin board and took down his letter. I sat down at my desk, took a deep breath and began to read.
Pelotonia has a story; it has characters and an unwritten plot. But after reading Tim’s letter I knew he wasn’t a character in our story; Pelotonia is a chapter in his.
His story started more than 14 years ago when Tim attended a Team in Training informational meeting. Matt Lewis spoke at the meeting; his Chronic Myelogenous Leukemia had been in remission for four years. This was a life-changing moment.
After hearing Matt speak, Tim signed up for the 1998 San Diego Marathon with Team in Training. As fate would have it, Matt was assigned as his team hero for this race. Through this experience, Tim and Matt became fast friends. They ran together when Tim did short runs and suddenly, an 11-year-old became a leading character in Tim’s life.
Matt inspired Tim to finish the San Diego Marathon fast enough to qualify for the 1999 Boston Marathon.When every step was more painful than the last, Tim thought of Matt. With Matt as motivation, he finished and qualified for Boston with three minutes to spare. He couldn’t wait to tell Matt, but there was something Matt needed to tell him: the leukemia was back.
In that moment, Tim decided he would run the Boston Marathon for Matt. On the day of the race, 1.5 million spectators lined either side of the road for 26.2 miles. There was no way Tim would be able to spot Matt and his family, who had traveled to Boston to share the experience with him. As he approached the 17-mile marker, a young boy ran out of the crowd and onto the course. It was Matt. He quickly gave Tim a high-five and then ran with him for 50 yards before rejoining his family.
When Tim crossed the finish line he understood the true meaning of the marathon and Team in Training. The Boston Marathon was more than a race; it was a celebration of hope…hope that we will find a cure.
Three years ago, three things happened within the same year: Matt celebrated being in remission for 10 years, Matt graduated from college and Pelotonia had its inaugural ride.
Enter the Pelotonia chapter of Tim’s story.
Tim wanted to celebrate Matt’s big moments by riding 1,000 miles in one week from Pittsburgh (where he met Matt) to Columbus (where he currently lives). As he was mapping out his ride, a colleague mentioned Pelotonia. It was the perfect way to end his 1,000-mile ride.
When Tim started the 1,000 miles, he can remember thinking, “That’s it…he [Matt] will never have to worry about cancer again in his life.” But cancer has a way of punching us in the gut just when we think we have it figured out. The December after Tim finished his 1,000-mile ride ending with Pelotonia Matt called. His words to Tim were, “It looks like I’m in for round three…the cancer is back.”
“Cancer has, once again, come into my backyard and made this fight personal,” said Tim in one of his letters after receiving the news of Matt’s relapse with cancer. But the news just motivated him to raise more money for cancer research. Last year, Tim set a goal to raise $100,000 for cancer research and he surpassed it with his Pelotonia 11 ride.
But cancer is still personal. Matt Lewis is currently continuing to fight his battle with cancer. Seth Jenkins was the team hero for Tim’s 100-mile Lake Tahoe ride in 2010. He lost his battle before Team in Training began their ride, but as long as Tim is coaching he will always be an honorary team hero.
Tim’s team hero for his 2011 Lake Tahoe ride was Matt Hare. Matt was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma and is currently in remission. Tim and Matt quickly became close friends and will ride Pelotonia 12 together.
Tim has raised over $100,000 for cancer research. He has donated 1,000 plus hours of his personal time as a coach for Team in Training. He has given up countless weekends to help his riders prepare without a second-thought.
“It is a labor of love,” says Tim. “I would ride day and night for people helping this cause.”
When Tom Lennox met Tim he said, “I’m not shaking your hand. I’m giving you a hug.”
Well Tom, I echo that sentiment.
Pelotonia is grateful to be a part of your story, Tim, and we look forward to continuing our chapter with Pelotonia 12.
Written By: Melissa Thompson