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Prouty riders say ‘the spirit is still the same’ in virtual race

  • With breakfast in hand, Linda Muri prepares to depart on a training ride in advance of her 200-mile Prouty Ultimate ride from her home in Hanover on Saturday. James M. Patterson / Valley News

  • Linda Muri, of Hanover, rides up a hill on Hanover Center Road on her way to Goose Pond in Hanover on Saturday. Muri planned to ride about 25 miles. James M. Patterson / Valley News

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/1/2020 5:41:15 PM

Linda Muri is virtually ready for this year’s Prouty. Had it been held on its usual date, Muri would be navigating back-to-back 100-milers in the Prouty Ultimate.

Regardless, the Hanover resident, rowing consultant and breast cancer survivor knows she’ll be riding her bicycle for 200 miles in support of the Norris Cotton Cancer Center sometime in the next six weeks.

With this year’s 39th Prouty edition a virtual event because of the coronavirus pandemic, Muri hasn’t made up her mind on exactly how she’ll accumulate the 200, or when. But it’ll get done.

“I’m still trying to do the full 200 miles, 100 miles a day two days in a row,” Muri said on Thursday afternoon. “For me, it’s virtual in that it’s not going to be on the same route, it’s not going to be the same way, but the spirit is still the same. The spirit is not virtual.”

In a nod to the pandemic, Prouty organizers in April announced their annual fundraiser wouldn’t be a single-day, in-person event on the second Saturday of July as it usually is. Participants – some 4,000 strong – couldn’t safely congregate at Richmond Middle School given the need for social distancing and other mitigation efforts.

Instead, yesterday marked the start of a six-week period, through the original July 11 date, in which Prouty cyclists, runners, rowers, golfers, hikers, walkers and anyone else can meet their commitment, send proof of completion and raise money for Norris Cotton.

Jean Brown, executive director of the Friends of Norris Cotton Cancer Center, is keeping an optimistic outlook. The group’s goal of $3.5 million remains up on the Prouty website, knowing it’s likely that various factors – fewer participants, health concerns, financial impact of the virus – may make it difficult at reach.

The fundraising tally was closing in on $1 million as of Thursday evening. Last week, NCCC announced a new fundraising match with the Dorothy and Jack Byrne Foundation, which will donate $100 for each new registrant through June 15 and an additional $50,000 if that tally reaches 500 new participants.

“Virtual Proutying has always been a component of the event, which meant if not on the second Saturday of July, then they could do the event anywhere, anytime, any way they wanted,” Brown said. “I’ve had one person do it from the Golden Gate Bridge, another on the Great Wall of China. They maintain connections and raise money and do interesting things.”

Muri, 57, has made the Prouty a priority since completing her cancer treatment in 2015. Some aspects of this attempt will feel different, she acknowledged.

For one, completing 100 miles on her bike might be a challenge since there won’t be the usual support system – water stops and the like – that come with such endeavors. Muri said she’s considered cured of her cancer, but she doesn’t believe drafting off a group of fellow cyclists is wise at this time.

“It’ll be nice because I have that flexibility,” said Muri, who is entertaining a series of 25-mile routes as an option. “If it’s going to be pouring all day on July 11, maybe I don’t do it (then). Maybe I pick a nice-weather day. That’s the silver lining.”

Having a virtual element in past Proutys made turning this one fully virtual relatively easy, said Dr. Steven Leach, NCCC’s director. Organizers dropped fundraising minimums, knowing donations may be down, with an emphasis placed on simply participating.

“There’s a little bit of worry, but more a sense of understanding that this has been an unprecedented year for people personally and financially,” said Leach, who plans on riding with as many as three family members. “The Prouty shows us signs of recovery and renewal and hope. That serves the purpose in addition to raising money for the cancer center.”

Muri, who did a 100-mile ride and 20-mile row last year, isn’t too far from starting.

“I joke about this; I have a pretty dark sense of humor,” she said, “but a bad day on the bike still beats a good day of chemo.”

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