Biking for a cause one state at a time
Koreen Burrow doesn’t let having multiple sclerosis slow her down. In fact, the disease she’s dealt with for two decades has pushed her to do more in recent years.
Burrow and her husband, David Fox, are on a quest to ride in a Bike MS event in all 50 states. Bike MS rides raise money for the National MS Society.
With seven states already checked off — Alaska, Hawaii, California, Nevada, Virginia, Minnesota and Colorado — Burrow and Fox plan to add Michigan to the list later this month and Texas in October.
“It’s a really good way to meet people and see a lot of the country,” Burrow said at her Eagle River home Monday, Aug. 29.
Burrow first participated in Alaska’s race five years ago. After riding in Bike MS races in Hawaii and Nevada, Burrow and Fox traveled 4,000 miles to Virginia.
“The people in Virginia couldn’t believe we came all the way from Alaska to do their ride,” Burrow said.
Once that ride finished, Burrow and Fox decided to go for all 50 states.
Burrow said they plan to ride in six to seven different states each year until their goal is reached.
Blue jerseys — one with a howling wolf and the other covered with salmon — make spotting the Alaskans easy at out-of-state races.
Thanks to the jerseys, a couple Burrow and Fox got acquainted with during an intimate 12-person race in Hawaii later picked them out of 3,000 riders at a race in Colorado.
“It is really fun to interact with people from all over,” Fox said. “They get really excited about the fact we’re from Alaska.”
According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, MS is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous sysand can have symptoms ranging from mild numbness and fatigue to severe pain and seisures.
Fox is keeping a permanent list of the states through which he and his wife have biked. So far, Fox has tattooed six small symbols on his leg — one representing each of the states they’ve raced in. Fox said he has yet to commemorate Colorado’s ride.
Burrow got involved in Bike MS after learning a friend of hers walks each year in an MS fundraiser in honor of Burrow.
“She said, ‘I do it every year for you,’” Burrow said.
Due to the type of MS she has — relapsing-remitting — Burrow said she can still be active. So she decided to put her legs to work for charity.
“I can still do something to raise money for the organization,” she said. “I feel like I’m helping.”
Through assistance of a friend, Burrow began training for her first Bike MS race, which are typically 150-mile rides over two days.
Learning to ride a racing bike was difficult, Burrow said.
“There’s more to it than it looks like,” she said. “It’s just a challenge to train for some of them.”
Fox joined Burrow the year after her first MS race. His wife is always ahead of him during races, Fox said with a smile.
Burrow said she encourages anyone interested to participate in a race. Bike MS events are for cyclists of all skill levels, she said.
“We’re not really elite riders,” Burrow said. “Anyone can do them.”
As owner of Blondies Espresso in Eagle River and Schlotzsky’s in Anchorage, Fox donates food to the fundraisers. The couple typically raises between $10,000 and $15,000 every year for MS. This year, they should hit the $17,000 mark, Fox said.
A majority of that money will stay in the Northwest, Burrow said. Along with research and development, the funds help families deal with MS, Burrow said. This is done through education and/or support groups, she said.
For obvious reasons, raising money for MS is important to he and his wife, Fox said.
“I know there are a lot of causes out there. I know it’s hard to pick and choose, but this is one that really means a lot to us,” he said.
MS isn’t the only cause Fox and Burrow support. They recently participated in Seward’s Lost Lake Run to benefit cystic fibrosis.
More than 400,000 people suffer from MS in the United States, according to Burrow.
“It’s a very prominent disease,” Burrow said. “It truly does affect lots of people’s lives.”
Through their fundraising efforts, Burrow said they’ve seen how many people have a connection to the disease.
“We really meet a lot of inspirational people that are challenged with MS or have someone in their family with MS,” she said.
Alaska’s Bike MS race will be held Sept. 10-11. The two-day event starts and finishes at Alyeska Resort in Girdwood. To sign up to ride or volunteer, visit bikemsnorthwest.org.
Anyone interested in donating to Burrow and Fox can do so at http://bike4ms.us/[email protected].
Each ride in a different state has offered a unique experience for Burrow and Fox. The couple has biked a lap around the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and traveled through California’s Napa Valley.
“There’s been something really cool in every state,” Burrow said.
As someone with MS, maintaining an active lifestyle is essential, Burrow said.
“They always say MS keeps people from moving,” she said. “So it’s really important for me to stay moving.”
Contact Mike Nesper at 830-6632 or [email protected]