In honor of the 30th anniversary Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, the PMC blog will take you on a ride through history. Today we continue 30 years in 30 weeks with a look back at the second annual PMC in 1981. We’ll coast through the event’s history, featuring a new year each week, as we lead up to the 30th annual ride on Aug. 1 and 2.
Check out past 30 Years in 30 weeks posts here.
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30 years in 30 weeks
In 1981, Brenda White, then 22, wasn’t much of a long-distance cyclist. But she was a cyclist, which was not a common hobby for women at the time.
“Forty miles was the most I’d ridden in one day,” White said. She read about the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge in the newspaper and thought riding for charity would legitimatize her cycling hobby.
It didn’t take much for interest in the second Pan-Massachusetts Challenge to spread. Thanks to word of mouth and some listings in newspapers, the 1981 PMC was nearly six times larger than the year before.
The event grew from 36 riders in 1980 to 210 cyclists. 1981 also marked the inaugural ride from Sturbridge.
But even with more riders, the 190-mile two day ride across Massachusetts was at times lonely.
“There were long stretches where no other rider or volunteers were to be seen,” White said. About 80 miles in, and with no PMC water or food stop in sight, White followed the smell of hamburgers on a grill a few blocks off the route. She ended up at a Hells Angel’s BBQ.
“When I told them I was biking for the Jimmy Fund they did all they could to help me out,” White said. “They were wonderful.”
Many riders from 1980 came back for the second year, like Doug Gray.
The PMC became personal for Gray in 1981. Gray participated in the first PMC in 1980 because he wanted the athletic challenge. When he came back in 1981 his priority had changed.
“My 6-year-old neighbor was diagnosed with cancer that year,” Gray said. Watching a young child face cancer led Gray to a revelation: it could have been any one’s child. Being part of the PMC, Gray knew he was doing something to help.
Billy Starr had every intention of making the PMC an annual tradition. He planned the 1981 ride at night, from the dining room of his father’s home while working for a public relations firm during the day.
By the fall of 1981, not long after the ride, Billy quit his job to work on the PMC fulltime.
“There was a lot to do. I’m a task oriented guy and I went to work building it,” he said.
PMC 1981 Facts
Event date: Sept. 12 and 13
$350 fundraising minimum for two-day ride
Start: Old Sturbridge Village parking area
Finish: Provincetown Inn