Dartmouth resident rides 89 miles for a cure in 2020 Pan-Mass Challenge

Aug 1, 2020

While most people tend to be asleep at 6:30 a.m. on a Saturday, Dartmouth resident Heather Mickool was beginning an 89-mile bike ride as part of this year’s virtual Pan-Mass Challenge cycling fundraiser for cancer research.

“This was actually the latest I’ve ever slept on PMC day,” Mickool laughed.

The long-standing bike-a-thon offers riders the option to ride anywhere from 25 to 192 miles over a day or both days of the first weekend in August. Riders are also asked to raise funds for the Dana-Farber Institute’s Jimmy Fund. 

The main routes typically stretch from Sturbridge and Wellesley, but because of the pandemic, the event was transformed into a virtual experience, with participants asked to ride on their own.

Mickool, along with two friends —registered PMC rider Marlene Cavanaugh of Plymouth and Abigael Sylvia — biked along a route she mapped out from Dartmouth High School through Russells Mills to Horseneck Beach in Westport, then back through the UMass Dartmouth campus — twice.

“It was a great ride,” Mickool said. “We have such beautiful scenery down here.”

Mickool — a life-long cyclist — has done the challenge for the past eight years, seven as a rider and once as a volunteer. 

She said she started riding the challenge when a friend of hers was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She has unfortunately since passed away, but Mickool has ridden every year since.

“Biking through this is much less than anything these cancer survivors have gone through,” she said. “This is the least I can do to help support them.”

Along the route, many of Mickool’s friends and family turned out to cheer her on. 

Without the support, she thought this year’s challenge might be extra challenging, but said she was very thrilled to see so many people turn out during this time.

“Sure there aren’t as many supporters as a normal year, but we still had the same quality — if not better,” Mickool said.

At the UMass Dartmouth parking lot, a handful of supporters came out to cheer on the riders with signs and cowbells, all while keeping their social distance. 

“When Heather’s riding, she is really doing it from the heart for the survivors,” said Jane Roies, who played soccer with Mickool in Rhode Island. “She’s a good egg.”

Lindsey Camara, one of Mickool’s coworkers, agreed. 

“She’s definitely the real deal,” she said.

After completing the 89-mile challenge, Mickool said she plans to hop on the bike on Monday for a 40-50-mile ride just for the fun of it. 

“Heather’s a beast, but in a good way,” Camara said.