Some might wonder what would compel cyclists Bob Corman and Jay Kilby to ride in a 508-mile race through the blistering heat and unforgiving terrain of the Mojave Desert and Death Valley.
Would you believe, women with breast cancer in South Africa?
With the Bicycle Outfitter of Los Altos as their sponsor, Corman, a Mountain View resident, and Kilby, from Los Gatos, participated in the Furnace Creek 508, held last weekend in Southern California. Dubbed “the toughest 48 hours in sport,” the two-man team finished the grueling course in 37 hours and 36 minutes. The race started in Santa Clarita and finished in Twentynine Palms.
For Corman, in the printing business, and Kilby, in high-tech, the race meant more than a personal challenge of endurance. They cycled to raise money for BreastSens, a non-profit advocacy and lobbying organization that addresses the cultural stigma tied to poor African women afflicted with breast cancer. Cultural ignorance and government apathy, according to founder and breast cancer survivor Molebatsi Pooe-Shongwe, “hinder women in South Africa’s poor urban black neighborhoods from seeking timely medical interventions.”
Corman and Kilby, best friends through cycling, encountered BreastSens via the power of the Internet.
Corman’s Facebook friend, Laetitia Loubser of Morgan Hill, had lived in South Africa and connected him with other South African acquaintances. That led him to a LinkedIn discussion group and a message from Pooe-Shongwe about help setting up a Web site for BreastSens. Corman connected her with South African Lindy Gould, who offered to pay for creating the Web site. As Corman learned more about BreastSens, he decided he had an additional purpose for racing in the Furnace Creek 508.
Dave Prion, general manager of the Bicycle Outfitter, covered Corman and Kilby’s $900 race entrance fee and told them he was supportive of any charity they chose. He said his sponsorship worked on both personal and professional levels.
“Sometimes you need a bellringer for your business,” Prion said, and “evangelistic” cyclists like Corman and Kilby make for good word-of-mouth advertising.
“My dad was diagnosed with colon and liver cancer,” Kilby said. “He’s losing his battle, but I can continue to fight for people in South Africa.”
The duo, also involved in Team In Training events to raise money for leukemia and lymphoma research, reflected philosophically on what motivated them to take on such a punishing event.
“Life is always about challenges – you need that in your life,” Kilby said. “Also, doing it (racing) for a cause. You try to give something back while doing it for yourself.”
Added Corman: “And doing it with your best friend – there’s nothing better.”
For more information on BreastSens, visit www.breastsens.com. For more information on the Furnace Creek 508, visit www.the508.com.