NEWBURYPORT — When asked if he had any intentions of stopping, 67-year-old Dave Hardin gave a simple — though fulfilling — response.
“There’s a guy that’s about 90 years old who’s still doing it, so I have a ways to go,” he said.
Come Aug. 2, the Newburyport native will embark on his 30th consecutive two-day, 168-mile bike ride as a participant in the 35th annual Pan-Mass Challenge. The event is now the largest single athletic fundraising event in the country, raising $414 million since its beginning. And it only continues to grow, as last year’s $39 million raised was more than the combined total of the 1990s.
“The Jimmy Fund is the best known cancer fighter in New England, so it just seemed to make sense for me to support it,” Hardin said. “And it’s been great for my personal health.”
Since starting the ride in 1985, Hardin has traveled nearly 5,000 miles in the event and has raised nearly $100,000. But perhaps most impressive is what he has overcome to stay on his bike. Hardin has had both knees replaced and both hips realigned.
“You’ll recognize me if you see me because I am the one with my knees sticking out to the sides when I’m on the bike,” Hardin joked. “I had both my hips realigned and had the area replaced where cartilage used to be, as well as both my knees replaced. I had to plan the surgeries so I could recover in time to still do the Pan-Mass Challenge.”
Quite obviously, the motivational force behind Hardin has been strong — perhaps even spiritual.
“After my third time riding in it, a fella gave a speech after one of the events and said his son was 5 years old when he was diagnosed with cancer,” he said. “He said his son was then 15 years old and had been cured by the Dana Farber Cancer Institute. I thought it was a wonderful thing that we would be able to help people like that with our fundraising.”