Greg Johnson was a smoker desperate to break the addiction.
“I walked around the block, jogged around the block, ran my first mile, did my first 5K and then on to marathons,” Johnson said. “I felt like I turned a corner. I finally left all that behind me. I will never go back to that old lifestyle.”
Aaron Reiter spent his adulthood riding bikes and assisting others.
“My sister encouraged me to do the Courage Classic over mountain passes,” Reiter said. “That opened up a whole new avenue. An avenue of service.”
On May 20, Johnson and Reiter will ride 104 miles from Portland to Pacific City, Oregon, to raise funds for lung cancer research.
Reiter is riding for Roxanne Renton, a Camas-Washougal Rotary Club member recovering from her second lung cancer surgery.
“It’s amazing how many people are touched by lung disease, whatever form it takes,” Reiter said.
Johnson is riding for the cause itself.
“I quit smoking a long time ago,” he said. “It’s one of the reasons I gravitated toward this event.”
This is the second year Johnson and Reiter are doing the Reach the Beach event. They said the back roads course through wine country is gorgeous and the people around them are inspiring.
“The majority of people out there are riding for someone because they’re passionate about it,” Reiter said. “They have gone and done the work to get people to donate; asked people to contribute; told them they’re going to be out there doing this really difficult, physical thing on someone’s behalf. That’s powerful.”
He sees professional looking riders on $10,000 bikes. His heart goes out to the ones on outdated bikes wearing jean shorts and tennis shoes with no clips.
“It’s clear for 50 of those 100 miles, they’ve been wondering why they are out there,” Reiter said. “But they’re out there, and they’re doing the same distance. It might take them longer, but I’ll tell you what, that person feels a sense of accomplishment.”
Johnson and Reiter didn’t know each other when they started on this renaissance, but their wives did. They encouraged their husbands to go for a run together.
Driven by competition, the two became fast friends.
Reiter introduced Johnson to cycling. The two also dived head first into the Spartan Races at Washougal Motocross Park.
“You get bored doing the same thing,” Johnson said. “It’s good to step out of your comfort zone.
“There’s no better feeling than crossing the finish line and looking back at it all,” he added. “It wasn’t easy, but I pushed through and persevered.”