Marblehead teen, dad ride PMC together to fund cancer research

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Leigh Blander is an experienced TV, radio and print journalist who has written hundreds of stories for local newspapers, including the Marblehead Reporter. She also works as a PR specialist.

Bodie Clifford (left) and his dad, Jim, at the Pan-Mass Challenge finish line in Provincetown

There is one moment that stands out for Matthew “Bodie” Clifford, 18, from riding the Pan-Mass Challenge with his dad last weekend.

“It almost made me tear up,” Clifford said. “Right before one of the water stops on the Cape, there was a kid with a sign that read, ‘Thanks to you, I am now 20 years old,’ with other, younger ages crossed off. It was just surreal to see that. It made me realize the true impact of the ride.”

Clifford and his dad, Jim, set off Saturday at 6 a.m. with some of Jim’s Marblehead biking buddies. They left from Devereux Beach and biked 105 miles that first day, sleeping in Bourne. They biked another 66 miles to the finish line in Provincetown on Sunday.  

The Cliffords’ route on the Pan-Mass Challenge

“When I climbed off the bike, the first thing I did was take a big swig of water,” Clifford said. “Then I gave my dad a nice big hug. I was happy to have done the ride with him.”

More than 6,000 riders from around the world joined the 43rd PMC with a goal to raise $66 million for cancer research and patient care at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

Jim Clifford has ridden the PMC 10 times, but this time was extra special.“It was pretty fantastic to be able to do something like that with Bodie, especially right before he leaves for college,” he said.

Bodie graduated from MHS in June and is heading to Wake Forest University in North Carolina.

Jim was impressed with his son’s riding.

“It was really pretty ridiculous,” he said. “He was in cruise control the whole time. He never complained.”

PMC riders battled steamy 95-degree temps on their ride, and the Cliffords made sure to stay hydrated.

“The constant heat and sun was terrible,” Bodie said. “Any time we stopped, we were just sitting there in the sun. You lose the breeze, the air.”

They stopped every 20 miles or so to refill their water bottles and fuel up with snacks.

“We’d try to stay in the shade,” Jim said.

There were a few hiccups early in the ride.

“We had an interesting start,” Bodie laughed. “About 18 miles in, my chain broke. Then the battery on my bike light died. Then, later, my dad hit a bump and lost one of his water bottles.”

Marblehead cyclists leaving Devereux Beach for the Pan-Mass Challenge: Dave Weist, Lou Mayle, Andrew Haggard, Jim Clifford, Bodie Clifford and Bob Rickelman

After crossing the finish line in Provincetown and sharing their celebratory hug, the Cliffords boarded a ferry back to Boston.

“It was a little windy, so we got some splash on the upper decks, but it felt great to have the water on us,” Bodie said.

The teen, who played soccer and tennis and ran winter track at MHS, enjoys riding his bike around town.

“It’s peaceful,” he said. “You can be alone and just be with your thoughts. All you have to think about is the road and what’s ahead.”

Bodie has raised about $2,500 with a goal of $6,000.  He knows first-hand how cancer can impact a family.

“My grandfather and grandmother were both affected by it,” he said. “I was thinking of them on the ride.”

To donate to Bodie’s campaign, click here and type in his name (Matthew Clifford).

Bodie is already looking forward to riding the PMC with his dad again.

“I would love to do it again next year,” he said.

The Cliffords rode with other cyclists from Marblehead, including Dave Weist, Lou Mayle, Andrew Haggard and Bob Rickman.  

A total of 19 ‘Headers rode, including Jake Bennet, Gabrielle Coffman, Tom Cushman, Peter Franklin, Stephen Garfield, Moira James, Caroline McCarthy, Angus McQuilken, Mark Meyer, Chris Morrissey, Howard Needel, Robert Rieckelman, Maya Tavares, Taylor Tracy and Kathleen Vander Laan.

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