Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Cyclist, 80, to ride 100 miles
Ricki Barker Staff Writer
The Albany Herald
ALBANY - For his 80th birthday on Saturday, retired nephrologist Eugene Clark plans to ride his bike on a 100-mile trip from Quincy, Fla. to Albany, GA with family and friends.
On Sunday, he plans to bike back to Quincy. "This is my birthday party," laughed Clark. "I'm just hoping I will be able to complete it."
According to fellow cyclist and friend Ritaann Becker from Havana, Fla., Clark should have no trouble with this course. "He has done it before and he is in great shape," she said. "He goes to the gym and he did a bike ride across Georgia to prepare for this." Becker said that she met Clark on the same trip that they will be taking Saturday for his birthday. "I met Gene in April 2005 across the lunch table in Whigham, Georgia," she said. "It was on an organized ride from Quincy to Albany." Becker said that she was impressed by Clark, describing his determination to complete the ride as inspirational. "On the way into Quincy there was a big hill that we had to climb," she recalled. "He was one of the last ones to finish, but he made it. His toe strap had broken on one of his shoes, but he made it." Becker, who works as a massage therapist and part-time in a bike shop in Tallahassee, said that after Clark's first ride from Quincy to Albany he came in and bought a bike from the shop where she worked. She said that throughout the years she and Clark have developed a genuine friendship and have remained in contact via e-mail and telephone calls. She said that she was excited about the trip, which she will be making with Clark Saturday, because she hadn't seen the retired physician in over two years. "He is so inspirational and I am so honored to do this," said Becker. "I get to finally meet his wife, Catherine, and his family in person who will be riding sag with us throughout the trip." Clark said that "sag" means that his wife, along with his daughter, Sally, will be riding in a car from point to point, providing refreshments to the riders. "It comes from 'sagging,' " explained Clark. "If somebody sags, you can pick them up." Becker said that the 10-hour ride will certainly be interesting and fun. "It's at Gene's pace," she said. "Sunday is going to be tough because of the heat and the hills, but the key is to keep going."
Clark said that he got the idea for his birthday ride a few years back. "It's going to be fun," he said. According to Clark, his son Bob will be joining him on the road on Clark's old bike. "I bought me a new one so he will be riding the one I got in Tallahassee," he said. Clark's partner and fellow nephrologist Dr. Hasan Rizvi will also be riding with him. Clark said that he is looking forward to his birthday ride and says that he feels he is in better shape at 80 than he was when he was practicing medicine. "I am way stronger than I was when I quit my practice," said Clark. "I realized that between 70 and 80 you can gain muscle mass and strength." He said that although he rides regularly and feels he can successfully complete the ride, the heat and the hills might pose a problem. "That one in Quincy is a pretty good hill," said Clark. "I'll do what I can. We (cyclists) don't call it quitting, we call it cross-training when we have to get down and walk. I will finish it though."
The retired nephrologist said that he is also excited about the birthday cake his daughter made for him. "Caramel cake, it is my favorite," said Clark. "I feel kind of guilty that I have been the center of attention this week and I am so grateful that I have such great friends and family." He said that the key to growing old gracefully is to exercise and to try and be happy. "I am a happy person," Clark said. "I have my problems but I still try to be happy."
The cyclist said that he will continue riding bikes as long as he is able, but has no wheeling plans yet for future birthdays. "I hope I can still ride," he said.
Becker said that Clark remains an inspiration to her and that he has touched many lives. "Gene's the man," she said. "He shows me what you can do at that age."
Clark said that he is grateful for his friends and his family and the ability to spend his birthday with them. "I'm grateful and God has blessed me in so many ways," he said. "I'm in this stage right now and I can't wait for what is in the future."
In addition to riding with the Pecan City Pedalers, Clark also serves as the section manager for Georgia Amateur Radio Emergency Services (ARRS), which he says is his "real passion."
He is credited with opening the first dialysis center in Southwest Georgia in 1976 and in February the Clark Home Training Center on the 1200 block of North Jefferson Street was dedicated and named in his honor.
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