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September 11, 2015, Detroit, Michigan – “I have fought the good fight; I have finished the race; I have kept the faith.” Sister Marie Michael, OP, could echo those words that St. Paul wrote to St. Timothy after participating in the inaugural Baroudeur bike ride through Detroit and its surrounding communities on August 22. Baroudeur is French for “warrior,” the nickname of Wayne State’s athletic teams.
Sister Marie rode 50 miles in just over four hours – one of about 1,100 cyclists who took part in the urban bike ride to raise scholarship funds for Wayne State University. The event was initiated by Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson as a way to raise funds for a worthy cause while giving participants an enjoyable and challenging day.
Sister Marie said that the cyclists had a choice of four levels of participation: 20, 50, 62, and 100 miles. The starting time was staggered, so that those who rode for 100 miles – including President Wilson – would start earlier than those who were to ride for fewer miles.
She explained that the event included planned stops every 12 miles. At the 24-mile mark – about half-way into her own tour – the cyclists stopped at St. Paul on the Lake, where many Adrian Dominican Sisters have served, and where many of the Sisters greeted the cyclists. Even at the point where the 50-mile cyclists were to turn off, Sister Marie said, she felt she could have kept going to 62 but finished at the level for which she had registered.
“I will never look at a finish line the same way again,” Sister Marie said, adding that the bike ride was “exhilarating,” and that she was tired but not exhausted after the ride. She explained that the cyclists were greeted by cheerleaders, who applauded them. “It was very touching, but I have to say, I accepted the clapping because it really was a feat to keep going.”
Originally, Sister Marie had planned to participate in the event with another Sister, who had to cancel her participation because of a scheduling conflict. Sister Marie decided to participate on her own and discovered many benefits. “I met people who were riding alone and so we formed our little group as we came on each other,” she said. “I met people I would not have met if I was with somebody there, so that was a nice benefit.”
Riding the 50 miles alone also gave Sister Marie some time to reflect and to reminisce on the meaning that various neighborhoods and landmarks in Detroit – her home town – held for her, as well as memories of her childhood and of the Sisters with whom she had lived and worked. “The presence of our Sisters in the community came back to me, because I was riding along and so my mind was free to think about what these areas meant to me,” she said.
A bicycling enthusiast, Sister Marie said she will be turning 65 this year and saw the Baroudeur as a special way to mark this milestone. She spent the summer, not in reflecting on her age, but in getting into shape for the long bicycle ride. Her training involved riding her bicycle every night – and for a longer time on weekends.
But, she added, “Training is more than bicycling. It’s taking the stairs all the time, even when you’re tired. It’s parking the car at a distance and walking, even though it might be raining or you’re in a hurry. All summer long I was very conscious of that built up stamina.” The training, she said, led her into a healthier lifestyle – and helped her to persevere in an experience that pushed her beyond where she thought she could go.
“I wish that everyone could have that one experience in their life where they really are pushing themselves and are able to reach the finish line,” Sister Marie said. “It was a beautiful ride.”