There is nothing more essential than the air we breathe—and there may be no better way to celebrate it than by filling your lungs with a gentle ocean breeze, taking in the oxygen that will power your legs to keep on pedaling during a long scenic cycling tour. Join for Ride Around the Sound, the annual fundraising event for the Washington State chapter of the American Lung Association (ALA) on September 19, and you’ll be able to do just that. It’s a day of incredible views, heart-pumping hills, and a positive community made up of hundreds of others who come together to bike for clean air.
Instead of a race, the event is a non-competitive, untimed tour: a day to indulge in the Seattle’s distinct splendor of mountains and sea. When planning Ride Around the Sound, event manager Annie Wiltgen says one of the most important factors was that the route should be as picturesque as possible. “We focused on a beautiful, scenic course that hugs the water at least 50 percent of the time,” she says. “It’s one of the most beautiful rides in the Pacific Northwest.”
There are three starts to the tour, enabling cyclists of all levels to participate. Endurance enthusiasts who want the full experience should start in Seattle for the 92-mile ride to the finish line in Bremerton, on the Olympic Peninsula. Cyclists looking for a shorter day can choose to start at Normandy Park near SeaTac for a 72-mile ride or in Tacoma for a 38-mile jaunt. Whichever starting line you choose, you'll climb up and coast down hills, weave past inlets and woods, take in incredible views of Mount Rainier, and tour through quaint waterfront towns on the Kistap Peninsula to the finish line in Bremerton.
There is, however, a prerequisite to ride: In addition to the $40-50 registration fee (depending on how soon you sign up), entrants must raise at least $100 for the American Lung Association to participate. Riders can fundraise either individually or register as part of a team.
But the cause is one that Matt DeGooyer, executive director of ALA’s Washington chapter, hopes Seattlites will find easy to rally behind. “Everybody needs air to breathe,” DeGooyer says. “Each of us takes over 20,000 breaths a day, most of us without even thinking about it.” But not everyone has the luxury of taking their next breath for granted: Washington State has one of the highest childhood asthma rates in the country, DeGooyer points out. Though participating in Ride Around the Sound, cyclists support ALA in helping children at risk of asthma attacks, researching cures and treatments for lung cancer and lung disease, and cleaning up air pollution.
“We don’t think about breathing until it’s the only thing we think about,” Wilgen says. “Many of our racers have family [members] who struggle to breathe. They ride hard so that their loved ones can breathe easy.”
Ride Around the Sound is a fully supported cycling tour. There are rest stops every 10 to 15 miles (including water and snacks), medical and mechanical support, and even three square meals: breakfast at the starting line, lunch en route, and dinner near the ferry terminal at the ride's finish, all included in the registration fee. Plus, there are extra prizes for those who bring in the most buck, such as a specially designed bike jersey for those who raise at least $250.
One of the best parts of the day? “The ferry ride back to Seattle at the end,” Wiltgen says. “After a hard day of riding, it's really fun to be on the water and see the mountains, enjoying your way back.”
It’s the perfect time to sit back, relax, and take a deep breath of fresh clean air: After the miles of cycling to help out a good cause, you'll certainly deserve it.