On a crisp August morning, Robin Hall ’26 lined up alongside hundreds of fellow bikers preparing to embark on a challenging journey — an 85-mile ride across eastern Massachusetts. Navigating busy roads and steep hills, Hall and the other bikers rode in support of those facing a much greater challenge — cancer.
Hall completed the Pan-Mass Challenge, an annual bike-a-thon that includes 16 different routes and occurs on the first weekend of August. The goal of the Challenge is to raise money for the Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, which is a leading center for adult and pediatric cancer research globally.
Hall’s ride took place on Aug. 5, beginning in Wellesley, Massachusetts and ending in the town of Bourne, Massachusetts. She raised $4,237, exceeding the $4,000 fundraising minimum required to participate.
Hall is a sophomore majoring in global and public health sciences in the College of Human Ecology. She is also a project manager for 180 Degrees Consulting, a consulting firm for nonprofit organizations, and a writer for the Cornell Healthcare Review.
Hailing from the Greater Boston Area, Hall had heard of the challenge and was inspired to participate because of a personal connection to the cause. When Hall was seven years old, her father was diagnosed with stage three colon cancer.
“It was really difficult, but it inspired me to see how big of a role doctors and health professionals have [in] helping everyday people,” Hall said.
Hall credited the surgeons and doctors who helped her father — who is now fully recovered — with sparking her interest in public health.
“I’m really interested in looking at broader determinants of health, and how we can prevent cancer through preventative medicine and nutrition,” she said.
Hall said that the PMC was her first time participating in both a fundraiser and such a strenuous physical challenge.
Hall began the fundraising process shortly after she registered for the PMC in February 2023. She spread the word by mailing physical letters to family and friends and then following up through social media.
Throughout June and July, Hall began her training by going on weekly 30-to-40-mile bike rides. Hall’s father, an avid cyclist, would often train alongside her. Hall increased the frequency and intensity of her training as the date of the challenge approached, such as by biking 10 miles twice in one week followed by 30 miles over the weekend.
On the day of the race, Hall felt a sense of unity among the athletes, particularly at the very start.
“Seeing everyone lined up [and] ready to do something that’s so hard, to fight for such a good cause — that was really inspiring,” Hall said.
At the start of the race, Hall noticed the various ways that athletes paid homage to friends and family members who had battled cancer. “I was riding with a friend’s mom, and she always puts a sunflower in her helmet [to honor] her good friend who passed away [due to] cancer who loved sunflowers,” Hall said. Hall herself received a sunflower and put it in her helmet as a tribute.
The most challenging portion of the race for Hall was the middle stretch between water stops when she got separated from a pack of people with whom she had been riding. “I was on my own, and so that was mentally challenging as well as physically challenging,” Hall said.
However, her energy returned around the halfway point after breaking for lunch. “The last half was nowhere near as hard as I thought it was going to be,” she said.
After the race, Hall received congratulatory messages from family and friends, along with some late donations.
Hall plans to ride in the PMC again next year, but instead of the Wellesley-Bourne route, she plans to embark on the two-day-long Sturbridge-Provincetown route which spans 192 miles — the longest of any route. The fundraising minimum is also set higher, at $6,000.
Hall advised that other students interested in creating a change should not underestimate their abilities to fundraise for a good cause, nor underestimate their physical capabilities.
“Anything can be possible with the right amount of training and effort,” Hall said.
Eric Lechpammer ’27 is a Sun contributor and can be reached at [email protected].