to ride across Death Valley for charity
rides in memory of his lost loved ones, friends
Helen E. McKinney
(October 2007) La Grange, Ky., resident Tim
Hamburger is not afraid to face difficult obstacles. He is undertaking
a challenging 17-hour bicycle ride through Death Valley in the hope
of finding a cure for cancer.
On Oct. 27, Hamburger will ride through the border of
California and Nevada to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
and the Lance Armstrong Foundation. He will traverse a valley where
the temperature soars to 130 degrees in the summer and below freezing
The ride will begin and end in a town called Furnace Creek, and the
course consists of nearly 10,000 feet of climbing. Death Valley is 282
feet below sea level, not the most desirable course for cyclists.
Hamburger, 41, has been participating in fundraisers for the Leukemia
and Lymphoma Society since 1998. So far, this Columbus, Ohio, native
has managed to raise $66,000.
Although the ride through Death Valley might seem challenging,
it pales in comparison to the challenges cancer patients face every
day, said Hamburger. This ride is dedicated to the memory of good
friend, Crickett Julius, and his cousin, Karen, both who died from breast
This ride has been in existence for 15 years. Hamburger chose to participate
partly because it will be almost one year to the day since his friend
died. He also wanted to suffer through the extreme conditions to
gain an understanding of what they went through.
He had been a competitive runner for many years before taking up bicycling
and had the opportunity to run for the ASICS shoe company in 1990 and
1991. I had become burnt out on running, said Hamburger.
But he decided to give it one more shot and in 1997 he began training
for the Rock n Roll Marathon in San Diego to qualify for
the Boston Marathon.
That year he received a brochure in the mail from the Leukemia and Lymphoma
Society, and attended an informational meeting for the societys
Team in Training program. Attending the same meeting was 11-year-old
Matt Lewis who stood up in front of a room full of people and talked
about what it meant to him to have complete strangers run hundreds of
miles to train in order to help kids like him. He sold me on the program.
Hamburger was assigned to a local Patient Hero, which turned out to
be Matt. Another amazing fact was that Matt lived in the same Pittsburgh
neighborhood as Hamburger.
Matt had been diagnosed with leukemia when he was only 7 years old.
His younger brother, Greg, who was 2 years old at the time, was his
marrow donor. Matt had to endure chemotherapy and radiation before the
I had no idea at the time just how much of an impact this young
man would have on my life, said Hamburger. He decided to give
the marathon his best shot in honor of Matt. When Hamburger qualified,
he had the official marathon finishers medal engraved with both
of their names.
When Hamburger took the medal to Matt to tell him he had qualified for
the 103rd Boston Marathon, he was met with a shock. Matts leukemia
Matt began the hardest part of his battle all over again and triumphed.
When Hamburger ran the Boston Marathon in 1999, the streets were lined
with more than 1.5 million spectators. He remembers standing at
the starting line with 12,000 of the worlds best marathoners,
thinking how luck I was to be there.
Also there that day was Matt and his family, who had traveled to Boston
to share in the exhilarating experience with him. Matt even broke through
the crowd and ran about 50 yards with Hamburger. Hamburger completed
the marathon in two hours and 52 minutes, placing in the top 3 and a
half percent overall.
Because of Matt, he has become very involved in the Leukemia and Lymphoma
Society. He helped create the Team in Training bicycling program for
the Western Pennsylvania and West Virginia Chapter in 1999. This program
is the worlds largest endurance sports training program. Hamburger
served as head cycling coach from 1999 to 2002.
He has been training six days a week for the Death Valley ride. Because
of these long hours, he is often away from his family. His wife Sharon
commented, It takes him away from his family, but also shows our
kids (ages 2 and 5) how you can help people and be dedicated to something.
Sharon has accompanied him on some of his fundraising events and is
very supportive, as is the rest of his family. Its an incredible
thing hes doing, she said.
In his job with Pfizer, Hamburger was transferred to Cleveland, Ohio,
in 2003 and then to Louisville in 2006. But he has never lost contact
with Matt, making many trips back to Pittsburgh to visit. Every
milestone he achieves in his life will always be celebrated by our family,
To sponsor Tim Hamburger on his Death Valley
ride, checks can be made payable to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society
or the Lance Armstrong Foundation and mailed to: Tim Hamburger, 4811
Stanley Farm Ct., La Grange, KY 40031.
Back to October 2007