About 16 months ago, I met an unlikely winter rider. He was fat, had a new Trek and new kit and I was as likely to see him sitting on a bench regaining his composure and sunning as I was to see him huffing along on his bike. One day, as he sat on a favored bench, I struck up a conversation, "You're not going to get it done sitting there". I'm very good at breaking the ice with lines like that, so many of my initial conversations with sensitive folks are quite short. Well, the fat man wasn't real sensitive and it turned out that we had been slightly acquainted over many years, both being Dogtown Boys and having shared the friendship of long time gal pal. As I am wont to do, I sized the guy up and thought to myself, "No way is this guy going to make it as a rider." The fact that he was getting started in the middle of the winter could have been a giveaway, but, surprisingly to me, I kept seeing him. And by then I was seldom seeing him parked on a bench, but I was seeing him on the bike. A lot. He rode all winter. He got his adult sons involved and started riding with faster friends. As I ride the trail more days than not, I identify many of the regulars and I can tell you if they're going well or if they put on weight over the winter, if they got a new road bike or a particularly charming tattoo. I must have been out of synch with my friend's schedule over the last winter, but when I saw him this spring, I wasn't sure I was seeing the same guy. In sixteen months of riding, he'd logged about 5000 miles, had lost 67 pounds and had traded in his 40" waist pants for 34's. As a rider, he knows he still has some excess pounds, but his friends now call him skinny. He bounds up three stories of stairs to his office where he used to take the elevator rather than attack a single flight of stairs. He said, "If I drop something, I can pick it up. I used to have to give that a lot of thought. Putting on my socks used to be a daily challenge." I didn't think he'd make it and he's just getting started. In his mid-fifties he decided that he wasn't ready to be disabled by his lifestyle. Now, he's a cyclist and is looking forward to more, not less.
I know of many more folks whose positive life changes can be attributed directly to the resource that is the River Trail, my own included. The creation and support of hundreds or thousands of healthier lives in our community is great return on the investment.