Power of words drives Columbus cyclist

Downtown Columbus was just one of the backdrops for Marc Purslow's journey across the country to raise money for After School All-Stars Ohio. 

Cory Piehowicz

Why is Marc Purslow riding his bike across America this summer? Well, there are a few reasons, but the one at the top of the list is simply to satisfy his love for challenges.

He found plenty of those almost as soon as he hit the road in Bar Harbor, Maine, where a hurricane and many miles pedaling uphill had him struggling before day two was complete. He pushed through, however, and after 13 days on the road had reached Columbus, where he makes his home.

In an interview with FOX Sports Ohio, he joked he might have set himself up for the early rude awakening with a video on his website that explains his mission and his hope his journey would not be easy.

"My wife jokes with me, ‘You asked for it!’, but the idea is the reasons to do this ride are multiple," Purslow said.

He is pushing himself for more than just for the sake of seeing what he can do. Purslow is raising money for charity and looking for stories he can put to good use when he talks to others about motivations and achieving goals.

"If you have a really big goal that seems insurmountable, how do you approach it?" he said. "Make sure you’re not discouraged by the magnitude of the goal by always looking at the whole thing, try to break it into parts. I’m trying to have fodder for discussions for that. So in the video I said I wanted it to be really hard because I wanted to have great stuff to talk about, so I actually think day two was one of the best things that could have happened to me because if you’re a kid or somebody who is trying to learn how to overcome challenges and you talk to someone who has always been able to do everything without any self doubt or problems, it’s kind of hard to relate to them if you have self doubt and problems. So now I can say, ‘Hey, I had this day, listen to what I had to deal with,’ and they can go, ‘Oh, that’s like my day!’"

And Purslow, who started his own nonprofit organization, "Start The Cycle", a little over a year ago, is looking to do more than help youngsters figure out what they want to do and how to do it. With the help of sponsors Columbus Aesthetic and Plastic Surgery, Endurance Engineering, Inc., and the Columbus Arthritis Center, he is hoping to raise $50,000 for After School All-Stars Ohio, an organization with services in Columbus, Dayton and Toledo designed to help kids determine and develop passions for potential future careers while also staying out of trouble from the hours of 3-6 p.m.

"The program is pretty amazing," Purslow said. "It’s a really cool program. It’s really comprehensive and very well organized. The kids after school almost have like a little mini version of college. They have courses they take and they last for three weeks. A teacher comes in and volunteers and they have exposure to different experiences that help them understand what kind of career they might want to pursue."

Purslow’s journey is ongoing, and those interested in learning more and/or contributing to his campaign can visit his website, helpstartthecycle.com.

Aside from furthering the money-raising effort, Purslow welcomes input and feedback, things he has found help him even more than he expected before he started his journey.

Follow Marc's journey in pictures

"What your body is capable of is incredible," he said. "Day two that was so tough, I bonked at 70 miles and I had to do 105. I don’t even know how I did it, but what I realized is people’s comments and encouragement, they’re not just, ‘Oh, that’s nice’ for me now. They’re like the primary fuel, so when I feel really tired or worn out, I either think about something somebody said or some encouragement that I’ve been inspiring to them or they believe in me.

"Honestly, if I’m really tired and thinking I need some motivation, I’ll go onto social media and see what people have written, and I’ll go, ‘Yeah, I can do it!’ I can feed off it. It feels like a more effective fuel for me than food now. It’s so important, so now when I meet people I give them a card and ask them to write me an email because it’s actually important to me."

That realization has helped bring full circle his goals and motivations for the ride across America.

"My main goal is to help people believe in themselves fully so they can actually go after the things they want to accomplish with confidence," he said. "I had this epiphany that I think that’s my real function in life, to help people believe in themselves."

He focuses on young people because they are more likely to be able to apply lessons in their long-term development, but Purslow hopes those of all ages can find his messages useful.

"Thinking about how important the (encouraging) words are to me, I can say it reminds me how important the words I say to kids are," he said. "I think at the end of this ride, I’ll have a lot of lessons in my mind and ideas to put together."