By MARILYN SHAPIRO
When Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the legal pioneer for gender equality and the second woman to serve on the Supreme Court, died just before sundown on Rosh Hashanah, I shared the grief of many Americans. What could I do to honor this gutsy, determined, badass woman?
Writing an article that was published by The Jewish World (“ RGB’s death alarms and saddens Marilyn as she hopes for a better world.” 10/22/2020) helped me, but could I do more?
Activity As A Tribute
A few days later, a friend shared a link to a website that offered a way to honor the feminist icon. Run for Ruth was billed a virtual event to “celebrate the life of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her dedication to equality for all no matter where we are right now.” Participants could bike, run, jog, walk, or, as I later earned, even swim to reach a total 87 miles —the number that reflected RBG’s age when she died. In addition, one could choose to donate to several charities earmarked as those representing RBG’s legacy through their support of women’s rights and empowerment.
The $29 entrance fee entitled each participant to a tee shirt with a picture of RBG wearing a crown; a digital race bib; and a finisher’s medal. It also gave one access to a website which one could put in individual mileage, compare results with others involved, and even print out a virtual bib. The guidelines said that a minimum of 30% of registration proceeds would go to charity.
With visions of RBG smiling down from heaven, I sent in my online registration fee, donated money to Planned Parenthood, one of the charity options, and logged in for my first virtual entry the 20 mile bike ride I took the day after Rosh Hashanah and two days after her passing.
No matter how or with whom I would put in the miles, I knew from day one that I could not make my goal just 87 miles. Since the pandemic had hit, I had swapped fitness classes for 7 a.m. swims in an outdoor pool and, accompanied by my husband Larry, long walks and longer bike rides. I had already put 1,000 miles on my bike’s cyclometer. Based on this knowledge, I set my personal goal for 870 miles by the Jan. 31, 2021 deadline.
About four weeks and 230 miles later, I received the Run for Ruth race packet in the mail. The finisher’s medal, a large metal medallion on a striped ribbon, was pretty impressive but, in my eyes, pretty useless. I couldn’t see when I would wear it and put it aside to give to my five-year old granddaughter.
The bigger disappointment was the tee shirt. I had ordered an adult size large, but it fit like a child’s medium. I couldn’t even get it over my head. I gave it to my petite niece and found an even cooler RBG shirt on Etsy for myself.
Enjoying The Competitio
Now that the focus was off the perks, it was time for me to put my pedal to the metal. Larry was a great biking partner, pumping air into our bike tires as needed, mapping out routes that avoided traffic, and scheduling hydration stops along the way. Our two-hour walks were filled with conversations about the family, politics, books, and movies.
By the middle of October, I was fully invested in what I now called my “Bike for Ruth.” We were averaging over 19 miles on our bikes and over 5 miles on our walks, along with one or two of my solo swims. Each day, I recorded my progress on the website and checked my results compared to fellow participants.
The Tribute Continues
Amazingly, 1,376 people ranging in age from 5 to 81 from had signed up for the biking event. Predictably, many had not gone more than a few miles before dropping out. (Hope their tee shirts fit better than mine!). A couple of hundred had reached their goal of 87 and were done. But there were hundreds more who were still cycling along.
The results page not only gave names, miles, ages, hours expended, and hometowns but it also listed rankings. Guess who was in the top 60 and climbing? Not only was I moving up the chart, but I was one of the oldest riders!
True, I had several factors in my favor. Others were dealing with snow and school and jobs and the pandemic, forget about hills! Mrs. Retired-in-Flat Florida could pedal and walk and even swim to her heart’s content. And I had the spirit of RBG urging me on. I was getting closer and closer to my goal of 870.
Was This Possible?
One day, however, I noticed that a fellow Floridian had slipped into the top 25. One entry. One day. 1,067 miles. This person was 75 years old! Impossible!
I decided the best way to handle what I considered an unacceptable entry was to ride more miles. I upped my personal goal from 870 to at least 1,068.
By this time, it was mid-December, and Larry was getting concerned. Florida was experiencing its winter, and it had turned colder, windier, and even rainier. He wondered if we could we speed the process up, maybe get done by Jan. 1.
I Keep Pedaling
We both pulled out the Smartwools, gloves, and nano-puff jackets that we usually reserve for our trips to Colorado and soldiered on. I hit 870 on Dec. 21 and 1,068—Take that, 1,067-in one day— on Jan. 4.
At this point, Larry said that I was on my own. I cranked out another 300 miles and hit 1,367 miles on the last day of the challenge. I finished in 10th place out of 1,376, with the next person close to my age in 56th place.
I was waiting for the drum roll, or at least a shiny certificate in the mail. I would have waited for a long time. As you remember, I had gotten my “finisher’s medal” two weeks into the race. The black and white 5X7 online certificate listed in big letters my name and time expended: 109 plus hours. In tiny letters was my rank and wrong age of 69.
So I created my own tribute that I have displayed on my refrigerator. It reads: Marilyn Shapiro. 10th Place. 1,367 Miles. 70 Years Old. Then I got back on my bike. After all, Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s 88th birthday would have been March 15. And I am good for at least 880 or so miles before my pandemic pedaling finally comes to an end.