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The Yankee Express

Sutton’s Patty McCaffrey takes on the Pan Mass Challenge

Sutton’s Patty McCaffrey with her trainer, Dave Contrada.


In 2008 Sutton’s Patty McCaffrey lost her husband Mike to bladder cancer. Prior to losing her husband, he was planning on running the Boston Marathon with their son Ryan. However, they never got the chance to do so.
“After his father died Ryan, now 36 years old, said to me that it would be really nice if he could run the marathon with at least one of his parents,” McCaffrey said. “So, I ran it with him. I had a horrible time, but at least I finished.”

 Patty and her son at the finish line.

McCaffrey has now run the 26.2-mile marathon four times and her daughter Meghan also joined in, but the ultimate goal was to ride in the Pan Mass Challenge (PMC).
“I had volunteered loading luggage and backpacks onto the trucks in the early morning hours at Sturbridge and watched the riders take off,” the Sutton resident said. “I always thought it would be great to ride in the PMC, it was something that was on my bucket list. It’s the type of thing that you want to do to give back.”
Being a Director of Health Services for the Waltham Public School systems, McCaffrey doesn’t deal with cancer patients, but if she were to get up on a bike and ride the PMC this would be her way of giving back. Having so many friends who have had and beaten cancer, McCaffrey felt that raising money for research that will eventually be the downfall of the disease was right up her alley. 
“This is a dream come true, to actually be a cyclist in the PMC,” McCaffrey said.
To take part in the August 6 and 7 event, McCaffrey reached out to people for donations as well as baking up some Mrs. Macs Doggie Snacks, which she sold at craft fairs to supplement her $6000 required donation to take part in the ride. 
Riding alongside her for the full 186-miles from Sturbridge to Provincetown was her son and his friend. The trio figured if they rode along at a 15-mph pace they would be safe and not interfere with the other riders.
In order to get ready for her first PMC McCaffrey enlisted the help of Dave Contrada, an avid cyclist, and a cancer survivor. 
“It has taken me a long time to learn how to ride the bike as a cyclist. I’ve fallen a zillion times, but Dave has taken me under his wing and has helped me learn the rules of the road,” McCaffrey said. “He has taught me proper endurance, how to fuel my body, conditioning, and training. Together we have rode a 50- and 60-mile trip to get ready.”
Being that this was her first ever biking of the PMC McCaffrey prepared for all sorts of weather; extreme heat with proper hydration or rain, while praying it wouldn’t happen. 
“I’ll be ready for whatever is thrown my way over the two days,” she said, before the event. “Being my first ride, I figured that I’d be in the middle of the pack so I’m planning on starting a little later and let people go ahead of me. I don’t want to get in their way; besides it’s not a race, we’re doing this for charity, and it doesn’t matter how long it takes me as long as I do it safely.”
  McCaffrey rode in her first PMC fort those who have been lost to cancer as well as those who have been able to defeat it. Although the weather was a little hot for her two-day ride McCaffrey was able to finish the ride despite barely being able to walk on the day after and still feeling sore a few days later. While she did feel the effects of the ride, she is planning on continuing to participate because of all the love that she felt.
“There were people all along the route cheering us on. Each community had different things welcoming us as we rode through,” she said. “There was a kid holding a poster saying I am 15, 16, 17, 18 19 all crossed out; 20 – because of you. It made me very emotional to say the least.”
  McCaffrey noted that luggage is a thing of the past, being a cyclist in the PMC is the way to go from now on and as long as she is able to get up on her bike to help cancer research she is planning on doing it.
“How lucky am I that I can do this to help someone,” McCaffrey said.