Aaron Light has backpacked at Philmont Scout Ranch, and he’s run a marathon, but his next endeavor will dwarf the mileage he’s previously trekked. The Eagle Scout and University of Texas sophomore will cycle from Austin, Texas, to Anchorage, Alaska.

“I’ve had the experience of pushing myself mentally and physically, and this will challenge both,” Light says.

Light won’t be cycling alone; this 4,000-mile journey is part of Texas 4000 for Cancer, a student non-profit organization that travels every summer to raise money for cancer research. About 90 college students will split up and ride along three different routes, one through the Ozarks, another through the Rockies and one group will cycle up the West Coast. Light will take the Rockies route.

“I never really cycled before this,” Light says. “I’m super excited. I’m really enjoying getting on the bike and growing close to everyone. This is going to be a memory for a lifetime.”

Training for the trek

Not everyone who signs up for the Texas 4000 is an experienced cyclist. To prepare for the journey, students rack up 2,000 training miles over 18 months. The students also do cardio workouts multiple times a week and go cycling twice a week.

The trip will take 70 days next summer with some 150-mile stretches along the way, so it will require being physically fit, but more importantly, it will require being driven. When the non-profit’s leaders evaluate who is up for the challenge, they look at more than one’s physical ability, Light says. They ask for each participant to raise $4,500 for cancer research and to volunteer 50 hours of community service ahead of the trip.

Light didn’t need much help getting motivated for the cause. His aunt, a couple friends in high school and a coworker all battled cancer. He will be riding in honor of their fights as well as for their friends and families.

He’s raised more than $7,200 so far; he set a goal to personally raise $10,000.

“I’ve always tried to set high goals for myself,” Light says.

Boy Scout influence

Light served as a patrol leader in Troop 714 in Dallas, Texas, and earned the Eagle Scout Award in 2016. Being a Boy Scout has influenced the way he’s approaching this monumental test.

“In my heart, I know I can do it,” Light says. “I think overall the goal has become different. I want to see everyone get there; that’s my goal now.”

Teamwork is critical for helping others reach the finish line. While vehicles and a trailer will haul the crew’s gear along the route, riders will carry equipment for fixing flats and other repairs. Light is trained to serve as a crew mechanic. All three crews will meet up before the final 10-day ride into Alaska.

The Cycling merit badge is required for the Eagle Scout Award; Boy Scouts can earn Cycling, Swimming or Hiking as part of the 21 required badges. Check out these tips for teaching cycling to your Scouts and read how to plan a touring trip.

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