Samford came close to matching its record 2011 participation at the eighth annual Old Howard 100 Bike Ride April 21. Organizers said 239 cyclists registered and paid for this year's event, only 11 below last year's record of 250 even though this year's ride competed with gloomy weather forecasts and an unrelated cycling event scheduled for the following day. The weather cooperated and spirits were high for the mass start from Judson College in Marion. The pack rode past Marion Military Institute on the old campus of Howard College before breaking up for individual routes and paces.
Ultra-distance "randoneur" Steve Phillips of Birmingham didn't feel he had to choose between the weekend's two cycling events. The 100 miles he rode on Saturday were just a stretch for a hard day's climb at the Cheaha Challenge Century on Sunday. Finishing his fourth Old Howard 100, Phillips said the ride offers a break from the isolation typical of his usual long-distance cycling."I enjoy coming out and doing these organized centuries because it gives me a chance to socialize with people," Phillips said. "This is a nice century". Other cyclists also mentioned the social attraction of the ride and the beauty and history of the routes.
Most of the 202 Old Howard cyclists who turned out in defiance of rain forecasts chose shorter routes, riding 30 or 40 miles in a few hours, or only as far as they liked before heading back to Marion for hot dogs and lemonade at Judson College. They enjoyed a dry, mild and overcast day of riding.
In addition to last year's participation record, that ride raised $4,000 for the Sowing Seeds of Hope ministry in Perry County, one of the state's most impoverished counties. The 2012 ride is expected to yield just under that record amount. Since the ride's founding in 2005, it has raised more than $15,000 to support the ministry, which seeks to improve the quality of life and work in the county through better education opportunities, health care, tourism, transportation and economic development.