Even after 12 years of cycling, Robert Pohl fully expects to have a teary-eyed finish with his family when he reaches the end of this year’s BP MS 150 bike ride.
“My entire family, including my extended family, my brother, my sister – most of them come every year to the finish line for a huge celebration,” Pohl said. “But at the same time it’s also recognition for my mother.”
The two-day fundraising bike ride, organized by the National MS Society South Central Region, is the largest of the 100 Bike MS events across the US with three official start locations in the Houston area. Each route has a total mileage varying between 160 to 180 miles to Austin and takes place on April 18 and 19.
This year will mark Pohl’s thirteenth year bicycling in the MS 150, which helps raise funds and awareness regarding multiple sclerosis and its treatment. Pohl’s mother died in 1991 after a battle with an aggressive form of the disease.
According to the BP MS 150 website, multiple sclerosis is a “chronic, unpredictable disease of the central nervous system” and can cause blurred vision, loss of balance, paralysis, blindness, tremors and more. Most are diagnosed with the disease between the ages of 20 and 50.
“She was bedridden by the time I was in high school,” Pohl said. “I would tear up at times thinking about her when I first started riding [the BP MS 150]. She never gave up hope we would find a cure and, once she realized she would never walk again, she always expressed a desire and a hope that they would find better medicine and better treatment so young mothers like her could live a normal life.”
The memory of his mother fuels Pohl’s passion for participating in the annual event, so much so that he has been inducted into its Hall of Fame and has raised about $100,000. That money has come from friends, family members, coworkers and others he knows through his business, Furnishings Unlimited.
“People have even given me their jury duty pay,” Pohl said with a laugh. “I once got a check for $6 from Harris County.”
While cycling has typically been a stress reliever for Pohl, it wasn’t always so easy. In the mid-1980s, a pickup truck ran him off the road while riding alone in Katy. Luckily he was wearing a helmet at the time, but he did go home with a concussion and didn’t get back on a bike for nearly 10 years.
After getting back into cycling, and subsequently investing more of his time into the MS 150, Pohl hasn’t looked back.
“So many people have no idea what MS is,” Pohl said. “The BP MS 150 has done a remarkabe job of educating people about what it is and how they can help. For me, it’s a multifaceted journey – I want to raise as much money as I can and continue to make new relationships through this amazing event.”
For more information, visit www.nationalmssociety.org.