Marilyn Williams pedaled through the rain for the 2016 Prouty Ultimate.

72-year-old "Wonder Woman" shares tips for riding 200 miles in two days

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Marilyn Williams and her riding partner will participate in her fourth Prouty Ultimate

At 72 years strong, Marilyn Williams will ride her bicycle 200 miles during her fourth Prouty Ultimate. She and Julie Tilden, her riding partner with a little more life experience, jokingly call themselves the Wonder Women. To fit their title, they will wear tiaras and themed socks during the two-day event that raises money for cancer research. Their riding group, the Grantham Mountaineers led by Merle Schotanus, placed third for most funds raised last year.

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Those considering participating are often daunted by the requisite fundraising and the distance. Williams shares tips and tricks she has learned by participating in The Prouty.

On fundraising:

For several years, Williams had considered riding in The Prouty but rejected the idea. She hesitated not because of the distance but because of the fundraising. “I hate asking people for money,” she says. Those who ride The Prouty Ultimate must raise a minimum of $2,500 if registering individually or $1,850 if registering with an “Ulti-mate.” The funds contribute to cancer research at the Norris Cotton Cancer Center at Dartmouth Hitchcock. Williams decided to participate when an experienced Prouty rider assured her that fundraising was not that hard. “It’s true,” she says. “Fundraising is one of the easiest parts.”

Williams offers these tips to others, like her, who cringe at the idea of fundraising:

1.)    Just do it. People will respond more positively than you expect. Williams explains that nearly everyone knows someone affected by cancer and are often happy to support research for a cure.

2.)    Ask someone you don’t expect to contribute. The first year she participated, Williams wrote personal letters requesting funding to only those people who she thought might support her. The next year, she asked more acquaintances to give. Many of those she expected to decline contributed.

3.)    Apply for the Byrne Foundation’s match program. The Jack and Dorothy Byrne Foundation is donating up to $500,000 by matching, dollar for dollar, each donation participants receive over the minimum required. The match is awarded to riders on a first come basis and was available starting in February. The early start of the match process forced Williams to commit to riding and fundraising early.

4.)    Take advantage of resources on The Prouty’s website. The website offers tips, form letters, and encouragement.

Last year's Wonder Women included Tracey Koehler, Julie Tilton, Ann Greenwald, and Marilyn Williams.

On riding 200 miles in two days:

Williams enjoys athletic challenges, but even she finds that the ride can be daunting. She explains that her goal is to “finish elated rather than totally exhausted.”

1.       Set a goal and embrace the challenge. Williams says, “If I have a goal, I know what I need to do to be successful.” The goal directs her training and encourages her to strive harder.

2.       Begin training early and often. Williams is currently adventuring in the Grand Canyon. Recently, her training has focused on preparing for the long climb. But the hiking has also helped strengthen her legs and improve her endurance. For the first month of Prouty training, Williams will strive to ride 40 to 60 miles several times a week. Later, she will strive to ride 70 and then 80 miles distances. “For us,” she says, referring to herself and her riding partner, “we have to train or we would be miserable. Athletes who are younger might need to train less.”

3.       Seek riding partners. Training is more enjoyable with others, Williams explains, and others may help you improve.

4.       Start with a shorter ride. The Prouty offers multiple distances for riders, starting at 20 miles. Those who don’t ride can walk, row, golf or even create their own Prouty adventure as a Prouty Virtual participant. Minimum funding amounts also vary with the distance, activity, and age.

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