With only 270 miles to ride, former Patriots linebacker and special teams standout Eric Alexander intends to cross one more item off his bucket list.
The 31-year-old retiree has a newfound enthusiasm for endurance sports. He ran in the 117th Boston Marathon while running for the Patriots Charitable Foundation team, only to find himself held up just a couple of miles shy of the finish line because of the bombings on Boylston Street.
So three months later, with his lust for testing the limits of his body unsettled, Alexander is lending his name to yet another charity, racing in the Tri-State Trek, a 270-mile bicycle ride from Newton to Greenwich, Conn., that benefits the ALS Therapy Development Institute.
The ride kicks off Friday and lasts through Sunday. It may not be as grueling as the Marathon, which Alexander trained more than five months for, but it will be just as satisfying to complete the endeavor.
“I think I mentioned this before. I always enjoyed doing charity work and appearances for the Patriots that involved charity work,” Alexander said. “This is just me continuing to do that. Even though I’m not an active player, I still have some notoriety.”
For the institute, Alexander provides a celebrity name for an organization whose premier event is often overshadowed by other charity rides at this time of year. For Alexander, the jaunt provides another opportunity to give back to the community with former NFL associates like Steve Gleason in mind, all while getting another notch on his belt of endurance events.
“The ride is about raising money, but it’s just as much about raising awareness,” said race director David Virden, whose dad was diagnosed with the disease in 2006. “Having Eric involved, it can shine a new light on the cause.”
Unlike many of the riders in the Tri-State Trek, Alexander is participating without a direct connection to someone who suffers from ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He got hooked up with this particular charity by a friend and former LSU classmate. But he sympathizes with former Saint Gleason, whom he finds kinship with.
“I’ve never even met him personally,” Alexander said. “I think we’ve competed against each other personally. … We have that, I don’t know, we just have that bond that we were both basically special teamers in the league and made our careers as special teamers. Just to see how ALS has affected him and just how he’s reacted to it has been amazing. So he’s definitely been an inspiration to me and others I’m sure.”
And while the idea of 270 miles may seem daunting, it’s nothing on the lines of the Tour de France – or the Boston Marathon for that matter.
“This is not a race,” Alexander explained. “It’s a ride. We have rest stops every 20 miles. I’m not trying to break a record, just trying to get to Greenwich.”
And in his ride to Greenwich, he will continue a tradition of giving that will surely endure.
For more information on the Tri-State Trek, the ALS Therapy Development Institute, or to donate, go to http://tst.als.net/.
Zuri Berry can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @zuriberry.