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Here's why a Port Moody police officer is biking 800 km in eight days

Since it started in 1997, the Cops for Cancer rides have raised more than $52 million across Canada.
John Marshall, of the Port Moody Police, heads out with the Cops for Cancer during one of his two previous rides with the annual fundraiser.

Prior to joining Port Moody Police two years ago, John Marshall worked for the transit police, served as a crisis negotiator and on the gang squad. In 2011, he was even on duty during the Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver.

But on Friday, Sept. 15, when Marshall pulls on his colourful lycra Cops for Cancer jersey and throws his leg over his aluminum racing bicycle, he'll be just another member of the 36-rider peloton trying to help kids overcome cancer.

"It's a chance to be human," said Marshall, who will be participating in his third tour of police and border patrol officers as well as paramedics pedaling 800 km over eight days from Vancouver to as far as Pemberton and back down to the Lower Mainland, alighting in communities along the way.

"You're in the moment, there's no rank on tour and you're all chasing the same goal."

Since the Cops for Cancer rides started in 1997 and eventually spread to efforts across the country, they've raised more than $52 million to help improve the outlooks for kids with cancer and ensure they don't go through their medical challenges alone by funding counselling services and special getaways at Camp Goodtimes.

Marshall said in many ways, the fundraising aspect of the ride that each participant has to attain is more gruelling than the up to 100 km a day they have to cover, sometimes up and over arduous climbs or in rough weather.

He said besides hitting up friends and family for pledges, his campaign was aided by the heroic contributions from local schools like Scott Creek Middle that put on special events like car washes, bake and thrift sales as well as hosted a lemonade stand to raise the most money its ever accumulated to support the ride.

Seeing their passion and enthusiasm is energizing, Marshall said, especially when it comes time for the contingent of riders escorted by 25 support staff to visit some of the schools along the route.

"To them it's a huge deal. They're so excited to see us."

Marshall said he's always appreciated the physical and mental health benefits of cycling, especially when he started commuting to and from work by bike and he could use that solitary time to think about the day ahead or decompress about the shift just passed.

But cycling for a good cause has taken his ardour to another level.

"With Cops for Cancer, it trumps everything," he said.

"You go from the first training ride where very few of you know each other, but by Day One you’re a cohesive group and you’re all on the same page."

Here's how to help

To support Marshall's ride, you can visit his personal fundraising page.