COLUMBIA - Three thousand cyclists got together this weekend for the 24th annual Express Scripts Gateway Getaway bike ride to raise money and awareness for multiple sclerosis research and aid.
The two-day event, which provided camping, music and food for riders and spectators, raised as much as $2.4 million, said Beth Norviel, spokeswoman of the Gateway Area chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The money will go toward medical research and programming.
Craig Snethen of Columbia, who has attended the bike ride for seven years, said he is enthusiastic about these events can do to fight multiple sclerosis.
"It lets people know they're not alone," he said.
Multiple sclerosis interferes with the transmission of nerve signals, making it difficult for people with the disease to perform certain functions, according to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Snethen, who has multiple sclerosis, said he was a little less confident his first time riding. He said he remembers thinking, "I don't know if I can do this."
But now, after cycling as much as 150 miles on weekends like this, he said he has something else on his mind: "I can do this!"
When Snethen completed the long-distance bike ride for the first time, it pushed him to do more with his life, he said. His confidence before this weekend's ride was hardly a question.
"I started doing things I didn't think I could do," he said while preparing for the weekend.
This year, Snethen rode the 40-mile route with his son. He also rode with his team, Team Copaxone, which is named after the medicine he takes. The team raised about $4,000 last year.
About eight hours and 40 miles later, Craig said he was happy with how the event had gone.
"The weather was great, and even though I hadn't trained as much as I'd have liked, it felt good and I had fun," he said.
Snethen said there is a satisfaction that comes from the ride. People have music on their bikes, and it can be very fun, he said.
Bikers had a choice of 40-, 75- or 100-mile distances from Columbia's Midway Exposition Center.