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300-mile bike ride to D.C. benefits Arthritis Foundation

| Wednesday, Sept. 11, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Nine South Hills residents completed a 331-mile bike trip for Arthritis Grassroots ArthRIDEis Campaign and collected about $5,500 on the way. The riders, shown here near the Washington Monument in no particulars order, are Jeff Krakoff, Kurt Meissner, Vic Walczak, Jon Hart, Ellen Hart, Pete Chiste, Craig Hoffman, Laura Hoffman and Lori Heinecke.
James Knox | Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Second-grade teacher Michelle Kress leads a handwriting lesson Monday September 9, 2013 in her class at McIntyre Elementary School in Ross.

As he huffed and puffed through the end of a 15-mile training ride last April, Upper St. Clair resident Jeff Krakoff wasn't sure he'd be able to go more than 60 miles a day by bike along the Great Allegheny Passage to raise money for the Arthritis Foundation of Western Pennsylvania.

“I did 15 miles, and I was beat; I was thinking, ‘How am I going to do 300 miles?' ” said Krakoff, 49, who led eight other bicyclists on a fundraiser group ride to Washington, over Labor Day weekend. “It was such a feeling of accomplishment when we rolled into D.C.”

Krakoff, who suffers from rheumatoid arthritis, said medication and exercise have helped him control painful flare-ups of his condition. A group of South Hills professionals he plays pick-up soccer with at Boyce-Mayview Park proposed a bike ride in February, and after realizing that rakoff and another rider, Pete Chiste, suffered from different forms of arthritis, Krakoff decided to make the ride a fundraiser.

The ride raised more than $5,700 for the Arthritis Foundation. Krakoff said he was keeping the fundraiser webpage at open until the end of the month.

“The amazing thing was, (Krakoff) set the webpage up about a week before we left and we raised more than $5,400 in just that week,” said Kurt Meissner, 45, of Upper St. Clair, who said the ride was his “crackpot idea.”

After months of progressively longer training rides, the team made the 331-mile trek in five days spanning the Labor Day weekend, setting off on the Great Allegheny Passage from the Boston trailhead on Thursday and arriving in Washington along t he C&O Canal Towpath Tuesday.

After stopping in Harper's Ferry, W.Va., the last day, a rheumatoid arthritis flare-up left Krakoff in pain that almost kept him from completing the ride, but he decided to push through with the rest of the team.

“Several of us, me included, hadn't biked since our college days,” said Chiste, 55, of Peters, who suffers from osteoarthritis in one knee.

“For me, the real hidden gem was (the training) so strengthened the muscles around the knee joint that my arthritis pain decreased 70, 80 percent,” Chiste said. “On the bike, I had no pain.”

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or

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