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Irishmen fighting cancer one pedal at a time

| Saturday, July 31, 2010

Dublin City University mates Eoin McNamara, William Kerwin and Mark Leonard have all been touched by cancer, and they know they're no different from many people all over the world.

Beginning Sunday, the three Irishmen will begin a cross-country bicycle trip in Seattle, passing through Pittsburgh in mid-September and finishing in Washington, in order to raise money and awareness for cancer-support services.

"We're looking forward to the mystery of the whole thing, not knowing what's going to be around the next corner," McNamara said. "We have no idea what we're going to encounter but we're looking forward to meeting people, talking to them and getting to know the people of America."

All donations received in Ireland will go toward the Irish Cancer Society, while money raised in the United States will go to Lance Armstrong's Livestrong Foundation. Because they're covering all their own expenses, McNamara said they've gotten a great deal of help with free accommodations either donated from hotels and motels along the way or through Irish organizations, including Pittsburgh's Irish Institute.

The trip is two years in the making and follows a trip McNamara, 26, and Leonard, 25, made cycling the coast of Ireland in 2007 after Leonard lost his father to cancer in 2006. In addition to Kerwin, they'll be accompanied this time by two friends, Robert Shiels, 25, and Donal Lucey, 25, driving a support van.

They originally planned to take a southern route across the country but found more available accommodations, a greater Irish-American population and the promise of cooler temperatures father north.

They'll cycle more than 3,700 miles and pass through a total of 12 states plus the District of Columbia.

"We're trying to stay out of big cities, mainly because of the traffic," McNamara said. "Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Seattle and D.C. are the biggest places we're going to. But we're looking forward to seeing the tiny towns with the smaller populations."

They plan to hold several fundraisers along the way, including one Sept. 14 at the Map Room in Regent Square. To date, they've raised more than 20,000 Euro — or just under $26,000 — with a goal of raising 30,000 Euro.

Marathon registration opens Monday

Registration for the Pittsburgh marathon, half-marathon and relay opens Monday, with one-day online discounts of $10 off the marathon and half-marathon prices and $20 off the relay price. Anyone who registers within the first week will be entered to win a $25 Dick's Sporting Goods gift card, with winners chosen Aug. 9. Register at .

Pink Steel, Paddlefish win at dragon boat nationals

Local dragon boat team Pink Steel won first place in the Breast Cancer Survivor division at the U.S. Club Crew National Dragon Boat Racing Championships held July 23-25 in Chattanooga, Tenn. Pink Steel is part of the Steel City Dragon Boat Association. The Pittsburgh Paddlefish, part of Three Rivers Rowing Association, won first in the Grand Master Women's division.

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