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Everyday Heroes: Ride Like A Girl

From left: Carolyn Jen, Linda Godfrey and Ian Parker prepare for a ride down the Eastbank Esplanade. (KATU Photo)

Linda Godfrey thought her life was over.

Twenty years ago, she became very sick. Just breathing was a struggle for her. Doctors diagnosed her with allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis (ABA) – a condition that Linda said has robbed her of the use of part of her right lung.

“I will be on medications for the rest of my life,” Linda told KATU. “Without the medications I will be either respiratory-crippled or will end up being gone.”

Linda said she’d grown to make peace with her condition, but admits she felt there were a lot of things she could no longer do -- including going out in crowds.

“You feel this weakness, this light-headedness that you can’t overcome,” Linda said.

Then, in 2013, Linda came out to support her friend, who wanted to join the Portland bicycling club Ride Like A Girl.

“My passion and the heart of Ride Like A Girl is really about getting women into biking and helping them discover how much fun they can have,” club founder Carolyn Jen said.

Linda was invited to join Ride Like A Girl, too. She agreed to come for a three-mile ride down the waterfront, but was skeptical enough to show up in jeans.

It was, she said, going to be her first and last ride. After all, how far could she really go with the ABA looming, threatening to topple her from her seat?

Nevertheless, she came, and she rode, and she liked it enough to show up again for a five-mile ride. Then again, and again, each time going farther than she had before.

And somewhere down the line, Linda discovered that she could still, in fact, get outside, go places, set goals and accomplish them -- thanks to the support of her new Ride Like A Girl girlfriends.

“I couldn’t be where I am without all of them,” Linda said. “This gave me my life back. I could do something that allowed me to succeed. And it didn’t matter about speed. It didn’t matter about how I rode. I could get out and enjoy life.”

Carolyn said Linda’s story is a shining example of the best that Ride Like A Girl can be: a group of women coming together to help each other do something new and phenomenal.

“Once you provide a supportive environment and you provide some basic instruction, you help women find that they can master these skills in small increments,” Carolyn said.

She added that the riders in the club are “willing to wait for the person in the back. They’re willing to wait at the top of the hill and cheer on the women that are working to get to the top.”

Linda said she still falls down occasionally, and still has trouble breathing sometimes. But now, she said, there’s a girlfriend from Ride Like A Girl there to help her get back up.

“It happened when I was in Hawaii,” Linda said. “I was climbing a hill and got to the top and that was it. I fell off the bike and I ended up on the ground looking at Carolyn going I can’t breathe.”

But those bumps, she said, are nothing compared to the feeling of her accomplishments. Not only has she gone to ride in places like Hawaii, she now regularly rides 100 miles during any given week and participates in longer rides like Reach The Beach, a fundraiser benefiting the American Lung Association.

“When you succeed,” Linda said, “it’s not just you succeeding. It’s everybody succeeding with you.”

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