Right: The Soul Sistas recently completed the 204-mile Seattle to Portland bike ride. Pictured here, in the front row, from left to right, are: Ain-Akilah Bell, Islamah Rashid, Jacina LaBoo, Acquinetta Williams and Stephanie LaBoo. In the second row, from left to right, are: Joyce LaBoo, Elenora Northington, Jackie Spears and Vivian Gordon.
The Soul Sistas bicycling club hit the road July 14, for their 204-mile ride from the University of Washington campus in Seattle to Holladay Park in Portland.
The group camped out overnight and their families clocked the miles, every inch of the way.
"This will be my first time and I can hardly wait!" said a very enthusiastic Damaris Pearson, a career counselor at Seattle's Franklin High School, before the race.
Elenora Northington and Stephanie LaBoo trained and encouraged the group. Stephanie's mother, Joyce, watched as her daughter competed in the Danskin Triathalon (swim-bike) in 1999 and 2000 and decided to follow her lead. Since Joyce did not know how to swim, she found one friend, Islamah Rashid, who agreed to take swim lessons, and soon there were six.
"We were busy working moms, but we found time for our work-outs in the evening and on the weekends. Soon it became a family workout with husbands and children joining us," Joyce said.
There is another reason the Soul Sistas are so persistent. They are very much aware of the health issues plaguing African American women. So supporting one another and encouraging others to join in their workouts and in various events is what they do seriously. They proclaim that because they are having fun, they burn a lot of calories by just laughing at themselves and with each other.
Soon the women, whose ages range from 30 to 55, began scheduling bike rides.
The biggest obstacle in this race was of course the hills, so they had to work on using their gears. Finding their comfort zone while riding in traffic was another skill for the "first-timers" to master in time for the big event.
The Soul Sistas have a commitment to each other: No one is left to ride alone and their motto is "the faith of a mustard seed." The women arrived safe and sound, if not a little sore after 204 miles, in Portland on Sunday afternoon. Congratulations Soul Sistas!