By Rubin E. Grant
Dr. John Riser is a veteran marathon runner, but later this month he won’t be running, but instead riding, a long distance.
Riser, co-founder of Alabama Neurology Associates in Homewood, will participate in the Grace Ragland 400-mile Bike Ride April 21-24, going from Birmingham to Greenville, to Atmore and finishing in Fairhope.
The ride is a fundraiser for the Tanner Foundation, a nonprofit organization for people with Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis and ALS. The foundation was started in 2003 by Dr. Emily Riser to provide educational opportunities to persons with multiple sclerosis, their relatives and health care professionals.
Each 400-mile cyclist is asked to meet a goal of at least $1,000, money that will go to fund another year of research for Ashlyn Anderson, the Tanner Foundation’s Scholar of Multiple Sclerosis at Civitan International Research Center at UAB.
Anderson is a fifth-year immunology graduate student pursuing her Ph.D at UAB, studying multiple sclerosis in the laboratory of Drs. Laurie Harrington and Etty “Tika” Benveniste.
“My family and I have all enjoyed bike riding,” John Riser said. “With the purpose being to raise money for MS research, I was willing to take the time and ride.”
Besides, the ride is in memory of Grace Ragland, a dear friend of Riser’s and his wife, Emily, also a board-certified neurologist. Ragland was diagnosed with MS while in college at the age of 18 and died in 2020 at the age of 58 after a nearly two-year battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.
In 2018, Ragland participated in the 2,750-mile Tour Divide bike race that stretched from Canada to Mexico along the Continental Divide. Her story has been chronicled in the acclaimed book, “Divide by One.”
I knew her story and she and my wife were close,” Riser said. “When there’s something involved with Grace Ragland’s name, I am always interested.”
So far, Riser is one of nearly a dozen riders who plan to do the 400-mile ride. He has been busy preparing for the trek.
“I started my training doing 70 miles on the weekend east of Birmingham,” Riser said. “I will ramp it up to 80 miles closer to the ride. The main thing is having the endurance and preparing yourself for the wear and tear on your body.”
Riser already has exceeded the fundraising goal of $1,000. With donations from friends and colleagues, he had raised $8,183 as of last Saturday.
“My friend, Tony Tanner, who the foundation is named for, decided he wanted to give $5,000 and just put my name on it,” Riser said.
In addition to the Grace Ragland 400-mile ride, people also can register for the Gracie Sunshine Ride of 20, 50 or 100 miles on April 24 in Fairhope. A relay team of four can participate for $300, or someone can ride the 400 miles virtually for $100.
The Tanner Foundation will award a top fundraiser for each category.
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