August 15, 2010

Deirdre Fleming
Dempsey's challenge: Making time to stay fit

Patrick Dempsey doesn't like what he sees in the mirror. It's true.

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Patrick Dempsey leads the pack at the start of the Dempsey Challenge last October in Lewiston. This year’s fundraising event takes place on Oct. 2 and 3.

Staff file photo

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Patrick Dempsey

"I looked at myself the other day and thought, 'I need to get in shape,'" Dempsey said in a phone interview with the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

While the actor said some of those who work with him on the television show "Grey's Anatomy" are talking about their training for the second annual Dempsey Challenge, he is trying to carve out his own cycling time.

"I need to keep up with George Hincapie," Dempsey said with a laugh as he drove to work in Los Angeles traffic.

Hincapie, a five-time Olympian and pro cyclist, will join Dempsey again this year along with four-time Tour de France competitor Chris Horner. Dempsey said he wants to ride the entire 100-mile course, but because of demands on his time before and during the event he may again only do the 50-mile loop with the pro riders.

In the end, he said the event is all about the effort and awareness it creates around fitness and good health.

"Everyone has to challenge themself. I have to challenge myself. I will push myself as far as I can within my own strength and within my obligations for the event. If I can only ride 50 miles, I'll ride faster this year," said the 44-year-old Dempsey.

A native of Buckfield, Dempsey wants to grow his Lewiston event in many ways, but mostly as an inspirational gathering with a special spirit.

"I talked to so many people I grew up with from 25 years ago," Dempsey said of last year's event. "It was really overwhelming. I was touched there was such tremendous support and how open everyone was. They opened their hearts and were really happy to be there, to be involved. Everyone had such a personal connection. That's what it should be about."

In the first year, the fundraiser brought in $1.1 million to support the Patrick Dempsey Center for Cancer Hope and Healing at Central Maine Medical Center.

Of that $759,000 went to the center and the rest, or 31 percent, went to expenses such as the Atlanta-based company that ran the event, tents and food, said event manager Wendy Tardif.

The goal this year is to raise more.

The entry fee has increased to $35 for walkers and runners and $75 for cyclists, and a mandatory fundraising minimum of $150 was added.

But the event was more than a fundraiser from the start.

The Dempsey Challenge had a waterfront festival with live music and free wellness services to turn it into a celebration of life as well as an athletic challenge.

The company that runs the Livestrong events was hired to make sure the run/walk that drew 1,600 and the bicycle events that drew 1,900 went smoothly.

The goal this year is to draw 4,000 runners and walkers and 3,500 cyclists.

That would surpass the biggest cycling event in Maine. The Trek Across Maine holds that distinction with as many as 2,500 riders, according to the Bicycle Coalition of Maine.

And Patrick Dempsey doesn't plan to stop there.

Eventually he wants to go into schools and help inspire youths to not only ride but race. He wants to help spread the bike craze and see people of his home state get healthier.

"It helps with a healthy lifestyle, and as you get older you need to stay healthy to be able to fight off disease later in life," Dempsey said. "I want to hear from the cycling community. They have a voice in this. We want to keep it growing, to push the experience, to listen to the community. It's their event."

For this year he hopes to again lead the field with a number of professional cyclists and to ride as far as he can, or faster than he did, to pursue a challenge.

"I'm no different than anyone else. I have a career and a family," Dempsey said. "And I have to lead by example. It really forces me to fit in rides."

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

dfleming@pressherald.com

 

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