Obliteride 2020: SMI Founder rides for Artist Home, COVID research, and to #curecancerfaster

SMI founder Greg Roth at Obliteride
Greg Roth (photo by Ben Lindbloom)

Seattle Music Insider editor Christine Mitchell here. I’d like to tell you a little bit about my awesome boss, Greg Roth. I started working with SMI in 2013, and right from the beginning I was struck by the passion of our site’s founder. He started our online magazine with a focus on looking at music from an insider’s perspective, as Roth was himself a musician. This took him backstage at venues all around the Pacific Northwest, where he was able to interview bands and musicians both big and small, which he also committed to podcast and SMI Radio On Demand. When I came on board, Roth was always hyping up local shows that we should cover. This was right up my alley, so I dove right in with his encouragement and mentorship.

Roth is the kind of guy who sees a need and attacks it. He began cycling for self-improvement, but when he learned about Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center’s cycling fundraiser, Obliteride, his purpose snapped into focus through a very personal connection: Roth had lost his own mother to cancer before he became a teenager, and he decided to use his athleticism and also his visibility in the music community to raise money to find a cure. Not only that, but he began to put together a documentary about his mission with Obliteride. #WeRideWhy was born, and is now in post production. During filming, Roth suffered another blow when his dear friend Ashley Berg, a music loving mother who was battling cancer, passed away. I personally witnessed the #WeRideWhy film and Roth transform. If anything, Roth became even more laser-focused on raising funds and awareness to get a cure.

This year, like others before it, Roth, who will turn 60 in September, credits cycling for a big part of his personal transformation. He spent tons hours in training, readying himself for another Obliteride, other events like Seattle to Portland and races with his team Fount Cycling Guild But COVID-19 has changed, well, everything, and the yearly cycling fundraiser is not immune. I asked Roth about what Obliteride will be like this year, and this is what he had to say. It’s pure Greg Roth positivity through and through.

“Obviously, the biggest difference is that there is no designated day where everyone rides or walks at the same time together with specific pre-designated routes. There will be no kick-off party, which is always a highlight. There will be no completion party at the finish line. What this leaves is a giant canvas to paint on. We will still be riding, We will still be honoring those who we love and lost. We will still be raising money to cure cancer. This year, 50% of the proceeds go to COVID-19 research. Because the event is virtual, spread out over three months, teams and individuals can be creative in terms of goal setting, Our team (#WeRideWhy – Fount) is going to design a route, designate a day to ride and then hang out together (socially distancing, of course). Each individual can set their own personal goal as well as team goal. My personal goal is 3000 miles and a 120,000 ft. elevation gain in three months. That is an average of 250 miles and a 15,000 ft. elevation gain per week, 1000 miles and 60,000 ft. elevation gain. This will be done outside and inside on a trainer. I started my Obliteride on May 15th. So far, I have ridden 280 miles, climbed 17,000+ ft and raised about $600.00. This is just the first week. So I suppose for me Fred Hutch Obliteride will be a 3 month event versus two days! My individual fundraising goal is $2000.00 and our team goal will be $20,000.00.”

Roth is also making the amazing Artist Home part of his fundraising drive this year. I asked him about the connection between Obliteride and Artist Home, and this is what he had to say:

“Obliteride is about serving community and making a difference. Kevin Sur, who heads up Artist Home, is a good friend and someone who I respect and admire more than just about everyone I have met. Artist Home has made such a positive impact on the community through their events. It broke my heart when I saw Timber was cancelled. It broke a lot of people’s hearts. Kevin has been in action day one when he saw the direct impact on the music industry. During this crisis, Kevin has been instrumental (no pun intended) in lobbying our reps via WANMA (WA Nightlife Music Association) to come up with a strategy to save the clubs and music industry in Seattle. Artist Home put on some great virtual music events to raise money and lift the community up. And of course, they put on Timber Outdoor Music Festival. As you know, Ashley Berg loved Timber. They even honored her the year she died, at the following Timber. Her family was there and continues to go every year to honor Ashley. Given the fact Ashley loved music and Artist Home Events and suffered from cancer, I thought raising helping raise money for Fred Hutch and Artist Home made sense. Also, Timber is part of the story for our film #WeRideWhy, which is in post production. I just feel compelled to do something to help them because they mean so much to me, both Ashley’s family and our music community.”

You can assist Artist Home to help them sustain through the COVID19 crisis. Please Make a donation to Artist Home here.

Ashley Berg (photo by Greg Roth)

Since Fred Hutch has changed the configuration of Obliteride this year due to the pandemic, I asked Roth about what he thinks future Obliterides will look like. Sometimes things change for the better!

“What will happen going forward is Fred Hutch will put on the traditional Obliteride and offer the virtual option. This is brilliant. Folks can participate as a group or create their own Oblitieride, which makes it more inclusive. When I did my first Obliteride in 2016, it was only a cycling event. At its core it still is, but now you have folks who can walk, run, kayak, hike and climb to raise funds. Anything involving movement and measurable distances can be included. This creates more inclusivity and makes the event even richer and more impactful!”

For Roth, making an impact is something he does naturally, and I don’t see him stopping anytime soon. I don’t even know what that would look like.

Please visit Greg’s Team Page on Obliteride’s site and feel free to donate to help #curecancerfaster, speed COVID-19 research, and keep Artist Home Alive. Team WeRideWhy – Fount

Obliteride is on now and ends on August 8. You can also register to raise funds via your own kind of Obliteride. Check it out!

Christine Mitchell has been poring over album liner notes pretty much since she acquired the skill of reading, and figured out the basic structure of rock songs at an early age. Whether it’s the needle popping into the first groove of the record, the beeps that signal the beginning (or end) of a cassette tape, or digital numbers ticking off the seconds from zero, music brings Christine happiness, ponderous thought, opportunities for almost scientific study, and sometimes a few tears. When she started attending live shows two decades ago, a whole new piece of the puzzle clicked in and she has been hooked ever since.