Sheldon Rothman (left) is one of the volunteers at the WLC.
The Odd Couple: A Conversation with Two of the PMC’s Most Chronologically Gifted Riders
By Lauren Gibbons Paul
By their own admission, they’re not exactly two peas in a pod. One is a staunch conservative, the other liberal as they come. One is 15 minutes early to any meeting; the other is chronically late. One is extroverted and will chat with anyone; the other is more reserved. One is laid back; the other attacks life in every possible way.
“We have different approaches,” says Brookline resident Alvin A. Krakow, 84, with characteristic restraint. On the other side of the table, 84-year-old Newton resident Sheldon Rothman puts in, “Al’s a nice guy so I don’t mind waiting for him.”
What the two octogenarian cycling partners do share – beyond a warm friendship — is a track record of nearly a decade of raising money and riding together in the PMC. Krakow, currently the oldest one-day rider, is a veteran of 15 one-day PMC rides. Rothman will ride the two-day for the 12th consecutive time this year, the oldest rider to do so, a distinction he cherishes and fights to maintain.
“No one else anywhere near my age wants to suffer through the two-day,” says Rothman, a retired business executive who got in on the ground floor at Reebok and had a notable career there. Among his plentiful volunteer gigs: Playing cards with the “old folks” a local nursing home (many of whom are younger than he).
Rothman plans to do the ride until he is 90, maybe beyond that. Good health has been his gift, though he has lots of friends and family who have battled cancer. He is doggedly passionate about raising money for cancer research. “We have to do something to stop this disease,” he says.
Krakow came to the PMC after finishing three cross-country bike rides that he did in order to see the countryside and its inhabitants up close. With many consecutive “century” (100-mile) days under his belt from those trips, Krakow did not feel he had anything to prove to anyone. The one-day PMC was just fine. And decades after founding a successful endodontics practice, he had a ready network from which to fundraise. He has personally raised roughly $125,000 for the PMC to date.
Krakow’s approach to training for the ride is the opposite of Rothman’s. In a word: Casual. A few rides with Rothman on the Vineyard in June and July. Beyond that, nothing. “People forever have asked me, how can you do it with the little training you do? I can’t explain it,” says Krakow.
Rothman, on the other hand, is an adrenaline junkie who trains hard all year taking three grueling spinning classes each week all winter and starting his outdoor rides as soon as the ice melts. He lives for the thrill of getting going when it is still dark out, before the slew of younger riders hit the road. A few years back, he had to pull out of the race after hitting the curb in the dark one morning and getting pretty banged up. Suffice to say, ride health workers made him quit, otherwise he would have kept going. “If you have a nice, easy, comfortable ride, it’s boring. I’m really not a calm, easy-going guy,” he acknowledges.
Krakow has taken the last few years off after being sidelined after a bout with colon cancer in 2010 and recovering from a hip fracture in 2012. This year, feeling stronger most days, he hopes to complete the one-day. And his faithful partner and friend will be there with him.
“That’s the difference between Sheldon and me,” says Krakow. “If his knee flares up he will not stop. If I have to stop, I will stop because it’s not about finishing this ride, for me. It’s about going out there, having fun, and raising money.”
For all their differences, they do have one thing in common, it would seem: the lack of a keen sense of direction. “The last two years that we rode, both years, we got lost,” says Rothman, both of them chuckling at the memory.
To sponsor Sheldon Rothman or Al Krakow, please visit PMC.org and enter their names on the “Donate” page. To sponsor Sheldon Rothman or Al Krakow, please visit PMC.org and enter their names on the “Donate” page.