Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Margaret Mead’s quote ends Frank Kramarik-Luth’s SMART Ride (Southern Most AIDS/HIV Ride) fundraising page appeal and it’s a reminder that individuals can make a difference in the fight against AIDS. The Fort Lauderdale-based advocate certainly felt emboldened enough to tackle The SMART Ride for the first time.
The SMART Ride is a 165-mile bicycle trek from Miami to Key West over two days (November 17–18, this year). Participants number in the hundreds and are each asked to raise at least $1,250, but Frank is dedicated to raising more than the minimum. All proceeds are given to Florida-based AIDS service organizations and targeted toward prevention, education, and direct services. Over the years, the ride has raised $8.5 million.
An environmental scientist by trade, the married thirty-five-year-old Elmira, New York native is currently studying for a master’s in ecological restoration. A&U caught up with the self-professed science “geek” (with an “obsession for honey bees”) and AIDS advocate to learn why he rides.
A&U: This is your first time as a participant in The SMART Ride. Why did you decide to ride?
Frank Kramarik-Luth: I decided to ride for many reasons. The first was the challenge. It is insane to think about riding a bike over 160 miles and surviving! I drive to Key West and it is a long three to four hours to do that! (I guess you can just call me competitive; I like to push myself hard). My second reason is that, as a guy who is positive, I had organizations like these that helped me out when I first discovered that I had the virus. I wouldn’t have known what to do if they were not around. I see a lot of organizations that step up and help the Poz community, but instead of donating and forgetting, I wanted to actually do something and make that difference and actually be a part of the poz community.
A support network is key when positive. What does your training regimen look like?
My training has been awesome! I pushed myself to join a gym and got myself onto a bike. I started with ten miles in sixty-five minutes (slow for my taste). I then got myself a trainer, who has been working on my arms, chest, abs, legs and shoulders. (I am a small built guy and have to bulk myself and not tone myself, as I do not want to lose weight, so my training is harsh). I go to the gym five days a week after work and before I eat. On weekends, I pick one day and ride my bike. I am actually up to fifty miles on my bike. I think it’s easier to ride outside rather than the gym; I enjoy the distractions.
That sounds intense. Have you found your mental or spiritual state transforming as well as you look ahead to the ride?
My mental state has definitely been transforming with this journey. When doing something like this ride and with all of the training involved, it takes me back to when I was in boot camp in the Navy. You feel physical pain while training. I have to remind myself that pain means I am succeeding and constantly telling myself “mind over matter.” Spiritually I am growing with this ride. I am meeting people who share this passion for HIV/AIDS awareness. I am finding the community come together for awareness to this cause. When I tested positive for HIV my mental and spiritual states both crashed. I gave up—I saw a death sentence. It was because I was not educated. This ride is my way of showing people who might have just tested positive that life is not over, being poz is like a beginning, and life can only get better.
Reporting by Chael Needle