For any typical first-year athlete, the summer before one’s first season is surely filled with strenuous training. For Dylan Thomson, a goalkeeper on the men’s soccer team, the summer leading to his first UNH season saw him complete a 4,500-mile bike trip.
Dylan and his older brother Derek, both natives of Concord and alumni of Concord High, biked from San Francisco to their lake house in Seabrook, in honor of Gene Connolly, their former high school principal and close family friend. Connolly was diagnosed with ALS just prior to Dylan’s senior year of high school.
“He was like family to us and we thought that it would be a great way to give back to him and his family after they have done so much for us,” Dylan said.
Dylan noted that Connolly worked for another year after his initial diagnosis, waking up early to make it to school on time to be able to greet students as they arrived in the morning.
“[While] biking, we thought about [Connolly] every day and how hard he struggles just to walk and talk—so that big mountain doesn’t seem so big anymore,” Dylan said.
The brothers’ father did the same trip when he graduated from Saint Anselm College and Dylan and Derek decided to follow in his footsteps, and fundraise for Connolly while they were at it.
Dylan had to leave his senior year at Concord High school early in order to partake in the trip. Upon receiving approval from the school, his teachers were able to give him his finals early.
“I had to leave high school three weeks early to make the trip, but I needed the school’s approval to finish early which can be tough, but once I got approved I was on my way,” Dylan said.
Through the use of a Facebook page, Dylan and his brother were able to fundraise $30,000 toward the Connolly Tough Fund.
“We had a Facebook page with over a 1,000 followers where people donated to us. Also News 9 NH, NH1 News and ESPN Radio all did coverage on our trip,” Thomson said.
The trip, which totaled 4,500 miles, took the brothers 45 days to complete. Biking roughly 100 miles each day, the pair left San Francisco on May 21 and returned to Seabrook, New Hampshire on July 3.
“I lost about 30 pounds and my brother lost 20 on the trip,” Dylan said.
According to Dylan, they didn’t cook any of their own food on the trip but did carry gummies, snack packs and lots of water with them. On top of that, they each ate an estimation of 50 feet of subway foot-long subs and around 30-35 burgers each.
“All expenses were out of pocket and none of the money we raised was used to fund our trip,” Dylan said.
Dylan noted he had little training preparation for a cross-country trip of this magnitude, though he had biked across Florida twice prior to this.
“If it wasn’t for my brother, I wouldn’t have been able to make it through the trip. He pushed me every step of the way and the trip brought us so much closer,” Dylan said.
Other than the final destination, Thomson specifically pointed out the beauty and difficulty of the Colorado mountains and the hot dry flat plains in Nevada.
“Although it was so much work, it was all beautiful there. There were wild animals like wild horses, and amazing sunsets, and there were no cities around so the stars were really beautiful. But the best part was being with my brother,” Dylan said. “He’s four years older but he’s always been my best friend.”
Derek Thomson Photography
The brothers didn’t have to do the whole trip alone. Their father met up with them at their stop in Niagara Falls for the last 500 miles of the trip and a friend met up with them outside of Albany, New York, for the last 200 miles before they gained a major following on the last legs of the trip in Concord.
“We went through Concord to our final destination in Seabrook and had about 45 people ride with us to finish the race…at my lake house my parents catered a big dinner for 100 people and we celebrated with all the bikers and friends and family,” Dylan said.
The efforts of the brothers haven’t gone unnoticed by members of the community.
According to Dylan, the Boston Celtics reached out to the brothers in request that they would be honorary captains and halftime heroes for an upcoming game.