Celebrating its 10th year, the 545-mile, seven-day trek from San Francisco to Los Angeles takes place June 5-11. The event raises funds for HIV/AIDS-related services offered at the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center and San Francisco AIDS Foundation.
“When the rides first got started, my health was a little iffy,” said Duran, who has been HIV positive since 1994 and is one of only three openly HIV-positive elected officials in the nation. “I was still struggling with my own HIV."
Duran said he suffered a small heart attack in 2003. "Some of the meds I was on increased my cholesterol levels up into the sky and I had some blockage, so I really wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it, but now because of all the new miracle drugs that are available, my health is good,” he said.
But Duran hadn’t been on a bike since he was 14 years old, so three months ago when he got back on two wheels, he discovered that he had a lot of getting in shape to do. He said he has been doing 75-mile training rides every weekend to get ready.
Those rides have left him exhausted at times as he builds his stamina. Juggling the training rides, his law practice and his City Hall duties have proved challenging, but he just keeps at it, knowing he’s got to be in shape for the ride.
One advantage to all this exercise is that he is losing weight.
“I really didn’t think I’d lose any weight, but people are commenting on it,” he said, proud to be getting his “girlish figure” back.
The training rides are also proving cathartic as they help clear his mind.
“There’s something about bike riding now as an adult that I find very meditative,” said Duran. “It really is a sport that you do with yourself. Even though there’s other bikers there, it’s the rhythm of the pedals . . . My mind somehow gets freed up. It’s almost like a chant or mantra. It’s really quite relaxing. Before I know it, we’ve gone another 20 miles.”
Ride participants are required to raise money. Duran’s fundraising goal is $18,000. He has already raised more than $15,000.
"With every mile, someone else will get free/low cost care so that she or he will have a normal life span like me: to enjoy summer days in LA, moonlit nights over the Santa Monica Bay, the tender kiss from a loved one or a walk in the park with her/his puppy, another Seder or Christmas morning," Duran posted on his LifeCycle home page.
He reports his health is excellent these days. His T-cell count is more than 800 and his viral load is undetectable.
Ironically, Duran, who was elected to the City Council in 2001, now considers contracting HIV to be a blessing in disguise.
“It got me sober,” he said. “I stopped drinking and using drugs. I cleaned up my lifestyle, I started watching my health, started monitoring my blood panels, caring about what I eat, stopped smoking, all those things that were really destructive, I gave them all up.”
At last week’s City Council meeting, he explained that he would be absent at the June 6 meeting because of the ride.
“Even I can ride a bike,” Duran told the audience. “I’m very excited about this ride. I think that only one other elected official has done the ride, and that was Councilman [Paul] Koretz and I hear that he rode the shuttle most of the time. I do not intend to ride the shuttle. I intend to ride until I drop. Hopefully, that is not prophetic.”
But what if there’s an emergency in West Hollywood while he’s biking down the California coast?
“I think the mayor is the least important person in the event of an emergency,” he said, laughing. “I think the first responders, the sheriffs and the firefighters are more important. Politicians, we just tend to get in the way anyway.”