Last year I participated in the Saratoga Springs Tour de Cure, an annual bike ride that is held nationwide to raise money for the American Diabetes Association. One of the most inspiring things about the Tour are the Red Riders, individuals who live and ride with diabetes. To better explain what the Red Rider program is and about her own aspirations, I had the pleasure of interviewing the founder of the Red Rider program, Mari Ruddy!
She runs the daily business and management of TeamWILD, a program that teaches adults how to live with diabetes through exercise. She also coaches and speaks at ADA Tour de Cure rides. Mari’s working on a book that will no doubt highlight the success of the Red Riders, the health battles she’s personally fought and won, and offer guidance and insight for diabetics to truly live.
Tell me about the Red Rider program.
I’m the founder of the Red Riders, who are cyclists with diabetes. I also started the first Team Red. Now all 90 Tour de Cure rides have Red Riders and a Team Red. The first year there were 111 Red Riders. This summer, 2020, there will be [more than] 7,000 Red Riders in the US. In 2020, all the Red Riders together raised $3.9 million. The goal in 2020 is [for] the Red Riders [to] collectively raise $4.5 million. The Tour itself raised more than $26 million in 2020. These numbers are very exciting.
How much money does “your” Tour raise?
My “home” Tour for the past seven years was the one in Colorado. Now that I’ve moved back to my home state, I consider the Tour de Cure Twin Cities in Minnesota my home ride! We intend to raise $1 million this year at the Minnesota Tour.
In addition to riding at the Minnesota Tour, Mari will also be riding the Tours in Las Vegas, Michigan and Chicago this year!
Where does the money go?
The money goes to Stop Diabetes. The American Diabetes Association works on many fronts to do this. They fund innovative researchers looking for the cure, they do advocacy, they help newly diagnosed people, and they are the ones who have the most camps for kids with diabetes. The ADA has a very good Charity Navigator rating. They spend the money on the mission.
What is your goal for this year?
TeamWILD puts on CampWILD once a year. The camp is staffed by 12 coaches in running/walking, cycling, triathlon, diabetes, nutrition, sports psychology and yoga. It’s an incredible experience. Everyone with diabetes who wishes they could figure out diabetes and exercise once and for all should attend. For 2020 we have only 40 seats for adults with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and their friends or family. (Yes, we allow type 3 supporters to come to CampWILD.) Camp is held in Boulder, Colorado from June 19 to 23.
Explain what the Tour de Cure means to you.
The Tour de Cure is a celebration of wellness. It’s a chance for people with diabetes and their friends, family and others who care to gather together to ride bikes, laugh, and work together, all to stop diabetes.
What advice would you give to someone who just became diagnosed with diabetes?
I would say, become an athlete. Or at least adopt the mindset of an athlete. Athletes take care of things: they eat well, they exercise, they sleep, they track their results, and they look to optimize their physical performance. Those are all the things people with diabetes have to do. Might as well have a positive lens with which to think of [your] health journey.
What has been the most difficult obstacle in your life that you’ve overcome?
I’ve had a lot of obstacles to overcome in my life. I moved a lot as a kid. Got diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when I was 16. Had cancer twice. They are all difficult when they are happening. I think that’s how our brains work; whatever obstacle is in front is the biggest and most difficult. That said, I like to think that one thing I’ve learned is that whatever presents itself, good or bad, can become an opportunity to grow and learn. The best thing to do is to slow it all down, breathe and remember that instead of being awful, this could be amazing.
Mari is a remarkable and inspiring person. She is someone who has overcome insurmountable obstacles and became a better, stronger person for it. We all wish her great success in all her endeavors!
My days are never the same, that’s the beauty and challenge of being an entrepreneur. I run most of the day-to-day aspects of TeamWILD. In addition to TeamWILD, I do coaching and speaking for several of the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure rides. I am writing a book and building my speaking career.
images provided by Mari Ruddy