In 2006, Mari Ruddy rode in her local Tour de Cure and wondered, “Where are all the riders with diabetes?”
As someone living with type 1 diabetes, she wanted to meet others like her and celebrate everyone who was taking control of their health by participating in this nationwide series of cycling events, which benefits the American Diabetes Association.
So in 2007, Mari Ruddy, Sandria Barrett and Marcey Robinson came up with the idea of the Red Riders and made it come to life at the Denver Tour de Cure. Now Red Riders and Team Red (made up of Red Riders and those who support them) are a part of every Tour de Cure event!
In 2013, more than 65,000 cyclists are expected to participate in 90 Tour de Cure events throughout the country. All funds raised support the Association’s mission: To prevent and cure diabetes and to improve the lives of all people affected by diabetes.
We interviewed Mari about her experience with diabetes, her vision, the evolution of the Red Riders—and why she wants YOU to ride to Stop Diabetes®.
Thanks for “dropping by” Diabetes Stops Here! Tell us about what inspires you to be so involved with the Association.
In my 31 years of living with diabetes, I have walked, run and cycled for the cure for diabetes. But for the longest time, I was never asked to declare myself as a diabetes-surviving person at these events. I was never given a special t-shirt or water bottle. There was never a special finish line acknowledging the courage, perseverance and sheer determination it takes to live with diabetes and be out on that course riding, running or walking.
I wanted this to change, and that’s why I founded the Red Rider program. Its purpose is to support everyone who lives with type 1 or type 2 diabetes and showcase the courage it takes to live every day with this difficult disease.
Receiving that recognition on the day of the Tour gives me and my fellow people with diabetes the motivation to continue seeing the glass half full on the days when our blood glucose soars to 400 for no explainable reason, or when we have no desire to eat but we must or risk passing out if we don’t.
The Tour de Cure is a beautiful celebration of health for all of us who want to change the future of diabetes. And the Association—through its information, programs, events, research and advocacy—works to Stop Diabetes every day. I’m so happy to be a part of it.
Well, for the record, any type of exercise is a good thing, whether you have diabetes or not. I happen to really like cycling, but I’ve also been known to walk and run too!
Cycling can be a good choice of exercise because it’s continuous and non-impact. It’s a sport you can participate in from the time you are very young until you’re very old. You can ride almost anywhere: in your neighborhood, on the road or on bike paths. It’s a great way to explore new areas and take in the scenery! You can even cycle indoors, if you’re into spinning classes.
I know how important it is to stay strong and healthy, and cycling is one positive way to do that.
What would you say to someone who learns about Tour de Cure but says, “But I’m new to diabetes” or “I haven’t ridden a bike in ages”?
You are not alone! You can ride to thrive with diabetes! With hundreds of riders who may share a similar story, and hundreds more to support you, being a Red Rider can help with your first mile or your millionth—in your fight to live a healthier life!
The Tour is a ride for any individual or team who wants to enjoy a great day of cycling and, at the same time, Stop Diabetes. It’s a ride, not a race. So join in and spend a day biking with your friends, family or coworkers! And the routes vary in length, from 5 miles to 100 miles, so you can pick the course that best suits you.
Look, I have lived with type 1 diabetes since I was 16. That’s more than 30 years of blood testing, shots, insulin pumping, carb counting and meal planning. If that wasn’t enough, I have twice been diagnosed with breast cancer. Because of living with diabetes, I thought I understood illness. However, chemo, radiation and surgery all knocked me down harder than I ever imagined possible. But my lot in life is to get back up no matter the punch.
I know how much courage it takes for those of us with diabetes to get on a bike and be a warrior for health. Living with diabetes and being an endurance athlete, which you essentially are when you ride in the Tour de Cure, is not easy. But the things that athletes have to do—eat well, exercise, track everything, take care of yourself—are all things people with diabetes have to do. It’s a very natural fit, in my opinion. So hop on that bike already!
How does your TeamWILD connect to Tour de Cure?
TeamWILD Athletics is all about empowering people with diabetes to take charge of their health by teaching how to be an athlete first, and a person with diabetes second. The WILD stands for “We Inspire Life with Diabetes”! I started TeamWILD because I saw the need for people with diabetes to have access to expert insight and coaching on how to manage diabetes when doing endurance athletics.
Once you are registered for the Tour de Cure you will receive access to some online TeamWILD cycling training materials created specifically for cyclists who live with diabetes. I want all of us to be able to ride long and strong at the Tour de Cure rides! Red Riders and TeamWILD go together.
One final message to this year’s Tour participants and your Red Riders?
Remember to yell “Go Red Rider!” to every cyclist you see wearing the Red Rider jersey! It makes all the difference. It means, “I see you for your courage and strength to take care of your health.” (But that’s too long to say, so just yell, “Go Red Rider!”)
See you on the road!
Catch Mari at these upcoming Tour de Cure events:
Twin Cities, MN
Champions Dinner – keynote & ride
Champions Dinner – keynote & ride