Team WILD Races With Diabetes
When Mari Ruddy launched Team WILD in November 2008, she had already made a mark on the diabetes community. She's the mind behind the Tour de Cure's Red Riders—cyclists who declare their diabetes by wearing red jerseys during the race. "There was a gap in information for women with diabetes who wanted to be athletic and take their exercise program to the next level," she says. "Team Type 1 and Team Type 2 are almost exclusively men." So Ruddy, 44, launched a ladies-only racing team with the goal of encouraging women with diabetes to become active (WILD stands for Women Inspiring Life with Diabetes).
A month before the team faces its first challenge—a grueling, 70.3-mile Ironman triathlon held in Austin, Texas, on October 25—Ruddy is hopeful that others will be inspired to get their hearts racing. "We want to show that the average woman with diabetes can do it," she says from her home in Denver. "You don't have to be this extremely talented woman. You can build an athletic lifestyle into your life."
The team works as a sort of virtual training group, phoning in to conference calls twice a month to have their questions answered and hear a lecture from one of three top-notch coaches, a diabetes educator, or a nutritionist. They also follow an online training plan that includes competing in multiple races over a span of 10 months. (Team members pay a fee for the coaching and guidance.)
The 20 women who make up Team WILD have one thing in common: They see exercise as integral part of their diabetes management. From there, characteristics vary. They represent nine U.S. states and the Canadian province of Ontario, range in age from 25 to 55, and include those with diabetes and five training partners without. The team is composed of athletes with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, an aspect Ruddy is proud of. "We all have a metabolic disorder, and we're all at risk for heart disease," she says. "That's our bond."
Christina Roy, 41, the team's only type 2 member (another member with type 2 dropped out because of an injury), says the support system has helped her meet training targets and improve her diabetes control. "There are specific goals that keep me on track," she says. "Having that kind of structure and support really helps me in my day-to-day management."
After the team crosses the finish line, Ruddy will start gearing up for next year; she plans to create additional teams—including a program for beginners—that will give more women with diabetes the chance to compete and spread the word about exercising with diabetes. "It's a requirement on the team that you can't just do this for yourself," she says. "You've got to get out there, and you've got to talk."
Want to get involved in Team WILD? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org for information.