Some older people with type 1 diabetes will recall how they were prevented from playing sports when they were growing up. We’ve obviously come a long way: patients are not only encouraged to play sports but some excel at the most rigorous ones imaginable. Nevertheless, it’s always good to take note when a patient achieves something that requires unusual physical strength and stamina.
Though in this case, it’s not a single diabetic person. It’s an entire team of patients. Their sport is long-distance bicycling – and we underline, long.
TeamType1 is a group of eight exceptional type 1 diabetics who last year won the Race Across America; and yes, it really was across America: 3,052 miles. They completed the journey, from California to New Jersey, in 5 days, 16 hours, and 4 minutes, beating the second place team by nearly an entire day. We wondered if the second squad stopped somewhere in, say, Durango, Colorado, or Alton, Illinois, for a bit of sightseeing; but no – TeamType1 was just that much faster.
This year’s Race Across America began this week. It includes both single and team competitors, and TeamType1 has entered again, fully intent on defending its championship. The team competition began today (Tuesday), and you can follow their progress on their blog at www.teamtype1.org.
The team was the brainchild of two college friends, Phil Southerland and Joe Eldridge, who passed their free time in school by making blood sugar bets: the loser had to buy dinner. They created the team in 2004, adopted the motto “strive for 6.5” (referring to their A1c goals), and began recruiting fellow type 1 bikers. The eight regular riders, which include one woman, collectively compete in 400 to 500 events a year.
Beyond winning competitions and increasing awareness about diabetes, their goal is to raise money for research. They call it: “3,052 Miles to Cure Diabetes.” Their goal this year is $210,000 for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, which would be 10 times last year’s contribution. You can donate online.
They have corporate sponsors – which include Abbott’s Freestyle Flash, Amylin Pharmaceuticals, and Insulet’s OmniPod – and these companies deserve credit for underwriting such positive role models. And frankly, their accomplishment in the Ride Across America is extraordinary. Only one team member has to ride at any one time, but each still logs a lot of miles; and doing so – while maintaining good blood sugar control and avoiding hypoglycemia – is a tribute to their knowledge of the disease, to their personal sacrifices, and to their commitment to the cause.
We don’t know if they’ll ride enough miles to cure diabetes, but they’ve already ridden enough to win our admiration and our support.
Kelly L. Close