If you’ve found your way here, you have likely heard stories about Mari Ruddy – thriving with Type 1 diabetes for 30+ years, two-time breast cancer survivor, founder of the ADA’s Red Rider program, and Founder & Director of Team WILD: We Inspire Life with Diabetes. We wanted to go a little deeper and get to know Mari better, to give you a glimpse into that infectiously energetic personality.
How do you define “Athlete”?
I love this question!!! I have been thinking about what makes someone an athlete for years now. I’ve struggled with calling myself an athlete, even after I’d done several difficult triathlons and many 100 mile bike rides, I wasn’t sure I was an athlete. I’m not fast, and I don’t win prizes, so, how could I be an athlete? Finally, after working with coaches and after lots of thinking about it, I decided: I am an athlete. And all of a sudden how I looked at life changed. I was empowered and excited about taking care of myself. So, then I thought, maybe I should encourage others to mentally decide they were athletes FIRST, rather than wait until some elusive athletic goal had been achieved. With that in mind, I define athlete to be someone who puts training, exercise, their sport and their body FIRST. In my world, it’s about a mental commitment to physical performance. From that commitment emerges motivation and drive to take care of ones self with exquisite care. Setting a goal to achieve also focuses athletes, so, set that goal and then make a plan to get there! All of us can be athletes!
What inspires you?
I get crazy inspired watching athletes at an event who have a challenge of some sort. For example the wheelchair athletes always pull my heart strings. I love the older athletes. One year I saw a woman who was likely in her 60′s and she was running the marathon with her oxygen in a cart that she pulled behind her. I was amazed by her. I love seeing Team WILD athletes do their first 100 mile bike ride and when they cross that finish line, seeing their smiles of pure joy, confidence and exhilaration always moves me. I also always get tears in my eyes when I see photos of groups of Red Riders from around the country at Tour de Cure rides. Their smiles and pride makes me so incredibly happy that we have found a way to powerfully celebrate living well with diabetes. Red Riders are my heroes.
How do you move past obstacles to your fitness goals?
When I get down or need to get back in the fitness game, I first spend some time in mental contemplation. I ask myself, what do I most want out of life? And, what am I willing to do right now to get where I want to go physically? Once I ask those questions, I then set a goal that will challenge me just enough, and then I create a road map for how I will get there. For example, I took most of the past year off from training, to recover emotionally and physically from my second round of breast cancer. I recently decided I’m ready to go again. So I picked a 10K run event for mid-December, got a run partner and we’ve been training. Starting in February, I will officially start training for the Boulder 70.3 Triathlon. I’m excited to be back out there!
How do you reward yourself?
Often the race is the reward! And, my close friends will tell you, I’m a total gear freak! I love athletic clothing and well, if I reach a short term goal, I’ve been known to go get some new athletic clothing or gear.
What is something about you that might surprise us?
As much as I love exercise, it’s not something that comes super easy or naturally for me. I have to work at staying motivated. It helps me quite a bit that I work with athletes and that my life is dedicated to helping others find their way to athletic empowerment, because it keeps me focused on getting out there too!
How do you GO WILD in your life?
My life is WILD everyday! I like to try new things, meet new people, imagine how things could be!!! One thing I like to do often, is just dance around!!! It keeps me loose and happy!!!! For me, GO WILD is to Be Happy!