Team Type 1: You Are All a Part of the Team
One of the most rewarding parts of my job is sharing stories of inspiration with you. Recently, I highlighted one of our A1C Champions, shared the story of Miss America 1999 Nicole Johnson, and chatted with the founder of Team Type 1 and author of Not Dead Yet Phil Southerland.
The members of Team Type 1 are also spreading hope and raising awareness of diabetes across the globe. The Team has grown into something much larger than the original eight-man cycling group so I set up a second conversation with Phil to get more details.
Q: When you established Team Type 1 in 2005, did you ever dream it would grow into the organization that it is today?
A: Absolutely not. To think that we have close to 150 people in the organization competing in events and doing advocacy work all around the world, it’s amazing! In 2005, I knew one other diabetic bike racer. Now, Team Type 1 and Team Type 2 are going to do 750 days of competition where people with diabetes are competing. The impact of us doing this and telling people in the community how we’re doing it is having this snowball effect, getting more people active. It really is a dream come true and it’s because we’ve had good people around us.
Q: Can you tell us about Team Type 1’s first Race Across America and how you got started?
A: I was fortunate enough to get an interview in an online cycling news outlet. Basically, I told them, “Here’s Team Type 1 and we want to race our bikes across America as a team of people with diabetes.” Within a week I had four people involved and, as the word spread, more people contacted me.
It took about a month to line the team up and a lot of people told me I was crazy because I didn’t have the money to do something on this scale. I had to raise a quarter of a million dollars at 24 years old and others discounted me because they thought, “Even if he does raise the money, will he be able to do the race?”
The list of people who publicly and privately doubted me is long, but it fueled me. From day one, when we said we were going to do it, I knew we were going to do it. It was the right thing to do. The diabetes world in America needed this to happen to start a movement to show the doctors and healthcare professionals that people with diabetes could do this.
I was stubborn and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I was clear with my goals and that made it easy. We did the race and got second place that year. We lost the race by just three minutes in a 5 day 16 hour and 4 minute non-stop adventure across the country. The odds of the race being that close, you would think it’s phenomenal, but it was devastating to lose by such a short margin. I would have rather lost by three hours, but it continued to motivate us. And it was our blood sugar management in year two versus year one that I strongly believe enabled our victory in 2006.
Q: What happened after the first race?
A: Two weeks after the race I went to the Children With Diabetes Friends For Life Conference and the kids just started coming up to get autographs because they thought it was cool to be a member of Team Type 1. I told every child with diabetes “Welcome to the Team. You’re all a part of our team now.” To see that spark in their eyes and know that we could motivate these kids to take better control of their blood sugar so they could achieve their dreams while living with diabetes – I knew we were on to something.
Then, I went to the AADE conference and saw the impact we had on the educators and their excitement about the fact that they could use our example with their patients. They asked me to speak and, again, I knew we were on to something.
Q: Team Type 1 has now expanded beyond cycling. Can you tell us about that evolution?
A: Diabetes doesn’t discriminate and say I’m only going after bikers, so we decided to broaden our outreach. Tom Kingery wanted to start a triathlon team, but we were only going to do something if we could do it in a big way so we turned to running. A lot of people run 5ks, 10ks, and marathons, but how many people do you know that have run across America? I told Tom that I was interested in a running team, but I wanted to know if he could put a team of type 1 runners together to run across America. Tom said, “I think I can, give me two days,” and he did it!
Now, we’ve pushed all the boundaries and have seven teams within Team Type 1:
- Development Team
- Elite Team
- Men’s Professional Team
- Running Team
- Team Type 2
- Triathlon Team
- Women’s Cycling Team
Q: What do you believe is Team Type 1’s greatest accomplishment?
A: Our biggest accomplishments are yet to come. But up until now, I think we’ve changed the way the world views diabetes. Members of Team Type 1 are proof that life with diabetes is manageable and we can control our blood sugar. Diabetes doesn’t control us. In other parts of the world diabetes is still a ruthless disease and we can solve that problem. We’re working on some really big projects related to care, education, and empowerment.
Our sporting goal is the Tour de France. I feel like we’re getting closer. We’ll be able to announce if we’ll be there in 2013 in the next couple months. If so, we’re hoping to send a massive amount of type 1 diabetics to France in July of 2013 for support.
As an employee of Sanofi US, I am so proud that we are supporters of Phil and Team Type 1. The team, as a whole, as well as every individual member, is setting an amazing example for the diabetes community and I can’t wait to see what’s next. Thanks to Phil for taking time to chat and I have no doubt we’ll hear more from him as he continues to evolve the Team Type 1 organization and continues the effort to raise diabetes awareness and improve diabetes education on a global-scale.
All the best,
Disclosures: Phil Southerland received no compensation for this post. All opinions contained in this post reflect those of the interviewee, and not of Sanofi US, its employees, agencies or affiliates.
Team Type 1 has received sponsorship funds from Sanofi US.