When two great books came out on the same day (as so happened on June 5, 2012), I had a decision to make. My choices were between one of the ultra running gods, someone I have been fortunate to get to know the last year; Scott Jurek, with his first book ‘Eat & Run‘ or a new name to me, Phil Southerland with an intriguing title.
‘Not Dead Yet‘ is a tongue in cheek reference to the doctor who infamously explained that Phil would be lucky to make it to age 25 when he diagnosed him as diabetic at only seven-month old. Now 28, he is alive and more than well. He is in many people’s eyes regarded as a diabetic icon. The book explains his inspiring life story of how he took control of diabetes (initially with his Mom’s help) and then how he used his “gift from God” as described by Phil to inspire diabetics the world over.
To any runner that knows me, they were probably shocked to hear I put Scott on the bookcase and made him wait. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t do so in real life! (I very recently got up on at 4am to run with him around Manhattan and then went back after work to run a few more miles with him, ironically for his book launch).
My decision to pick an athletic diabetic I had never heard of over Scott proved to me how seriously I now take my diabetes. This mindset has not always been the case. Years before I previously shoved it in the back of my brain somewhere and carried on going as normal. Call it naive, rebellious or plain stupid. Yes, it was all of these and many other diabetics have done this only to find out it gets you nowhere. At some point for me, the switch just came on and the realization that this can be controlled. Today I hold my head up high and realize Phil and I aren’t too different. Diabetes is not an excuse not to do something, it’s an excuse to do something which Phil clearly demonstrates from his huge achievements.
But I digressed. Back to the start. When Phil was rushed to hospital as a baby, he had lost ten pounds in a week, his body was limp and his breathing slowed. He was displaying the youngest case of diabetes on record in the world at that time. He beat all odds and led an active childhood, first through racket ball, then cycling. His passion and talent for cycling made him a pro but his career was formed when he met another pro cyclist, Joe Eldridge, another type 1 diabetic. Their friendship grew although they managed their diabetes in different ways. Phil; testing constantly and changing dosages. Joe; laid back with a few tests and a few guesses for how much insulin to inject (guess which one I was). Together they formed a company of diabetic athletes only called Team Type 1, and their opening event was a cycling relay across the country known as the ‘Race Across America‘. They didn’t win the first year but they did the second and a few more times since! Phil now manages a world-class cycling team in TT1, changing the way the world views diabetes and its so-called limitations on life. In essence, he is doing the equivalent of what Lance Armstrong is doing for cancer.
Blindness, kidney failure and death were all predicted for him by age twenty-five. He is not only alive and well but as the founder of Team Type 1, he and his team of championship cyclists (as well as runners and triathletes) have become health and fitness role models for people the world over.
The most exciting news from TT1 is their likely invite to next years biggest cycling event, the Tour de France in 2013! Phil Southerland is an inspiration to those who live and struggle with diabetes as well as any individual who faces seemingly insurmountable challenges. His diabetes control has labeled him as the “world’s number one diabetic!”. His A1C (a 3-month average glucose reading) is 5.1. To put this into context, a reading below 6.0 is for non-diabetics!
I will not pretend I have control anything like Phil (or Joe; his is 5.4) but my goal is to ‘strive for 6.5’ before the end of the year. ‘Strive for 6.5‘ is the Team Type 1 athletes motto. Nothing is impossible, Phil’s life story proves that over and over again with every page you turn. A great read! Buy it here;