Guest Blog: Mari Ruddy – Endurance Athlete Diabetes & Cancer Survivor

Who Are You?

When I’m asked the question, “Who are you?” lots of things run through my mind. dibetes endurance athlete cancer survivor Mari Ruddy
Blog post author Mari Ruddy
  • “I’m a recreational endurance athlete.”
  • “An accomplished speaker, author, and LinkedIn guru.”
  • “I have been a high school principal and lived to tell about it.”
  • “I’ve lived with type 1 diabetes for nearly 36 years and I’ve survived breast cancer twice.”

I don’t start with the last one, because those health challenges frame who I am in a victim mindset. I prefer to inspire curiosity and interest. Very few people are curious about or interested in victims.

So how have I taken what was a bad deck of health cards and show up year after year as an endurance athlete? I wish there was one easy answer. However, I have discovered several keys to my success, and I will share three here today with you.

I prefer to inspire curiosity and interest Click To Tweet

1. Have Fun

I wasn’t an athlete as a child or teenager. In fact, it wasn’t until I was about thirty-five that I discovered athletics. I did my first triathlon a week after I finished radiation therapy, when I was forty years old. Since I wasn’t dead, might as well do a triathlon! So I decided to do the triathlon the day before it was held, and I successfully finished! Granted, I didn’t win my age group or set any records. But I did have fun, and turns out, that’s one of the keys to my success.

Having Fun is one of my Keys to Success as an endurance athlete. Click To Tweet dibetes endurance athlete cancer survivor Mari Ruddy2. Find A Community

I love being a part of a group that is training for a big endurance event. One year I trained with a group of 20 women; all of us have diabetes. The event was a half Ironman triathlon, which starts with a 1.2 mile swim, followed by a 56 mile bike ride, finishing with a 13.1 mile run. Imagine doing that while managing a crazy disease like diabetes which can knock you down the moment your blood sugar gets too low or gets too high.

We trained under the guidance of three athletic coaches, a diabetes educator who was also a registered dietitian and a sports nutritionist, an endocrinologist, and with a sports psychologist. We worked together, and with their guidance, for almost a full twelve months before the race took place. It was a profound and deep feeling of accomplishment to cross the finish line! That feeling got me through the difficult challenge of a mastectomy for the second round of breast cancer.

I trained with five other women to ride in a 100-mile bike ride for the American Diabetes Association Tour de Cure Twin Cities. The six of us created a secret Facebook group and post nearly every day. We offer each other encouragement, support and accountability. Every Sunday, we tell each other our plan for that week. That’s another of my keys to success.

Support is my Second Key to Success. Train with others. Lift each other up, and accept their help too. Click To Tweet

3. Make It A Priority

I consider my appointments to train to be my most important appointments for the week. I put them in my calendar and they are not negotiable. I know that taking care of my body and my health is my priority. Everything else comes after that, because if I don’t make it a priority, I won’t be here to do anything else. dibetes endurance athlete cancer survivor Mari Ruddy

That reframe makes all the difference. On days I don’t have the energy to exercise, I break it down to small steps. Step one is put on the exercise clothes, then decide. The funny thing is, once I get the clothes on, rarely do I give up! Plus seeing my dog dance around with happiness encourages me to get out and at the bare minimum, go for a run or walk!

Key to Success #3 is Make Exercise a Priority. Schedule it. Talk yourself in to it when you need to! Click To Tweet


I watch some people with diabetes, cancer, or even a challenging career (did I mention I was a high school principal?) live their lives from a victim standpoint and not stay active.  This is a choice. It took me 40 years and a near death experience to choose to try something completely new. I was a crazy woman to do a triathlon my first day; you don’t have to do that, but if you want to, then by all means go for it!

Because of the deck of health cards I was dealt, exercise is one of the best things I can do for my body. When I train correctly with the support my body needs for rest and nutrition, I feel better than I’d ever imagined I could. You can too. Move more than you did yesterday—just start where you are and make small changes. Have fun, get support, and make it a priority.

I feel better than I’d ever imagined I could. You can too! Click To Tweet

Mari Ruddy diabetes cancer survivor endurance athlete

About Mari Ruddy:

Mari Ruddy is a LinkedIn coach, writer, teacher, speaker, social media maven and an amateur endurance athlete. She helps people build their online profiles, build websites, write books and blogs, teaches classes, and coaches people on career transitions. She leads team building exercises, coach people on how to make healthy lifestyle choices, and rides her bike long distances!

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