Red Riding is the best medicine

Published 10:37 pm Friday, March 15, 2019

The American Diabetes Association continues to raise money for research efforts that allow diabetics to have better medicine and technology to manage their chronic conditions — advances that will help Red Riders like John Holladay, 43.

Holladay is a Virginia Beach resident who was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when he was just 21 months old, at a time when there were no blood sugar monitors like there are today.

He kept his blood sugars in check with insulin injections and urine sampling three to four times per day, with tablets that dissolved and changed the sample’s colors to show whether he was high, low or somewhere in the middle.

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“There weren’t really any accurate numbers or anything,” he said.

He remembered his first blood sugar monitor at age 5, when he was in kindergarten. It was a bulky machine that sat on the table, but he still had to do the tablet tests until newer, smaller models came out when he was 8.

Now he uses an insulin pump. He’s had several different models since 2000 and now uses a Tandem insulin pump with a DexCom G5 mobile continuous glucose monitoring system.

He said that despite years of stress — from managing his blood sugars daily to the cost of his medical supplies — he’s had no known complications caused by his diabetes since his diagnosis, and the improved devices in his life helped him accomplish that.

“Thinking back, the technology has just changed so much for the better,” he said.

The Tour de Cure helps raise the money to fund the research that advances this technology. He’s been riding in the Tour for 10 to 12 years, and just did the 10-mile route at the time he first started. He’s now getting ready for the 30-mile route in the Hampton Roads Tour de Cure this April as a member of Team Red.

He said that it was his endocrinologist that recommended he first give the Tour a chance.

“I’m glad I honestly did it, because Tour de Cure is so much fun,” he said.

He rides his bike daily to help manage both his diabetes and bronchiectasis, a chronic condition in which the walls of the bronchi are thickened from inflammation and infection. He was first diagnosed with the condition when he was 5 or 6 years old, he said.

But he loves riding in Tour for the cheers that he gets for being a Red Rider, along with all of the other support on Tour day. Volunteers support riders from their motorcycles and other vehicles during the event, and other riders will do the same on their routes.

“You’re cheered on because you’re diabetic and everything, (and) it seems like everyone is looking out for you,” he said.

He said that it’s important to support the Tour because it helps find a cure for diabetes and also raises money towards other ADA efforts.

“It’s mainly to find a cure for diabetes, that’s why I support it,” he said, “and also riding a bike is a fun thing to do.”

The 2019 Hampton Roads Tour de Cure will be on April 27 at Suffolk Executive Airport, 1200 Gene Bolton Drive. There will be 12-, 30-, 62- and 100-mile routes for cyclists, and also a 5K run and walk.

Registration for cyclists is $20 through March 31 and increases to $25 starting April 1. The fundraising minimum for cyclists is $200. Runners and walkers have a fundraising minimum of $100 and do not pay a registration fee. All participants ages 12 and younger have just a $50 fundraising minimum.

The fundraising goal for this upcoming Tour is $525,000. As of Friday evening, $187,019.71 has been raised, with 74 teams and 578 total participants registered so far.

For more information on the event, visit or call 424-6662 ext. 3269. Those interested in volunteering can contact Robin Kantor via email at