Tommy Neal trained for this moment for years. All the hard work, early mornings, and miles and miles of running were about to pay off. Then, just two months before the U.S. Olympic Trials, 29-year-old Tommy Neal was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. The diagnosis came as a shock and mentally he wasn’t prepared. While Tommy still competed at Trials, he wasn’t in top form and failed to qualify for Team USA and a shot at the London Olympic Games.
For Tommy, the road to recovery wasn’t simply about adjusting his diet and increasing his miles. By working with a sport psychologist, he was able to see himself as a successful athlete again.
“It really helps clear my mind and gets me ready to race,” Tommy explains. “I believe I’m the same person as before, but now I believe I can run faster than I ever did before being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. “
That belief is real. When it comes to training at his home in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Tommy is running faster than he was before his diagnosis. All that’s left is to see his dream translate to results.
“In the past two years, adapting to life and training with type 1 diabetes has been a wild ride,” Tommy describes. “Now I am running five mile repeats at 6000 feet at an average pace of 4:41 and before the last Olympic trials, I was around 4:43. I have my form back, and now I have to be confident in my abilities and trust my fitness.”
In total, Tommy runs between 100 to 130 miles per week and races about 15 to 20 times per year. Recently, he finished in the top 10 at the Copenhagen Marathon and won the LifeBlood 5K in Denver in August. Now, Tommy feels ready to turn his attention to the 2016 Olympic Games.
“There have been times where I wondered if my Olympic dreams were in question,” Tommy admits. “It’s only been recently that I finally feel I am back where I was two years ago, and now I’m out to get my confidence back.”
The next Olympic Trials are scheduled for February 2016 in Los Angeles and Tommy will be there. His goal is to run a lightning-fast half marathon in one hour and three minutes and a full marathon of around two hours and 16 minutes.
“I know it’s very possible, especially with the training group that I have surrounded myself with,” he explains. “It’s been a huge goal of mine for years to place top 10 at a U.S. championship and make a world team, but getting my qualifying time is the most important thing to me.”
If he does achieve his ultimate goal of representing the USA at the Olympics, Tommy predicts the emotions will be difficult to manage.
“If I made the U.S. Olympic Marathon Team and was able share my story with others and relive the moment, it would likely make me cry,” Tommy projects. “It would most likely cause me to cry tears of joy over such a momentous accomplishment, because I would be realizing the same dream that many other athletes hope to achieve.”
In addition to his athletic goals, Tommy is also passionate about giving back to the diabetes community and inspiring, educating and empowering people affected by diabetes. Achieving his lifelong goal would help him do just that.
“I am very passionate about educating people about diabetes,” adds Tommy, “and what better way to show people what may be possible than to be an U.S. Olympian.”
Read more about Tommy here.