Crossing Oceans and Changing Lives 12

Phil Theodore’s row across the Atlantic inspired a more important goal.

If you tried to row across an ocean in a boat, how far would you make it? Brentwood resident Phil Theodore was determined to answer that question for himself, and it turns out the answer was, “all the way across.”

After an intense corporate career, Theodore was ready for a change. So, in one fell swoop, he bought a bike, found training coaches, and signed up for his first triathlon in Brazil. At that event, he met his now longtime racing partner, Daley Ervin. The pair were challenged by a gentleman in a European pub, and they decided to try crossing the Atlantic Ocean by boat. The trip would be a stretch of more than 3,000 miles that only a handful of people in the world have been able to complete. They didn’t just finish the journey—they beat the world record for it by a week.

While fundraising for their racing fees, the pair also raised money to support food banks across America. Theodore says the “once and done” fundraising model is “a fundamentally broken system,” so the two decided to sustain their mission by forming Team Beyond, an organization that uses extreme races as a platform to raise money for food banks and support nutritional education.

It’s no secret that our grocery stores have no shortage of unhealthy junk foods, but Theodore is out to educate people even further on the dangers that can lie in the food we eat every day. He’s a firm believer that our diet impacts all aspects of our lives, and therefore digging deep and learning all that we can about our diet is vital.

Since returning from his trip across the Atlantic, Theodore has begun traveling to schools in the Nashville area to speak to students about the nutritional awareness. He regularly brings in his own story, whether by showing students the Atlantic route that he and Ervin took and comparing it to the historical journey of Christopher Columbus, or telling curious minds more about the extreme athletic events he does. He knows that even young children can have an influence on their family’s dietary habits, and tells them, “help your parents. When you’re shopping, look at the food label. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient, you probably shouldn’t put it in your body.”

Theodore compared the necessity of nutritional education to hot-button issues of days gone by. It took countless car crash deaths before we realized the importance of seatbelt laws, and plenty of people died of lung diseases before we knew that smoking was harmful. Nutrition is the same, Theodore says, and we as Tennesseans need to do better about educating ourselves.

“Nashville is healthcare central, and we have some of the world’s largest leading healthcare organizations headquartered here,” he said. “But Tennessee has one of the worst health records in the nation.” Theodore would love to see Nashville undergo major reform and become a leader in excellent nutritional education and behaviors. In the near future, he hopes to have an audience with some of Nashville’s prominent leaders, including mayor Megan Barry.

Since making the change in his life from corporate to the nonprofit and educational realm, Theodore is encouraging others to examine how they’re living. His advice on finding a new perspective? Write your own eulogy and decide if you’re really using your time with purpose.

“When you think about what you’ll see when you look back at your life from your deathbed, it gives you clarity. You realize you can make a difference in your own life and those around you, he said. “Most people won’t realize that until it’s too late.”

But no matter what it takes, Phil Theodore is determined to live with impact – all the days of his life.