When he’s not winning marathons like Santa Rosa in 2013 or setting course records at the 2012 NorthFace Endurance Challenge or 2013 Washington D.C. marathon, Benny Madrigal works as a special education teacher in a continuation high school setting and teaches Latin dances like Salsa, and Meringue. “I love coaching and teaching,” he says, “and I truly enjoy sharing my passion of training with others.”
Tell us about when you were diagnosed and how you found out?
I had been feeling bad for some time, losing weight, urinating frequently, and finally, my vision worsened, so I went to the emergency room. After tons of blood work, a doctor asked me, “Do you know what diabetes is?” I said, “not really,” then he said, “We strongly believe you have type 1 diabetes”.
A few hours later, it was confirmed, and for the next 9 days, I stayed in the hospital figuring out what my new responsibilities were.
What was your initial reaction?
At first, I felt lost. I didn’t understand it, and was trying to figure out what I did wrong. But the more I learned the better I felt.
How did your family/friends/fellow athletes react?
My family and friends looked even more lost than I was. Not fully understanding what was going on, most made the statement, “I thought I would get it before Benny.” They were all real supportive and helped me get through a rough patch. My teammates were scared for me since they knew how much I loved to run, and they were not sure if I would be able to continue.
Did you think your days as an athlete were over? Did others? What did your doctor say?
While in the hospital, I used the footstool as a step workout, so I never thought I was going to stop being an athlete. But hearing negative remarks from my doctor and others made me think twice. Some doctors would tell me that I wouldn’t and shouldn’t compete and that I should just go for walks and easy bike rides. Others at first were concerned for my health, so they tried to not persuade me into working out.
But as I learned more, I started to train for a running trail series that was more low-key. I won the series, and a sense of hope came to me! I was going to be able to do it.
What was it like working-out with diabetes and how did you adjust?
There was a lot more monitoring, and I had lots more trial and error to learn from. I talked with my doctor and many others in that profession to figure out what was going to work best for me. I now had to pay more attention to signs that my body was telling me. It did take time to learn, but now I feel very connected with what is going on in my body.
Tell us about how you got started in your sport.
In middle school, my basketball coach suggested that I run since he was going to coach the cross-country team, so I did. The more I ran, the more I enjoyed it, and two years later that was the only sport I continued doing. I still participated in other sports but just for fun. Running cross-country and track was something that became a life style.
When did you start competing?
I began competing in the 8th grade.
What do you think is your biggest achievement in your athletic career?
Every stage has a great memory: being an all-American in high school was one; all-conference in college was another; as well as many great National races.
After being diagnosed, I have won two marathons and those are two that really stand out. If you ask me in a year it should be different I have big goals for 2014!
What is your favorite memory from a race/competition?
The feeling I get from running a perfect race start to finish, knowing that everything went as planned. It is a weird feeling, but it feels good.
Being part of Team Novo Nordisk
How did you come to join Team Novo Nordisk?
I applied after a friend told me about the team, I had just finished winning a set of races and felt that I could help out the team.
How has your life changed since you joined the team (both as an athlete and as a person)?
I feel that being on the team helps me reach people and have a greater affect when speaking about what exercise and nutrition do for me. I see life differently because the mission of the team- it’s centered around helping others, so that has become one of my missions as well.