AGE OF DIAGNOSIS 22
I manage my numbers to take control, to chase down goals, and to live the life I want!
California-native Benny Madrigal describes his childhood in one word – active. He played nearly every sport imaginable, and by high school, he focused exclusively on running, both on the track and cross-country. Madrigal earned all-American honors and went on to attend Fresno Pacific University where he continued running and earned all-conference honors.
Following graduation, Madrigal began coaching fellow runners and took a position as a long-term substitute teacher in a special education classroom. As he was adjusting to professional life, the then 22-year-old was blindsided by a diagnosis of type 1 diabetes.
Fortunately, Madrigal didn’t lose his competitive nature and soon found a supportive health care provider that helped him to manage his diabetes properly. He began training again and his career continued to advance. When it came to competing, Madrigal knew he needed to take it slowly and focused on setting realistic goals and taking small steps.
Getting back to pre-diagnosis race form didn’t come easily or quickly. It wasn’t just regaining his physical strength, but also his confidence and mental awareness, but slowly it came back to him. Five years after his diagnosis, Madrigal had won the Santa Rosa Marathon, Mountains to Beach Marathon and set course records at the DC Marathon and NorthFace Endurance.
Additional standout accolades for Madrigal include winning several half marathons such as the Bakersfield Half, Judgement Day Half, Modesto Half and earning podium finishes in more than 20 races. Madrigal currently holds the 5K record at the Second Wind 5K and has completed the Boston Marathon six times.
Madrigal feels joining Team Novo Nordisk has helped him reach people and have a more significant impact on not only the diabetes community but also anyone who needs motivation for exercise and healthy eating. He recognizes that he is still young when it comes to racing marathons and continues to learn about managing his blood glucose during training and racing, so he only expects his times to improve.
In addition to being an ambassador for the diabetes community, the 33-year-old Madrigal also teaches English Language Development to high school students.
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.