(Runner Benny Madrigal. Image courtesy of Team Novo Nordisk.)
The catchphrases “Everything happens for a reason” and “God won’t give you more than you can handle” have always bothered me. I heard these phrases a lot when I was first diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, and they made me feel conflicted. I remember my dad asked me years ago if I thought there was a “reason” for my diagnosis. I wondered aloud whether I was diagnosed so my younger sister wouldn’t have to go through this alone. (Erin was diagnosed when she was ten years old, and I was diagnosed six months later.) It was the only reason I could come up with, but I remained unconvinced, and figured I was just unlucky. People like Team Novo Nordisk professional runner Benny Madrigal are changing my mind.
Madrigal believes the reason he was diagnosed was to be a positive role model and show others what’s possible with good control and management.
“My mother always told me ‘God doesn’t put things in your path that you can’t overcome’ and I believe in sharing that message and managing my own diabetes by chasing my dreams with a plan…it’s the best thing I can do for the diabetes community.”
In between his busy racing schedule, Madrigal works with his local JDRF chapter to speak to groups in his community about living well with diabetes. “I think it’s really important to have the right information when you are first diagnosed.” Born in Mexico and raised in Central California, Madrigal was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at 22 years old. He was told by his doctors that he needed to take it easy and could no longer race. He was a senior in college on a full scholarship for track, and those words were devastating. Gradually, he met other runners with Type 1 and began to race again.
In 2012 Madrigal joined Team Novo Nordisk and now races 30–40 times a year. He will run the New York Marathon in November, the Houston Marathon in January, and the Boston Marathon in April. Madrigal races short and long distances but prefers the discipline of the marathon. He wears a CGM (continuous glucose monitor), uses Excel to monitor his patterns, and is “constantly checking” his numbers. His race strategy is to prepare for everything with practice. “No one knows my body better than me.” His goal is to get a lot faster. “I have the potential to run under a 2:25 marathon. I’m 29 years old and should be hitting my peak in the next few years.”
Crossing the finish line when he is representing the diabetes community is a powerful motivator for Madrigal, who wants to inspire the kids who are watching. “It’s a lot of pressure,” he laughs. It’s also part of the reason he pushes himself so hard. When someone is diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, he wants to show them what they can do, not what they can’t.
Having diabetes can bring you down, but there are still reasons to be cheerful. Bookmark DiabetesSelfManagement.com and tune in tomorrow to learn about them from nurse David Spero.