Healthy Living

Marathoner Runs Great Lengths Despite Diabetes

Despite type 1 diabetes, this marathoner still manages to come in at first place!

Marathoner Runs Great Lengths Despite Diabetes

Photo: Benny Madrigal. Source: Team Novo Nordisk

Diabetes does not discriminate. No matter who or what you are, diabetes will take you down and hard. How you live with and manage your diabetes determines the type of lifestyle you will enjoy.

Take, for example, Benny Madrigal. He was 22 years old when he received a diagnosis of Type 1 (juvenile diabetes).  “Being diagnosed with diabetes at that point in my life was the last thing I ever expected to hear,” said Benny. “I had been an athlete since I was in the third grade and the diet I followed was better than most other people I knew. I was a college senior on a full scholarship for track & field when I began losing weight and not feeling well. Finally, when my vision became blurry I knew something was really wrong, and I went to the emergency room.”

Benny couldn’t believe he had any disease. He felt that losing weight (he rapidly lost 18 pounds down to 117) was the results of the miles he was running.

No matter how fit Benny was, it couldn’t stop his pancreas from failing and his blood sugar rising so high that he was immediately hospitalized. He spent nine days in the hospital trying to get his blood sugar levels down to acceptable levels.

After leaving the hospital, Benny was told he could no longer be the same athlete he had been. He fought against this decision and set out to prove he could still run competitively. He knew he could do it. He maintained his diet, checked his blood on a regular basis and learned as much about diabetes as he could. He now listens to his body, and when he makes a lousy food decision, he knows his body will let him know.

Benny’s diligence has paid off. The native of Coalcoman, Michoacan, Mexico ran an impressive 2:34 in the 2014 Mountains to the Beach marathon, and 1:09 in the San Diego Rock ‘n’ Roll half-marathon.

Benny’s Running Career

Benny gets better running times than he did before his diagnosis. How can this be so? Well, he takes better care of himself and feels like he is in more control and in tune with his body. Benny knows he has many years of running – diabetes can’t take that away from him.

Benny started running while he was a member of his school’s basketball team. The coach urged Benny to go out for cross country to get ready for basketball. In the first race, he was the second to the last, but his friends kept pushing him. He was determined to come in first at some point.

Benny started getting better. He eventually stopped playing basketball and turned his love and focus to running. As he trained, he went from second to the last to the top three of his eighth-grade team. He kept running and as a sophomore in high school, Benny realized that running could get him a scholarship. He trained to get better, and by his senior year, he received a full scholarship to Fresno Pacific.

Benny credits running as the sport that got him started in life. He received a scholarship to college, made friends and learned to overcome obstacles. Today, Benny doesn’t believe that diabetes is an obstacle. He believes it makes him aware of himself and his body.

Benny is a special education teacher in California. He is a member of Team Novo Nordisk, which is a group of diabetic athletes backed by the pharmaceutical company known for its diabetes medications. He competes in triathlons and ran in the Boston Marathon this last season. It is Benny and his team’s goal to educate, empower and inspire those who have diabetes. There are 100 athletes on the team who run so others can see what is possible. Benny says the team is not out to tell people to join them and run marathons but to find something they like and do it. It doesn’t matter what it is, just do it in spite of diabetes.

Benny is not the perfect diabetic. He is careful about the size of his food portions, but if he has birthday cake or something sweet, he eats it, or just enough to get his taste buds happy. He reads about diabetes and how to live a healthy life. He studies other successful people with diabetes and praises what they are doing. Benny says, “I want to keep doing what I love to do. I don’t ever plan on stopping.”

What is Type 1 Diabetes?

Type 1 diabetes is known as insulin-dependent or juvenile diabetes. It is a chronic condition where the pancreas produces no or very little insulin. Insulin is the hormone needed to allow glucose to cross into cells and provide energy.

Genetics, viruses and many different factors contribute to type 1 diabetes. It usually appears during childhood or adolescence, but it can develop in adulthood as well. There is no cure for type 1 diabetes. Treatment focuses on maintaining blood sugar levels with insulin, diet, and lifestyle to prevent complications.

Type 1 diabetes symptoms often appear suddenly and include:

There is no known cause of type 1 diabetes. It is thought that the body’s immune system mistakenly destroys the insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Other possible causes might be genetics or exposure to viruses and other environmental issues.

When a large number of pancreatic cells are destroyed little or no insulin is produced. Insulin is the hormone made in the pancreas. It is the pancreas’ job to secrete insulin into your bloodstream and allow sugar to enter the cells. Insulin regulates the quantity of sugar in your bloodstream.

Sugar or glucose in your body is the primary source of energy for the cells that make up the tissues and muscles of your body. Glucose comes from two major sources that include your liver, which stores glucose, and food. Once sugar absorbs into your bloodstream, it enters cells with the help of the hormone insulin. Your liver stores glucose as glycogen and when your glucose or sugar levels decreased, the liver breaks down stored glycogen into glucose to retain your sugar levels at a normal range.

Type 1 diabetes means there is no insulin to let glucose into cells. Sugar builds up in your bloodstream, and this causes life-threatening compilations.

Type1 diabetes' complications affect the major organs in your body including the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, and nerves. Maintaining a normal blood sugar level is vital to reduce the risk of neuropathy, heart, and blood vessel disease, as well as eye damage, foot damage, skin and mouth conditions, and kidney damage.