Towards the end of the 2016 cross-country season, junior runner Kristen Madeia would go to practice like she always does. Some days were harder than others depending on the mileage, but for the most part she went on what felt like easy runs.
For the business management major, easy would be an understatement. She wouldn’t have to exert much energy, however things started to change. The runs that would ordinarily hardly cause her to break a sweat resulted in pure exhaustion after about a mile.
She felt defeated, fatigued, burnt out, frustrated, and tired. Her 800m time fell by almost 20 seconds, so she knew that something wasn’t right.
“I was tired. I couldn’t run more than two miles, and then I found out I was anemic,” Madeia said.
Madeia suffers from Anemia, which is the most common type of low-iron deficiency. It occurs when someone has a decreased level of hemoglobin in red blood cells. The hemoglobin is protein in red blood cells that bring oxygen to the tissues.
The body needs iron in order to produce hemoglobin and when there isn’t enough, the entire body doesn’t get the oxygen it needs.
“A mile in my legs would burn. I was just so fatigued,” Madeia said. “I had to walk half of the runs, but I was still doing the training and nothing changed in it, so I shouldn’t have been feeling that way.”
After countless runs of pain and muscle fatigue during practice, Madeia decided to get supplements, because she heard about the possibility of low-iron deficiency from her coaches and knew of girls who have had it in the past. After purchasing them, she never took them consistently.
“I wasn’t sure if that’s what the problem was, and I didn’t want to be taking supplements if I wasn’t sure I had low-iron,” Madeia said. “I didn’t get around to getting my blood tested until the beginning of the summer.”
When the results came back revealing that she did have low-iron deficiency, she started taking the supplements on a regular basis and paid more attention to her diet.
“I think that has played a big part in my performance this year, because I feel so much healthier. I’m not fatigued after running for five minutes,” Madeia said.
Her performance this year has been a career best as a cross-country runner. At the Ramapo season opener, she posted a time of 20:14.9 on the 5k course, placing third overall in the race out of 83 runners. Her incredible performance earned her a NEWMAC Player of the Week award. Three weeks later, she punched in a time of 23:04 in the 6k, finishing 13th among 270 competitors.
Before this season, she was never named as a NEWMAC Player of the Week and she’s been pushing herself harder than ever for it. The supplements have made her healthier and the training has intensified.
“I started paying more attention to my health. I stayed healthy and positive and really got it in check,” Madeia said. “Our mileage got bumped up a lot and it took a while to adjust to, but right now I think I’m hitting my stride with the training.”
The training never got easier; she just continued to work hard, stay healthy and get better. No matter the distance she still trains hard, even if she’s not feeling it that day.
“Some days I hate running, but at the end of the day after you go on a good run with your teammates, the runners high is a real thing,” Madeia said. “It keeps me healthy, my body and mind healthy and it’s like therapy for me at this point. It’s been such a big part of my life for so long. I don’t know what I’d do without it.”
Her new times and attitude have made into her a leader for the women’s cross-country team. She pushes everyone to their limits, while maintaining great relationships with her teammates. Not only does she lead them, but she also uses them as motivation and is there for them if they’re down.
“I try and make everyone feel welcomed, especially with our big freshmen group,” Madeia said. “We all try to keep a positive mindset everyday. If someone had a bad workout, we try to talk each other out of the funk because running is so mental that if you go in everyday looking at negatively, you’re going to get stuck there for a while.”
The numbers she’s put up this season have been incredible. She’s turned herself into a new competitor and the funny thing is, she’s more dangerous on a track than the course.
“Cross-country has never really been my main sport, I’ve done it to get in shape for track. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to do it in college I just wanted to do track,” Madeia said. “I’m really looking forward to track and seeing how my new endurance carries over in the races I do there and I hope the success carries over from cross-country to track.”
Her success this season is all due to her staying healthy and working incredibly hard. She never let her low-iron deficiency get in the way of becoming successful and cross-country isn’t even her best sport. While track season is still a few months away, Madeia has plenty of time to set new personal records and rack up more awards in cross-country. Her and the team’s next challenge will be Saturday, October 14 at the Connecticut College Invitational.