Thursday, February 21, 2019

Inspiration at the Back of the Pack

When I was growing up, the view from the back of the pack was painful. I contracted paralytic polio at the age of 5. To regain mobility, I wore an ankle to hip metal leg brace. In the late 50's and early 60's there were no kindness initiatives or different ability awareness. I went it alone and throughout my life, until the age of 53, I relied solely on my intellectual prowess to get me through.

I paid a steep price dissociating from my body to survive not only paralytic polio but having endured years of sexual, physical and emotional abuse at the hands of family members.

In December of 2006 I received the life giving diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease. It didn't feel like a gift or receiving anything except a traumatic blow at the time but incredible blessings flowed once I opened my heart to receive.

After getting still and asking for Divine Guidance, I was drawn to the sport of running first through my pen, my divining rod for healing and then, when I declared that I was going to run the 2009 Boston Marathon to raise money for Spaulding Rehab where I took the first steps on my healing journey.

I was astounded by the warm welcome I received into the running community. I was celebrated for finishing last as though I were the runner to break the tape.

I've been blessed to hear stories from other courageous runners who ran at the back of the pack.

It's great being in a race where marathoners do two loops of the half marathon while I run the half marathon. I've seen the lead runners battle it out at their front of the pack. In Bermuda 2016, we saw a woman go head to head with the lead male runner. She won the marathon!

In Hyannis, I became a middle of the pack runner when the 10K joined the Half Marathoners and got to see the winner of the Half Marathon break the tape.

One of my favorite stories about being a back of the pack runner happened during the 2018 Bermuda Half Marathon.

From "The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953":
Marathoners passed us and we cheered each other on.

"Good job!"

"You too!"

"You okay? You need any water?" I asked a runner who was stopped just beyond mile 10.

"No I just wish I felt better,” he said as he was stretching on the side of the road.

“I’m not sure if I’m going to make it to the finish line.” {Marathoners do two loops of the same course as the Half Marathoners.}

As Tom dropped behind me, I walked with him for a little while.

"Let me give you some inspiration. What's your name?"


"I'm Mary - from Boston. Where are you from?"

"New York"

“Do you see this wristband that says “Inspire?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“Do you know why I received it?”

“No tell me,” he said.

I went on to tell him my story of how I was diagnosed with Post-Polio Syndrome 11 years ago and went on to run the 2009 Boston Marathon; how 3 years ago my left knee blew out and I was told to stop running.

“I’m now just 3 miles shy of finishing my third Bermuda Half Marathon in as many years.”

He was enthralled with my journey.

"Okay that's just what I needed," he said and he took off running again.

"You might see me again before the finish line,” he shouted over his shoulder.

We didn't pass him again and presume he had a great finish bolstered by my story.

We kept our steady pace and paid no attention to the time on the clock. We knew we were going to finish, finish strong and finish before the last marathoner crossed the finish line. We estimated coming in at about 5 hours.

I loved how during our Half Marathon training, Tom once said to me, "For someone who was supposed to be in a wheelchair, you run pretty fast."

The view from the back of the pack was once painful and agonizingly lonely. Once I found my way to the sport of running and embraced the miracle and courage of what it meant for me to be out on the roads running a race, I discovered the very sweet view from the back of the pack.

To your health and wellness
From my heart to yours

Be sure to visit my website by following this link.

My books are available on Amazon.

“The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953” takes you on Mary McManus’ healing odyssey from a wheelchair to the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and beyond. After the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome in December 2006, Mary got still and asked for Divine Guidance tapping into the powerful connection she experienced to the Divine from an early age. She harnessed the power of her mind to heal her body, feverishly writing poetry in which she imagined herself healthy, whole and free from the shackles of her youth. Mary’s quest to heal her life led her to the sport of running. Her story is one that will leave you cheering for the underdog, discovering the meaning of different ability and experiencing the stunning view from the back of the pack of a race. You will have the privilege of bearing witness to how Mary overcame every challenge that life presented to her. The sport of running provides the backdrop for her journey of transformation from a survivor of childhood paralytic polio and severe trauma at the hands of family members to a woman who embodies faith, grace under fire, courage, determination, endurance and resilience. Running became a way of life for Mary that tested her mettle while forging friendships to last a lifetime. As you’ll discover in “The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953” nothing, not even a serious knee injury in December of 2014 could stop her on the roads or in her life.

Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life

Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing Hope and Possibility that chronicles the first 7 years of my healing journey:

Going the Distance: The Power of Endurance (With a Foreword by Jacqueline Hansen):

My healing journey using the power of visualization is featured in David R. Hamilton's book, "How Your Mind Can Heal Your Body-Anniversary Edition." It's available on Amazon.

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