Monday, August 10, 2020

A Magical Monday Memory - Six Years Ago Today!



Six years ago today I ran a PR at the Bill Rodgers 5K to Benefit Prostate Cancer. The memory popped up on Facebook along with photos and a video. One of the photos is with Kathleen Healy Fencil who saw my post on Facebook that volunteers were needed. It was the first time we met in person and she was there to take pictures and cheer me into the finish line!

From "The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953":
One Moment in Time: Race Report Bill Rodgers 5K Run/Walk to Benefit Prostate Cancer August 10, 2014

I was open to whatever my body was going to be able to do today. My mantra for today's race was light and joy. I wanted to thoroughly enjoy the day. I slept well and didn’t have the usual pre-race jitters. I had a good breakfast of a bagel, oatmeal, banana and orange juice. What a luxury to be able to get up at 6:45am on a race day and drive 10 minutes to the start of the race.

I had a sense of trust that this was going to be a good day.

When we arrived, race director Alain Ferry whom you may recall was also the organizer of the OneRun greeted us. He had been following my blog posts about my intention to PR for the race. He gave me a big bear hug and asked me to remind him what my goal was for today's race.

“I hope we see 47:00 minutes or less on the clock when you cross that finish line. Remind me again of your name?” Alain asked extending his hand to Tom.

“It’s Tom.”

“We met at the Heartbreak Hill Marathon weekend. I remember you.”

He warmly shook Tom’s hand and said, “Well I’ve got about a million things to do. See you back here.”

I reconnected with Bill Rodgers at his table while he sold copies of his book, “Marathon Man: My 26.2 Mile Journey From Unknown Grad Student to the Top of the Running World.” He remembered me and my story from Hyannis.

“How did you like the book?” Bill asked me.

“I loved it Bill,” I answered with a big smile. I shared with him parts of the book that resonated with me.

“Life is hard,” he said to me. “That’s why we run. If we can tough it out on the roads, we know we can tough it out in life.”

Bill turned and introduced us to his girlfriend Karen.

“I overheard your conversation with Billy. You’ve had an amazing journey. I’m a breast cancer survivor and started running in my 40’s after the diagnosis.”

We instinctively hugged even though we just met each other.

“Let’s get everyone over to the starting line,” Alain commanded through his bullhorn.

Pre-race announcements talked about the importance of supporting research, early detection and treatment for Prostate Cancer. Alain asked for a show of hands of those running affected by cancer. There was an astounding number of hands raised in the crowd. Alain handed Bill Rodgers the mic. He shared how he is a prostate cancer survivor.

“It is the #2 leading cause of cancer deaths among American men. We need to pay as much attention to prostate cancer for men as we do for breast cancer for women.”

Bill Rodgers went on in his pre-race remarks. “Running and walking is a simple little sport but we as Americans can use it to change the world.”

And then it was gun time and time for me to write another chapter of my story.
We started at the front of the pack with Bill Rodgers off to our left. I went out running fast through the campus of Boston College. Thirty years ago I received my Masters in Social Work degree and spent many many hours on that beautiful campus. The field took off and I adhered to my race plan. We'd run the downhill and I'd run for as long as I could and then move into race walking. When we got to the rolling hills of Commonwealth Avenue, I race walked. The sun was bright and the day heated up fast. We were grateful there was no humidity and we could go on the sidewalk for shade. We brought frozen water bottles that I used for hydration and to keep cool.

Mile 1 - 14:33 pace. I was blown away by my time but I knew that anything could happen over the next two point one miles.

Tom kept checking in with me. How was I feeling? Did anything hurt? I didn't talk much which is very unusual for me and I was breathing hard. I had a single-minded goal but I was running from the inside out.

In my training runs I had stopped to take a "water break.” At times I slowed my pace, but kept moving forward. We stopped for about 30 seconds at the water stop before it was time to tackle the hill with a 221' elevation.

Mile 2 - time was almost 30 minutes.

Okay I think I can. I think I can. I've got this. I can do this.

Tom said to me "What do we do with hills?"

"We eat them for breakfast," I managed to get out.

To the top of Beacon Street and a right onto College Road.

A right onto Commonwealth Avenue heading toward the finish.

Alain came out on his bike, "Oh there you are. "Come on you're almost there."

I was hot and my tank was close to empty.

As we headed toward the finish Alain told me I had less than a minute for my PR.

People gathered to cheer me on.

Alain was just on the other side of the finish line.

I sprinted to the finish and the finish clock read 46:57 gun time!

I knew in my heart and soul that I crossed more than a finish line. As I told Alain, I reclaimed my life. The essence of who I am took center stage. It was another moment of redemption achieved through running. I wrung out the grief from my nephew’s death. I ran as Boston Strong rinsing out the trauma of 4/15/13 with sweat and tears.

It's been one hell of a journey back since Charlie Louis Alper tragically and violently died on March 4th of 2011. Thanks to Alain and the OneRun, I knew I had to come back to the sport that had transformed my life. I realized it was more than coming back to running. It was setting a goal and once again challenging myself. It was opening up to see what my body could do leaving nothing on the roads. It was about testing my mettle and letting go of fear.

Alain shared with me that he didn't expect to find us as far up on Commonwealth Avenue as close to the finish line as he did. He was concerned about the heat and was coming to provide support regardless of the time on the clock. When he saw how close we were to the finish, he wanted that PR for me as much as I did. I felt as though I was being pulled into the vortex of the finish line by his loving energy and all those cheering me on.

"I saw you start to cry and then I saw a look come across your face. You dug deep during that sprint,” he said to me. “It was quite a moving moment for me as a Race Director to watch you come across that finish line with such visible fierce determination.”

During that final sprint, Tom let me set the pace. He could tell I was in the zone. Tom wept with me when we crossed the finish line. We both knew that I left pain, fear and doubt out on the course and in its wake, strength, courage, confidence, and healing surged.

Gratitude filled my heart for Facebook friends who I met for the first time who cheered me on and took photos, and to Alain who was there to celebrate and tend to me post race.
“Here is an ice water for you. Go get in the shade and here’s a couple of oranges for you and Tom. I’m so proud of you!”

Today was one moment in time - many moments in time that I will always cherish when I look back on my adventures as runner girl.




And then there was this post race celebration surprise:


Six years ago I was embraced and celebrated by the running community for setting a goal and crushing it. Being surrounded by so much love and support has left a lasting imprint on my heart and soul.

I am delighted to share with you this magical Monday memory and perhaps it will inspire you to reflect on your magical moments.

To learn more about my inspiring journey of transformation from the diagnosis of Post Polio Syndrome to the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and beyond be sure to visit my website at www.marymcmanus.com

My books are available on Amazon

From my heart to yours
In health and wellness
Mary



Sunday, August 9, 2020

On Confidence and Setting Goals



It's fair to say that the recent events in the world can weigh heavy on one's heart. Since I discovered the sport of running in my life, it has been a way to pave the road to mental and physical health regardless of the circumstances happening around me. Bill Rodgers once said to me, "Life is hard...yeah...that's why we run. When we can conquer the roads we can conquer whatever challenges happen to us in life."

When the calendar turned to August 1st I contemplated my running goals for the month. I have been increasing my miles per month since last year. It's one of the benefits of not having access to a gym or pool right now. Since August 1st fell on a Saturday and there are 31 days in August, it seemed like a good month to set a goal of 50 miles. Initially, I waffled with my decision. It's so easy to talk one's self out of a new goal especially during these times. My chiropractor is out on maternity leave. She took an early maternity leave in March and plans to return in January 2021. How will my body respond to the increased mileage? The days tend to be hot and humid...maybe I should wait. What difference does it make how many miles I run anyway as long as I am outside exercising on a regular basis.

And then I smiled to myself....

I was told to prepare to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair and to expect an accelerated decline in functioning as I age as a survivor of paralytic polio. Once I harnessed the power of my mind/body connection, infinite possibilities revealed themselves to me.

I went on to run the 2009 Boston Marathon:


After a serious knee injury in December of 2014, I was told to prepare for a total knee replacement and to stop running...or cap my distance if I did. I partnered with a chiropractor who used KT tape, a new prescription for workouts, the Graston Technique and immersion in mind/body luminaries such as Dr. Joe Dispenza and eventually discovering Heal Documentary.


I went on to run the 2016, 2017 and 2018 Bermuda Half Marathons:


This morning, after my strength training workout, I sat down and made a plan for how to achieve my goal of 50 miles for August.


We have the Falmouth Walk on Saturday which is 3.2 miles but I am going to do 4 miles and Tom and Ruth Anne will go on to add 3 miles to complete their Falmouth Road Race At Home Edition. We are also registered for the Becca Pizzi 5K which is now virtual. We will do the 5K on 8/29 and I will concentrate on a tempo run instead of distance.

I am focused on my confidence and my ability to set and achieve goals. It is sometimes a challenge to maintain a perspective of optimism and remembering that when I connect to the Divine all things are possible. My power of belief and the intention I set before each run are what will guide me toward my goal.

Last night this poem flowed out of me in answer to my waffling about setting a new goal to uplift and inspire me. May it do the same for you and may you find the courage to move confidently in the direction of your dreams:
The Switch from the soon to be released "Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life Volume 2
Flip the switch from darkness
from unwell to well being
dwell with Source.
Generate positive thoughts
current of gratitude
dispels doom and gloom.
Electrify imagination
in mind’s eye
ignite possibilities!
Shockwaves from past
flashbacks
back to the future!
Dampen fears
shift gears
be light hearted.
What ifs
glitter and sparkle
light up hope!
Rewire recharge
turn on tune in
vibrant optimism.
Flip the switch
switch perspective
let the magic begin!


To learn more about my journey after the diagnosis of Post Polio Syndrome to the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and beyond, be sure to visit my website at www.marymcmanus.com

My books are available on Amazon

From my heart to yours
In health and wellness
Mary

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

On Running, Resilience and Redemption



My physical therapist read Dr. Seuss to me before every painful physical therapy session to coax my muscles and nerves back to health after contracting paralytic polio at age 5. She would have me recite the book I chose (usually The Cat in the Hat) back to her in tandem with her during the treatment. His wisdom lives on in my heart and soul.

In the days leading up to running the Virtual Billy Mills 10K/5K on Saturday and during Saturday's run, I reflected on Billy Mills' journey and how his winning Gold in Tokyo in 1964 helped to heal his broken soul.

I came to the sport of running late in life. I was 53 years old when the words, "And I want to run the 2009 Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab" gushed forth from my soul without a thought. I had been working with a personal trainer for six months to see if I could get a little stronger and build on the outpatient therapy program I received from Spaulding after the diagnosis of Post Polio Syndrome in December of 2006. I had never run a day in my life but as Billy Mills states quoting one of his college textbooks, "The subconscious mind can't distinguish between imagination and reality."

Shortly after the diagnosis in February of 2007, after getting still and asking for Divine Guidance, the poem, 'Running the Race' flowed out of me followed by many poems in which I was healthy, whole and free running and dancing in the rain without the toe up leg brace I was prescribed.



The last stanza reads:
Using wheelchair to travel, set limits on what I could do,
Resulted in joy to realize I could live life anew.
Celebrated my body- creaks, groans and need for a brace
While in my mind I focused on winning a 10K race.
Sought out paths for healing and my spirit flew free
For the first time in life, I could truly be me.
The chains are gone and possibilities abound
I'm a tree with my roots planted firmly in ground.
I'm now off the sidelines, no need to sit and whine
So much gratitude fills my heart and love and beauty shine.
After all these years I can join the loving human race
I exceed all expectations and now I set the pace.


I started out running 30 seconds and walking for 4 and a half minutes. Little by little 30 seconds turned into 30 minutes and 30 minutes into miles...a 5K to a 10K to a half marathon to the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon!


On the road to the Boston Marathon I fell in love with the sport of running. I loved how I went from being jeered by my peers as a survivor of paralytic polio who struggled to keep up with my classmates while lugging a full metal leg brace to being celebrated by the running community.

I loved my transformation from a survivor of paralytic polio and severe trauma that culminated with my father's death by suicide on August 1st, 1971 to a woman of strength, resilience, courage, faith, grace, beauty feeling empowered rather than feeling like a victim.



What a "coincidence" that Billy Mills Virtual race happened on the 49th anniversary of my father's suicide. The days leading up to the anniversary are often difficult for me since he disappeared 5 days before his death and two days before his death he left a suicide note in our car in the garage. This year had been particularly challenging for me with the pandemic without the usual distractions and joys that summertime brings that help to temper the traumatic memories.

But when I woke up on Saturday morning, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief and release unlike I experienced in previous years. Billy Mills' story deepened my own appreciation for how running has helped me to heal my life; how running the 2009 Boston Marathon was a powerful moment of redemption. Those powerful moments of healing continue to happen when I am on the road running free. While we have to rely on virtual races this year, through technology we are able to experience the thrill of connection and the tapestry of friendship that is woven together through running. We inspire each other while experiencing physical and psychological transformation overcoming the incredible challenges of our times.



You have until August 9th to register and Run with Billy. Follow this link to learn more and register.

Be sure to visit my website at www.marymcmanus.com to be inspired by my journey from having been told to prepare to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair to the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and beyond.

My books are available on Amazon.

From my heart to yours
In health and wellness
Mary











Sunday, August 2, 2020

#RunWithBilly (Mills): Race Report



What to do when you are Billy and Patricia Mills and the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games have been cancelled? If you are Billy and Pat Mills you were eagerly anticipating watching the Games especially the 10000 Meters competition on August 1st remembering that iconic moment on October 14, 1964 when Billy won Gold. Billy won so much more than a Gold Medal that day and I encourage you to read this piece about Billy Mills by following this link. To quote Billy, he healed a broken soul that day.

Billy and Pat, along with Running Strong for American Indian Youth, the "giveaway" program that Billy and Pat created after his epic win, created the Virtual Run With Billy 10K/5K that began on August 1st and continues to August 9th, the date of the closing Olympic ceremonies. They used the beautiful painting that Pat created for Billy's 80th birthday two years ago for the bib design, used Billy's number 722 for the numbers and had Billy's autograph on every bib. The cost for the virtual race was Billy's winning time of $28.24.



We were so excited to receive our bibs in the mail:


While we had done another virtual race, there was excitement and eager anticipation to be a part of this Virtual 5K. Supporting Billy's dream of "empowering the visions of the elders and inspiring the dreams of the youth" fills my heart and soul with emotion. Running Strong works to ensure that basic needs are met on Native American reservations especially during the pandemic while inspiring and empowering the youth to create programs for sustainability, health and well being.

We set the alarm for 6:30 am knowing it was going to be a hot day. After meditation we got dressed and donned our Running Strong socks made by Fox River who donate a portion of the proceeds to Running Strong:


After breakfast, we loaded the car with frozen water bottles and bananas for after the race and headed to the Reservoir where we would do our 5K.

We parked the car in the shade and after pausing for a moment of gratitude for the gift of running in our lives we were off.

It was a glorious morning along the Reservoir's path and we were inspired by retelling Billy's story. We shared how Billy's journey inspired us on the road to the 2009 Boston Marathon:


The island's purple flowers were in full bloom and despite racing we made sure to take time to capture the beauty:


We took a selfie at the halfway mark along with a water break proudly running with Billy:


I am always in awe of the grace, dignity and divinity embodied by swans and Tom paused to capture these two beauties:


I have been working on my 5K pace and Ruth Anne and Tom helped me to push my pace. When we crossed the finish line, I had run my fastest time since June. I ran negative splits and felt that wonderful sense of accomplishment as sweat poured and I felt a little nauseous from the effort in the heat.



What a thrill to have the post of our run with photos shared by Billy and Pat on Facebook and to hear their message of gratitude in a Facebook video.

What a delight to see others' photos from #runwithbilly and experience that thrill of a race and running community brought together by the love of the sport and running for a great cause with the legend Billy Mills.

There's still time to register and run. The Virtual race 'runs' through August 9th when the 2020 Olympics would have had their closing ceremony. Register by following this link

Visit my website to learn more about my journey from being told I should prepare to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair to the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and beyond.

My books are available on Amazon

From my heart to yours
In health and wellness
Mary






Thursday, July 30, 2020

When Source is the Source



If you pay attention to the news these days, there is a lot to fear and so much uncertainty. After contracting paralytic polio at the age of 5 followed by years of enduring abuse at the hands of family members and after the diagnosis of Post Polio Syndrome at the age of 53, I connected to Source to guide me through. I continue to remind myself to go above and beyond anything happening in physical reality and focus on gratitude, love, joy, peace, hope, healing and possibilities.

One of the ways I discovered of connecting to Source and tapping into healing, hope and possibilities is through the power of my pen; my divining rod for healing. Shortly after the diagnosis of Post Polio Syndrome, poetry flowed out of me. I healed a tumultuous past through forgiveness and created a future very different from the one the doctors predicted for me.

In mid-March I opened my heart to the Divine and started writing poetry again. Rather than seeking news of the physical reality as portrayed by the media, I sought out seeing Source all around me.

Source from the soon to be released Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life Volume 2

Whenever doubts prevail
look to the sky
sunrise or sunset
in the clouds angels smile
a canvas to send Divine messages.

Sorcerer of all
weaving a tapestry of magic, mystery and wonder
a wave of peace washes over
with broad brush strokes
signs from Master Artist.

My heart overflows
gratitude and blessings
withdraw from chaos or messages of fear
Source pours through every cell
when Source is the Source all things are possible!


On our early Monday morning run, we captured these scenes and signs from Source:


We have been dining outside in our yard and watching the sunsets. I've been captivated by what I have captured:


There have been angels, faces and incredible displays of light.

Given the high heat and humidity, we got up at 6:15am on Wednesday to head out on our run. After meditation, we were treated to these spectacular scenes that we paused to capture:


While contracting paralytic polio and enduring years of abuse and then receiving the diagnosis of Post Polio Syndrome, were the greatest challenges in my life, they also presented me with the greatest gift. I found my way to Source and keep coming home to Source through my running, my meditation and my poetry. For when Source is the Source, all is healed, and all things are possible despite appearances to the contrary!

Be sure to visit my website at www.marymcmanus.com to be inspired by my journey of overcoming adversity and healing my life mind, body and soul through the power of the mind/body connection and connection to Source.

My books are available on Amazon.

From my heart to yours
In health and well being
Mary