Thursday, April 30, 2020

A Leap of Faith - A Date with Destiny!

Thirteen years ago I was counting down the days until I took a leap of faith leaving behind my award winning social work career at the VA to "heal my life." I had no idea what it meant to heal my life or what my life would look like today. As Martin Luther King, Jr said:

After going through the phases of anger, grief, confusion and surrender, following the diagnosis of Post Polio Syndrome, the spigot of writing inspirational poetry opened in my heart and soul. I called my pen my divining rod for healing through which I created a world in which I imagined myself healthy, whole and running free despite being in a deconditioned state in the wake of childhood paralytic polio and enduring years of abuse at the hands of family members. I created a world transforming and transcending the pain from my past while holding a vision for a future overflowing with happiness, joy, freedom and of all things running despite never having run a day in my life!

"A Date With Destiny" was one of the early poems I created that you can find in "Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life":

What is so striking to me is that a poem I wrote in 2007 is now manifesting in physical reality. I write about the tremors being healed and having a strong core; creating myself anew and playing my game my rules (to quote Boston Marathon Race Director Dave McGillvray's favorite phrase that I only heard last year). At the time, I had not yet been discharged from Spaulding Rehab's outpatient care. I was told that I would need to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair. I was by all appearances weak, deconditioned, wearing a leg brace, experiencing chronic fatigue and pain. Tremors were very evident at the time and yet, yet I wrote this poem that talks about the body falling away healed as I prepared to leave my award winning career as a VA social worker:

A Date With Destiny

Don’t wait til you die to let your soul fly free
please listen and hear what happened to me.
My body was broken every imaginable place
yet to the world always a smile on my face.
My soul trapped inside feeling it was broken too
God brought me out of darkness my light I shine on you.
She showed me the way through people I met
it took awhile a message hard to get.

The kingdom of heaven is right inside me
take the leap of faith fulfill destiny.
While I did my soul work and let my soul fly free
my body transformed changes did I see.
My head now aligned the tremor no more
my body aligned such strength in my core.
When once head detached from my heart and my soul
they all work together amazingly whole.
The rules that I live by are my rules alone
I found strength and courage the past now has flown.

I followed my heart to create myself anew
to feel simply Divine despite all I’ve lived through.
Take the leap of faith into grace I can fall
but I’m floating on air answering God’s call
Don’t wait til you die to let your soul fly free
there’s no reason to live a life in misery.
Follow your passions and I will tell you this
the body falls away healed when you follow your bliss.

I wrote volumes of poems. My body did fall away healed and I went on to run the 2009 Boston Marathon and transformed from working as a VA social worker to becoming an inspirational speaker, poet, blogger and endurance runner.

During uncertain times and when presented with our greatest challenges, we have unlimited possibilities for creativity, growth and a life beyond our wildest imaginings. With hope, faith, intention, attention to seeing beyond appearances and stepping confidently in the direction of our dreams trusting God to guide us, we arrive in our lives claiming our birthright to experiencing our purpose with happiness, joy and abundance.

Be sure to visit my website to learn more about my inspirational journey from a wheelchair to the finish line of the Boston Marathon and beyond!

My books are available on Amazon.

From my heart to yours
In health and wellness
With love and peace

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Creativity: Poetry in Motion and Aerosol of Love

Today's blog is inspired by Kristabeth Atwood of Rites of Passage, LLC. She shared Picasso's quote as part of her One Minute Thought for the Day:

and asked "What makes you an artist today? How can you express your creativity today?" It was the nudge I needed to continue working on my poetry.

The cadence and creativity of Dr. Seuss became a great source of healing for me after I contracted paralytic polio at age 5. My beloved physical therapist Miss Holly had me choose a book from the round mahogany table in the waiting room of the office of Dr. Eugene Moskowitz who was a specialist in helping children and adults recover from polio. During the painful physical therapy sessions she would recite one line invariably from The Cat in the Hat and have me recite back in tandem.

As a child and adolescent, writing was my creative outlet but, as often happens when children grow up, they lose sight of their joyful creative side that comes from imagination. And, because I grew up in a household rife with violence, I was doing my best to survive while I honed my intellect and bought time until I could leave. Creative endeavors were put on the back burner.

I had written limericks to celebrate special occasions after my twins were born while I had time at home.

I went back to work when they were 16 months old and I was off and running on a cycle that eventually led to burnout and the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease by Western Medicine standards. "Be prepared to spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair...If you use it you will lose it.." It was a diagnosis of exclusion and after exhaustive testing, it was deemed that my condition or rather deconditioned state I was in was a result of the paralytic polio I contracted at the age of 5.

I got still and asked for Divine Guidance and what happened next was incredible! The poem 'Running the Race' flowed out of me followed by many poems in which I imagined myself healthy, whole and free.

That first poem foreshadowed my 2009 Boston Marathon run. It was truly poetry in motion.

I compiled, "Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life"

and wrote my Trilogy of Transformation

and had taken a pause from writing poetry.

When the global crisis emerged, poetry began to flow out of my heart and soul again and Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life Volume 2 is now a work in progress.

Here is my latest creation:
The Aerosol of Love

Exhaling love to fill the air dispersing doubt and fear
turning on and tuning in vibration's everywhere.
Ivy tendrils reaching out extending Love Divine
worry darkness cast away essence Spirit shine.

A potent medication satisfaction guaranteed
whatever the condition whatever is the need.
Breathing room room to breathe sweet scent of Love surround
happiness, joy and Oneness well being now abound.

Peace descends to settle soul excitement fills the air
unbounded expectations infinite possibilities everywhere.
Invisible elixir to intoxicate the heart
Source's magic potion blesses every Being from life's start.

Relax renew refresh enjoy let love permeate every cell
know the Truth of all that is and trust that All is Well!

Breathe in that delicious aerosol of love. Unleash your creativity and feel that wonderful energy flow.

Be sure to visit my website to learn more about my inspirational journey from a wheelchair to the finish line of the Boston Marathon and beyond!

My books are available on Amazon.

From my heart to yours
In health and wellness
With love and peace

Monday, April 27, 2020

Come Out And Play!

I wrote one of my favorite poems after a dream I had. I was dancing in the rain a la Gene Kelly in Singing in the Rain without my leg brace or shoes, splashing in the puddles healthy, whole and free.

From "Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life":
Come Out and Play

Arms flung open wide dancing in the rain
pure abiding joy to feel alive again
healing tears fall and blend in God’s puddle
no time to sit in a corner and huddle
all the old rules driven by fears
washed away now by God’s loving tears
the imprint dad left no longer remains
rain washes away all of the stains
baptized with love, Truth lights my way
the sun shines through on this rainy day
splashing and laughing my heart opens wide
embracing and flowing I’m one with the tide
God takes my hand release the old way
bathe in my glory come out and play!

I continue to be in awe of the miracle of my healing from the effects of paralytic polio and trauma. Shortly after the diagnosis of Post Polio Syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease, I got still and asked for Divine Guidance. The answer came in the form of a poem, Running the Race, followed by many many poems in which I imagined a future very different from my past and a future very different from the one the doctors predicted for me: to prepare to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair.

I combined working with an earth angel of a physical therapist at Spaulding Outpatient Hospital in Boston with harnessing the power of the mind/body connection to create a path for healing. While feverishly writing poetry, I worked my body out of its deconditioned state. After being discharged from outpatient physical therapy, I was led to a personal trainer in October of 2007. By February of 2008, I made significant improvements in my functioning and declared that I wanted to run the 2009 Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab as part of their Race for Rehab Team despite never having run a day in my life.

Running became a way of life for me; medicine to heal mind, body and soul!

We knew the weather was going to be windy and raw this morning based on the forecast and yesterday's evening walk. We were not going to be deterred in getting in our Monday morning 5K.

We resurrected our winter running clothes and donned a bada** attitude. We were going to be really bada** and go around the Reservoir but once we got there, the winds were whipping the water into whitecaps. We decided to ad lib a run around our neighborhood.

There was not a "sole" in sight and while it is incredibly challenging to have a stay at home order, it was liberating to not be concerned with social distancing or wearing a mask. I could imagine a time when we no longer need to be concerned with wearing a mask, social distancing or whether or not there will be what we need in the grocery store (although I do imagine and feel that everything I need is available to me) and I felt that reality course through every cell in my body with each foot strike.

Ruth Anne and I experienced the exhilaration, rejuvenation and unbridled joy of being out in the elements this morning.

It was invigorating to run in those conditions in late April; perhaps because we know warmer temperatures are on the way and we have already been treated to some glorious Springtime weather in New England.

Several of my runner friends posted their runs on Facebook and expressed what a glorious feeling it was to play in the rain this morning.

Before the diagnosis of Post Polio Syndrome, I had no idea what it meant to play, to run and move freely in my body.

What a treasure and a gift it is to go out for a run in wind and rain!

I invite you all to come out and play!

Be sure to visit my website to learn more about my inspirational journey from a wheelchair to the finish line of the Boston Marathon and beyond!

My books are available on Amazon.

From my heart to yours
In health and wellness
With love and peace

Sunday, April 26, 2020

To Good Health!

Yesterday was a magnificent Spring Day; the kind of day we New Englanders patiently wait for while Autumn and Winter seasons move through. On a day where the sun is shining, the air is dry and comfortably cool, runners would take to various routes throughout the City. Some might be experiencing the after glow of the Boston Marathon while others eagerly anticipate their turn to toe the starting line at their Spring Marathon. Still others would be maintaining their running base getting ready to gear up for Fall Marathons. Team McManus would head either to South Boston or Wollaston Beach to enjoy the sweet smell of sea air in Springtime and Boston in bloom.

This year everything is different.

Last week I tried to run with a mask on and it created more problems for me than being able to experience all the benefits of what a good run does for me. It was a trauma trigger from childhood experiences and compromised my breathing. I soldiered on through several runs. During my meditations I visualized a 5K course we could run that was spacious and where social distancing would not be an issue.

We knew that the Chestnut Hill Reservoir would be crowded but we love seeing the water. We chose to run around the outside of the Reservoir on Beacon Street. We were debating whether to run up the long hill or go by St. Ignatius Church. Tom works at Boston College and suggested we take a left and run around Campus. Students left Campus in late March and only essential employees remain on staggered shifts. How delicious to breathe in the fragrant Spring air and see Spring in bloom on the campus of my Alma Mater. There was an eerie sense of quiet at a time when there would be students hurrying around Campus getting ready for finals and the electric energy of seniors preparing for graduation.

I focused on our run tuning out the eerie feeling of a campus without students feeling deeply blessed and grateful that I was running free.

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

"Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them." -Marcus Aurelius

Born to Run

Born free
born to run
run free
unencumbered untethered unshackled
pouring energy into my running form
liquid gold once fired in the crucible
now my treasure born of my Spirit molded with alchemy
refining meo
my precious treasure once buried
the map safely tucked away
X marks the spot
a new starting line.

Poised and ready
to go the distance
all out without hesitation
all is healed at last
my pace swift
Mercury and Hermes pace me on winged feet
born to run
running free
joyfully crossing the finish line with ease.

I have worked so hard in these last 13 years to heal the effects of paralytic polio and trauma. Running has been my therapy for mind, body and soul. I know this time of stay at home orders and a pandemic has taken a toll on so many creating physical, emotional, spiritual and financial hardships. I know what it's like to be challenged with a life threatening condition, be exposed to severe traumatic events, go through bankruptcy with my family of origin and experience financial hardship during the last recession.

I've learned how to create what I want and need in my life through the power of visualization harnessing the power of the mind/body connection and how to find a path to thrive during challenging situations.

During these times I am focused on good health mind, body and soul and find creative ways to keep moving forward.

Here's to your good health!

Be sure to visit my website to learn more about my inspirational journey from a wheelchair to the finish line of the Boston Marathon and beyond!

My books are available on Amazon.

From my heart to yours
In health and wellness
With love and peace

Friday, April 24, 2020

Delight in All Seasons

It can be a challenge to remember that our natural state is joy when the state of the world is as it is right now. I find that especially during challenging times it is vital to feel joy. Shortly after I was diagnosed with Post Polio Syndrome in December of 2006, I discovered the gift of poetry in my soul and the portal to joy and healing opened despite all appearances to the contrary. My body was in a deconditioned state and I was told to prepare to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair, that I needed to quit my award winning career as a VA social worker if I had any hope of stabilizing symptoms of the progressive neuromuscular disease where they were. As I had when facing challenges all my life (and believe me they were formidable odds with having contracted paralytic polio and enduring years of abuse at the hands of family members), I got still and asked for Divine Guidance. That's when I wrote the poem, "Running the Race."

I had taken a hiatus from writing poetry until this recent global crisis and I am once again experiencing joy through the power of my pen and my imagination.

I am also making sure I experience joy even though we have a stay at home order and life has been turned upside down.

This morning I went on a walk with my daughter who lives with us. Despite the rain and a grey morning, I stopped to take a photo of the beautiful flowers:

We experienced the joy of raindrops and birds singing loud and clear despite the weather!

I was inspired to write this poem yesterday reflecting on experiences that bring a feeling of joy:
Delight in All Seasons

As light as a feather on summer’s breeze
whimsical face
wishing on a dandelion seed.

Delight in simple pleasures
release all pressures to do
play and just be.

Chasing butterflies in flight
a kaleidoscope of colors
lands lightly winning the race.

Cocked head with curiosity
as light dances on gentle waves
seagulls swoop and soar
dancing on air.

Hold on tightly
kite in flight
smiling squinting eyes as it dips and dives.

Fallen angels in snow
flapping arms
laughing with glee.

Piles of dried leaves
jump in with both feet
rustling oranges and browns total joy.

Whatever your age
be sure to
delight in all seasons of your life.

What brings you joy and a sense of freedom and delight?

Be sure to visit my website to learn more about my inspirational journey from a wheelchair to the finish line of the Boston Marathon and beyond!

My books are available on Amazon.

From my heart to yours
In health and wellness
With love and peace

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Sunsets and How I Came to Write Poetry

With this time of spending time at home and the often hectic pace of life coming to a halt, we've had time to pause and really enjoy the sunsets. They feel more like rainbows these days bringing hope and a reminder of our connection to the Divine; a Source greater than ourselves yet we are also One with Source and all that is.

When I was given the diagnosis of Post Polio Syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease in December of 2006, I got still and asked for Divine Guidance as I always had throughout my life. In February of 2007, the poem, 'Running the Race' flowed out of me. It was in the cadence of Dr. Seuss. After contracting paralytic polio at the age of 5, my physical therapist, Miss Holly read Dr. Seuss to me before every physical therapy session. I invariably chose "The Cat in the Hat". During the painful physical therapy sessions she would have me recite the book back to her in tandem. Dr. Oliver Sachs did research on how music that one listened to as a child gets embedded into the wiring of the brain. On MRI, those areas were lit up when the music was played to adults but other music did not have the same effect. I hypothesize that's what happened to me with the cadence of Dr. Seuss.

After writing "Running the Race", poetry flowed out of me that harnessed the power of the mind/body connection to inspire healing mind, body and soul and turn on happiness and joy where once trauma and dis-ease dominated my subconscious thoughts that manifested in my physical body. Running the Race foreshadowed my 2009 Boston Marathon. I wrote poems in which I visualized all the feelings I would experience on Marathon Monday and using the power of my pen, my Divining Rod for healing, to get me through those tough training runs on the road to Boston.

While I continued to write poetry, it was not with the fervor and passion of those early days until I had a serious knee injury in December of 2014. Poetry became an integral part of healing that injury that Western Medicine said would lead to an end to my running career and result in the need for a total knee replacement. Instead with chiropractic care and a new training program, I went on to run the 2016, 2017 and 2018 Bermuda Half Marathons.

I published an Anthology of my Poems and completed a Trilogy of Transformation about my journey after the diagnosis of Post Polio Syndrome to the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and beyond!

Right before the recent pandemic, my daughter asked me if I would start to write another book. I felt a sense of completion at that time with the books I had written but after news of the pandemic began, my heart and soul opened once again and "Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life Volume II" was born.

With Tom working from home, our evenings are no longer compressed and we are no longer pressed for time. We have been enjoying delicious meals together, playing a board game or doing a puzzle or enjoying conversation and being able to take the time to savor beautiful sunsets like these from the other evening:

It inspired this poem:

All is well
come dwell in gift of presence
spectacular sunset
sweeping panorama of hues
selected with Love from Master Artist’s palette
to delight our senses.

A gift in pink, blue and gold
signal to end of day
an invitation to emblazon
entering eternal time
ever expanding
heart and soul's torch ignited
blaze a trail through darkness of night.

An invitation to Be
busyness of day transformed
come be with Me
and see and feel
all is well and in Divine order.

Be sure to visit my website to learn more about my inspirational journey from a wheelchair to the finish line of the Boston Marathon and beyond!

My books are available on Amazon.

To your health and wellness,
From my heart to yours
With love

Monday, April 20, 2020

Marathon Monday

I dedicate today's blog post to all those who trained with all their hearts to toe the starting line in Hopkinton today. I cannot imagine what it would have been like to have the Marathon postponed but I do know that the historic Boston Marathon in September will be an epic experience beyond anyone's imaginings! Enjoy!

I wrote this poem a few weeks before 4/20/2009 visualizing only success when we toed the starting line at Hopkinton and began our 26.2 mile journey into Boston.

Marathon Monday

It's Marathon Monday, it's my day to shine
with husband and daughter poised at starting line.
I know I can do this - there's no way to fail
tethered to God through this race I can sail.

For over a year, we've trained from our heart
mind, body, spirit - we're ready to start.
We know the course and we know the terrain
we're primed for the challenge - we know they'll be pain.

The glory's far greater than what we may face
we're living examples of God's shining Grace.
Shake out all the nerves - there's nothing to fear
let in all the love from the crowds as they cheer.

With prayers and angels our feet feel so light
Joy overflowing the finish in sight.
We conquered the course fueled by love in our heart
the race had been won blessed by God from the start.

I remember that morning and day as though it were yesterday-From "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility":
I thought that right after I ran the Boston Marathon I would be jumping on my blog to share all the magic of the day. I needed some time to really allow the enormity of what I have just accomplished to sink in. When I look back on April 2007, I was still wearing a leg brace and using a cane. When I look back on April 2008, I could not run for a minute straight and I remember running on Eliot Street toward home just for a minute and feeling as though I were really pushing myself. Janine, my beloved trainer, said - how are you going to handle it when the going gets tough during the Marathon? I remember seeing my heart rate at 168 - from just a minute of running. That was a far cry from the hill training we had done in preparation for the Marathon when my heart rate would go up to 175 and I was able to keep on with the training session. Sheer grit, faith, courage and determination and an amazing support network led Team McManus to the finish line of the 113th Boston Marathon - you know it had been such a long road of preparation and signing off blogs with see you at the finish line and everything pointing to Monday that there is a surreal quality to the Marathon run now being behind me.

The going never got tough during the Marathon. I felt the love and prayers and support from so many friends and people I never met face to face but who sent loving prayers for the 26.2 mile journey of Team McManus. I knew with every ounce of my fiber that once I made it to the starting line, I was going to finish. I knew that I was running for Spaulding Rehab patients, I knew that I was running for polio and post polio patients everywhere and....I knew I was running for me. I knew that my year of hard work was now coming to fruition and I had one mission - to reach the finish line in under 8 hours so that there would be someone there to take the chip off my shoe and give me the medal signifying that I had run the 113th Boston Marathon. It also meant that as a mobility impaired runner, I would qualify to run next year’s Boston Marathon if I wanted to.

The day began like any other - not! The alarm went off at 5 am. Weird dreams and waking up at 1, 3 and finally 5 did not distress me because I had slept so well on Saturday night – the important night to get a good night's sleep. Team McManus was in perfect rhythm making oatmeal and coffee, getting toast and water, putting the chips on our shoes –no arguments about me wanting to leave too early - we were all very eager to just get to our bus at Spaulding Rehab. There were hugs in the lobby and the mixture of excitement and nervousness.

On the bus ride out I listened to Bernie Siegel's Meditation on my iPod. I closed my eyes to hear his voice to focus on preparing for the
day but also because I did not want to see how long we were traveling to get to Hopkinton. Spirits were high on the bus ride out and after finishing my meditation, we chatted about just about anything we could think of other than what we all were about to do.

Spaulding's team shared the tent with Mass General. It was a heated tent with pre-race refreshments. We took team pictures and at 8:30 walked to the start with Ashley Bronson, our incredible eventscoordinator. The sun was peeking out and warmed the cool morning air. I was drinking in the entire scene in awe that I, Mary McManus was at the starting line of the 113th Boston Marathon. Dave McGillivray, race director had us take our place at the start – we were not going over the mats and I had a wonderful focus for my anxiety - how would people track us if our chips did not go off and most importantly, how would they know our time? But those thoughts were quickly dismissed as we received the oral command - runners take your marks, get set, go.....

The first several miles felt like any other training run - the crowds were sparse through Hopkinton and there was a chill in the air reminiscent of our February training runs. As we approached Framingham, we saw one of our friends exactly where he said he would be but he couldn't see us across the street. No matter, we knew he was rooting for us. And on into Natick where we knew more friends were near the corner of Speen St and 135. Their presence was felt even though we did not actually see them and we journeyed on. Once we got to the Natick Reservoir, we knew that we had done this route before and that the hardest part of the journey was behind us - taking those first steps into unfamiliar territory.

From Natick it is a long stretch into Wellesley but the rewards of the Wellesley College girls is indescribable. You truly can hear the screams from a mile back. Somewhere around Wellesley, our dear friend Alison, store manager from Marathon Sports had caught up to us - how did she ever find us in the crowd? and said I love you Team McManus and went on her way. Tim Doiron aka Derv from Just Finish had also found us - he gave me a huge hug and even ran a little way with us. Members of our Race for Rehab team had also found us and we all wished each other well as we journeyed toward Boston.

The crowds are truly amazing. They could see that I was not a fast runner and unlike any other road race we have been in, the crowds seemed to sense that I had a special challenge. They would chant "Go Mary Go Mary" (ahh the benefits of Ashley patiently writing on my singlet and down my arm- the weather had warmed enough so I could run in my short sleeves). The generosity of the crowds was overwhelming - orange slices and bananas - these families took their time and resources to peel oranges and bananas and some even had their orange slices in individual baggies so we could carry them along. There were also cups of water and as we got closer to Boston - bottles of beer - but I digress.

Once we were in Wellesley, we knew we had it made. I know, I know all that talk about Heartbreak Hill and all. The motto slow and steady wins the race is so true! We did a four hour half – runners may cringe at a four hour half but there was a 27 mph head wind and it was chilly. I knew that today with the weather, a 15 minute mile was not possible for me and no reason to risk an injury now. Our goal was to make it to the finish line healthy and happy. I also ran the entire way walking only to go through water stations - amazing - absolutely amazing. We had run the route from Wellesley to Boston so many times and had an incredible psychological edge. Our team trainer, Dom, made us run up Grossman's Hill going from Brookline to Wellesley; what a joy to only have to run down the hill and then to know that Newton was just up ahead.

After turning from Rt 16 to Commonwealth Avenue, I looked for my friends, the Reilly's in front of the fire station. I thought that perhaps with the cold and wind and their two little ones, they needed to go home but shortly after we had turned, Sharon called me. Everyone on Twitter was frantic because we could not be tracked. As one of my dear friends, Nicole Shuman said, God works in creative ways. So Sharon got on Twitter and email'ed my friend Nicole to let them know we were almost at mile 20 and goin' strong. Somewhere before mile 20, my husband saw a sign that said, "Go Team McManus, Go Mary" and there was Janice Wesley and her husband waiting patiently for us to come by. She gave me a hug and a kiss and gave us the sign to carry to the finish.

At mile 20, there was Dom, our team trainer. He had tears in his eyes as he embraced Team McManus. He put his hands on my shoulders and said, 'you're gonna qualify - go finish. I'm so proud of you. Go get your medal' And then my cell phone rang - it was Janine and we found out where she was - as I saw her standing atop one of the inclines on Heartbreak Hill with her Spaulding Rehab t shirt and a white long sleeve shirt underneath, I saw an angel who was coming to take us to the finish line. She said she was amazed at how well I looked; I told her we went out slow and steady so we could finish. She was so proud of us and told me to stop even thinking about not doing a 15 minute mile - she said I needed to leave that and all the baggage on the marathon course. She was right!

At Cleveland Circle, my son Tommy, Joe Presser, our documentarian and Johannes, a BU photojournalism major were patiently waiting for us to come down Chestnut Hill Avenue and as we crossed to the Dunkin' Donuts our neighbors were waiting with another sign. Oh and speaking of signs - Bernie Siegel, MD sent me an email telling me that I would find a penny - it would be from him and God telling me everything was all right. I found a penny in Wellesley. I told Janine this story as we were walking from the finish line back to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and just then she looked down and there was another penny. I added it to the 27 cents and the Six Sense that I carried with me in the back pocket of my capris. The air was getting colder and more raw as we approached Kenmore Square but the crowds were really heating up, and we knew the finish was in sight.

Running under the underpass on Comm. Ave., Janine let out a scream and encouraged us to do the same just as we had at the Tufts 10K. And when we came up out of the underpass there was Hereford Street and one of Ruth Anne's dear friends, CG who had been a staunch supporter in so many ways during our journey. After getting a hug, Ruth Anne joined us to take the left on Boylston Street. I began to sob seeing the lights of the finish line in the distance. I ran down Boylston Street with all of my might and Team McManus crossed the finish line at 7:45 I believe. We don't have our official time yet and even though the chips could not be tracked, the BAA had all of our splits starting with the 5K. We went over to have our chips removed and receive the prize for which we had worked so hard - a pewter medal signifying that we ran 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston on April 20, 2009.

Race for Rehab Team in Hopkinton:

At the starting line:

Coming into Cleveland Circle:

From Comm Ave to the finish line:

After crossing the finish line, I had the most emotional experience of my life second only to having given birth to twins in 1987. The moments of having a volunteer remove the chip from my shoe and placing the medal around my neck:

Let me close with Dave McGillivray's book review of "The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953" that eloquently sums up my journey and my message:
“A most unlikely runner stood to my right as I gave the oral command for the mobility impaired start of the 113th Boston Marathon on April 20, 2009. That most unlikely runner was Mary McManus. She overcame the childhood challenges of paralytic polio and years of childhood trauma to become a runner at the age of 53 years old and take on the challenge of the Boston Marathon at 55 years old. In “The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953” you’ll be inspired as I have been by her courage, resilience and determination to overcome whatever obstacles life put in her path. Mary’s life story set against the backdrop of running in “The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953” will leave you asking the question, “If Mary was able to accomplish all that in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds, what’s stopping me from being the best I can be?”
Dave McGillivray
Race Director – B.A.A. Boston Marathon

My hope is that my journey will inspire you to run your best race on the roads and in your life!

See you in September Boston Marathon!

From my heart to yours
In health and well being,

Be sure to visit my website to learn more about my inspirational journey from a wheelchair to the finish line of the Boston Marathon and beyond!

My books are available on Amazon.

Sunday, April 19, 2020


Boston Marathon Weekend is called Runner's Christmas. The anticipation of the weekend leading up to the 3rd Monday in April is filled with reunions, spending lots of money at the Expo and eating out at the restaurants in and around Copley Square, walking down Boylston Street and taking pictures of the finish line in the background, remembering the events of 4/15/13 while also sharing in the sheer joy and exhilaration of our City, the world and all that is Boston Strong.

Runners who will be toeing the line at Hopkinton share their nervous energy. We savor the Pressers with elite runners and watching the 5K.

There's a magic unlike any other that surrounds the Boston Marathon and wonderfully engulfs everyone and anyone in its path.

It is an infectious experience of endurance, joy, celebration, freedom, grit, determination, resilience, strength and most of all community.

There is no Runner's Christmas this year in April. There is a collective sadness and nostalgia that is being shared while maintaining social distancing.

While I do not read the paper in depth nor do we watch news on TV because we don't have a TV, I did catch a headline this morning and glanced over an article that said there were few signs of hope for Massachusetts based on a comparison with Washington State. It went on to say that some Public Health officials disagree about whether or not it makes sense to make state by state comparisons but the phrase that stood out to me was, there were few signs of hope.

What?? How can you say that especially about Boston that has endured and turned into glory the events of 4/15/13.

Why?? Why send out messages of doom and gloom that only serves to suppress the immune system and raise panic, rancor and divisiveness?

And so I knew I needed to meditate ....

During my meditation, a poem started to percolate that I finished within an hour:


When doom and gloom pervade the news
a knowing smile spreads across face
Truth beyond statistics
trusting in Source’s glorious grace.

No hope it’s grim the headlines cry
in my heart I know what’s right
looking beyond appearances
seeing with third eye sight.

Rainbows after storms appear
birds joyfully herald start of new day
joining faithful hearts together
torch of healing lights our way.

Transform transcend a time to breathe
cast out worry with ways of old
step into dawn of bright new world
shining brave and bold!

Uplift and feel empowered
release all sense of fright
Flow as One together
Bathe in Source’s glorious light.

A vision on horizon
our new way now to be
grateful gracious loving
All Beings whole and free.

My friends on Facebook are sharing memories of Boston Marathon Weekend. While we ache for the loss of Runner's Christmas Weekend, we are sharing the joy of all that is the Boston Marathon knowing that in September we will be bolder, stronger and more joyful than ever before.

Jacqueline Hansen shared a nostalgic post. One of her friend's posted this comment:
As marathoners we know about pacing, about hard days, about broken dreams and yet we keep showing up. We hang onto hope. We can beat this current storm. We will win this race. And the after party will be glorious!

And whether you've run marathons on the road or are running the marathon of your life, let us all pledge to uplift and uphold one another shining as brightly as we can to dispel darkness, despair and disease.

From my heart to yours
In health and well being,

Be sure to visit my website to learn more about my inspirational journey from a wheelchair to the finish line of the Boston Marathon and beyond!

My books are available on Amazon.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Book Review: "Good Morning I Love You"

We have a guest blogger, Ruth Anne McManus for today's book review of "Good Morning I Love You: Mindfulness and Self-Compassion Practices to Rewire Your Brain for Calm, Clarity and Joy" by Shauna Shapiro, Ph.D.

We discovered Shauna Shapiro and her book on Sharon Salzberg's Metta Hour Podcast. After I heard the interview, I knew I wanted to read her book.

"Good Morning I Love You" quite literally takes us on a journey to the heart. In the book, Dr. Shauna Shapiro uses science to help guide our hearts to better overall health using mindfulness. She guides us to set intentions for ourselves and others, and she helps us have a healthy positive outlook on ourselves and life, some of us, like myself for the first time.

Dr. Shapiro talks about the "amygdala hijack" when we confront ourselves with shame and blame and how this causes pathways for learning to shut down.

She writes about how compassion and mindfulness are transformative, and scientifically proven to rewire our brains. She writes about neuroplasticity; how our brains can create new neural nets to go from "superhighways" - habitual patterns - to scenic country roads.

Before I read this book, I would go into autopilot every morning. I had an untreated infection that went undetected for three years. Suffice it to say that autopilot patterns were ingrained in my system during this time.

While reading Dr. Shapiro's book, I made an intention of becoming a more peaceful person. Attention, Intention, and Attitude of mindfulness are clearly explained in "Good Morning, I Love You". I realized that in order to be more peaceful, I needed to let go of self-defeating inner dialogue and my go to habitual patterns. I needed a major attitude adjustment and "Good Morning, I Love You" profoundly helped me with my self-defeating thoughts and judgements about being ill for 3 years having endured 14 hospitalizations on behavioral health units. The untreated infection led to brain inflammation which resulted in neuropsychiatric symptoms.

Guided meditations in Dr. Shapiro's book are gold, and new pathways knock out old defeating ones 5% at a time.

I recommend this book to everyone! Lastly, without doing a spoiler alert, every morning after breakfast, my family and I put our hands on our hearts and say, "Good morning. I love you."

From my heart to yours
In health and wellness
Ruth Anne

Be sure to visit my website to learn more about my inspirational journey from a wheelchair to the finish line of the Boston Marathon and beyond!

My books are available on Amazon.

Friday, April 17, 2020

Boston Marathon Memory Musings

Monday marks the 11th anniversary of my journey from Hopkinton to Boston with my husband and daughter by my side. It began on a dark, cold day in February of 2007, two months after receiving the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease. I faced a grim future according to Western Medicine; a future in which I would experience an accelerated decline as the years went by possibly needing a feeding tube and needing to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair. I was told I needed to quit my award winning career as a VA social worker just 3 years shy of when I was eligible for retirement by my age and time in service. I went back into a toe up leg brace, used a cane and at times a wheelchair for mobility.

I got still and asked for Divine Guidance. The poem, 'Running the Race' poured out of me followed by many many many poems in which I imagined myself feeling healthy, whole and running free although I had never run a day in my life. While writing poetry harnessing the power of the mind/body connection through the power of my imagination, I was working with Allison Lamarre-Poole, a physical therapist (now in private practice) at Spaulding Rehab Hospital. She made it abundantly clear to me that I could and would get stronger and was NOT destined to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair. I worked with her for 6 months three times a week while preparing to leave the VA. She inspired me to take that leap of faith and heal my life.

I was blessed to meet a personal trainer, Janine Hightower, in October of 2007. When I asked her if she thought we could build on the program that Allison prescribed for me, she shared this Henry Ford quote with me:

After only 6 months of working with her and just beginning to come out of my leg brace, we had the following conversation from "The Adventures of Runnergirl 1953":

At my six-month evaluation in February, I made dramatic improvements in every area of the assessment. I had come out of my leg brace. I knew I was on a healing path.

“Let’s write down your goals for the next six months,” Janine said feeling proud and satisfied with my progress.

“Well I want to feel free in my body. I want to dance. I want to be able to walk outside and feel unencumbered when I take a walk.”

Janine feverishly wrote down my goals, and we worked out a plan. She gathered up her belongings and had her hand on the door knob.

“Wait. I have one more goal.”

Janine stopped and turned around.

“I want to run the Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab Hospital. I know they have a Race for Rehab team and I want to do it next year.”

Did you ever have one of those moments when words fell out of your mouth after rising up from the depths of your soul without going through any thought process?

Janine was non-plussed. I don’t know what kept her from turning tail and getting as far away from me as she could. She came back into my house, set down her things and without missing a beat said, “Well the first thing you are going to need is a pair of running shoes.”

And so it came to pass on April 20, 2009, the 113th running of the Boston Marathon. I experienced the adventure of a lifetime while out on the course for 7 hours and 49 minutes. I was blessed to have Johannes Hirn, a graduate photojournalism student at Boston University take exquisite photos of us from start to finish.

Here are a few of my favorite moments...

At the start in Hopkinton:

Team photo with Spaulding's Race for Rehab... Team McManus raised over $10,000 for Spaulding!

Friendships forged for a lifetime!

Here is Team McManus coming down Boylston Street while Ruth Anne encourages the spectators to cheer us on to the finish:

It was a moment I visualized time and time again during our training runs and during my meditations but I could not possibly imagine what it would feel like to experience the joy, love and compassion of a finish line volunteer as he took off the chip on my shoe helping me keep my balance:

crying as I told him the Twitter version of my story and what it would feel like to have him place the coveted Boston Marathon medal around my neck:

My Facebook feed is filled with Boston Marathon memories. There's a sense of longing and sadness that Monday will not be the running of the 124th Boston Marathon. We are a community that is Boston Strong and we will rise and run again on September 14th. It will be an epic experience for runners and spectators alike but for now I will continue to relish and share my Boston Marathon memories from April 20 of 2009.

Ode to Marathon Training from "Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life":

Blisters, black toes, aches and pains, a change in my routine
Long training runs, the hills, the sprints running clothes fresh and clean.
Carbo load and plan each meal power gels and gatorade
no matter what the weather no time to be afraid.
Humid - hot or freezing cold snow against the face
wind or sun or raining those running shoes I must lace.
What mile is this how long we been out check heart rate drink H20
meltdowns joys and triumphs only a few more weeks to go.
Heartbreak Hill won't break my heart this year has been the best
found myself and made new friends I feel incredibly blessed.

To your health and wellness
From my heart to yours

Be sure to visit my website to learn more about my inspirational journey from a wheelchair to the finish line of the Boston Marathon and beyond!

My books are available on Amazon.