Thursday, April 23, 2009

Mental Toughness-Overcoming the Challenges

When it comes to mental toughness, I learned at an early age about mind over matter. If I would have listened to the pain created by the polio virus, I would never have been able to regain my ability to walk. I am so grateful to Miss Holly, my physical therapist who tempered the pain with her warmth and her love, reading Dr. Seuss to me before every grueling session. If I would have listened to the physical pain I experienced training for the Boston Marathon and the pain I experienced during the run, I could never have crossed that finish line.

I spent many blogs talking about the emotional pain I needed to conquer to leave the past behind and become my authentic self - to heal mind, body and spirit. I did not focus on the physical pain I experienced because I knew if I did, I would not be able to carry on. When Janine and I were walking back from the finish line to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel she was asking me where I was hurting and how I was doing physically - she knew that emotionally I was overcome with joy and exhilaration. As I described the pain, I 'confessed' to her that I had not told her a lot of what I was experiencing during training - no need for confession - she knew that I was experiencing a lot more than what I had shared.

There were days when I could not lift one leg or the other because of pain; there were days when my knees would crack and lock; there were days when I could not turn over in bed because of the pain from training. On our 20 mile run in the 14 degree wind chill, I sustained a blister on the heel of my foot which was excrutiating for the last four miles of our training run. I knew in my gut that I had not sustained any injuries which required medical intervention although at times I did wonder, but as the pains would pass and different parts of my body experienced pain at different times, I knew this was the painful process of rebuilding muscle and nerve which had been damaged by polio and post polio. I would give Janine an inkling about what I was experiencing and she would make suggestions for new stretches, focusing on nutrition and hydration but at no point did we let up on the training. We did have to relinquish the strength training as the miles got longer and we did listen to what my body was saying - it was a delicate balance to say the least. But do you know the most amazing part in all of this? No matter how much pain I was experiencing, something truly magical happened when it was time to get out and run - I could do it. I did not miss one training session for the entire year due to sickness, injury or pain. That is a true miracle and a testament to the power of mental toughness.

To read the book of inspirational poetry which inspired my body to heal and enabled me to go from Post Polio to the finish line of the Boston Marathon, order "New World Greetings:Inspirational Poetry and Musings for a New World" at

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