Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Start Strong - Finish Stronger!

2350 558/1634 F4049 1:07:48 58:53 9:29 Sherri A. Boulet 45 F 4029 Douglas MA

6242 1539/1634 F4049 1:45:03 1:36:08 15:29 Deborah Woodbury-Doiron 44 F 3809 Northbridge MA

6245 654/ 760 F5059 1:45:04 1:36:09 15:29 Mary McManus 56 F 2395 Chestnut Hill MA

"There is no better way to feel self-confidence than by instilling confidence in another." - ME

Running the Tufts 10K with the Sparkling Divas Sherri and Deborah is a day I shall always remember and cherish. I am not sure how all of this evolved as so often happens in life.I asked Deborah if she would be interested in running it with me. She had never run more than 4 miles, had never been part of a large race and had never run a race in Boston. Her initial goal was to run the 5 mile Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving Day but when I asked her about Tufts she decided it would give her the motivation she needed to train for her initial goal of a 5 miler on Thanksgiving Day. When we started talking on Facebook about our plan to run the Tufts 10K others chimed in. Deborah's husband, Tim named our team The Sparkling Divas. Sherri Boulet, a runner (and by runner I mean that she can do a 9 minute mile) joined the team. We had a few others who flirted with the idea of running with us but in the end it was the three of us for the Tufts 10K. We have two honorary members, Pamela McCurry Robbins and Leslie Regard aka Marathon Girl.

You can read my blog post about our 5 mile run together. Deborah felt confident that since she ran 5 miles, she could do the 10K. The morning was bright and beautiful after a week in which we had four straight days of rain. I decided to layer because I knew if the sun came out while crossing the Mass Ave bridge, it would be brutally hot. I changed from shorts to capris because I did not want my knee joints to feel cold prior to the race. Tim and Deborah, their wonderful son Alex and Sherri arrived promptly at 9:30. You could feel the nervous energy of the Sparkling Divas as we got our water, went to the bathroom, decided what we would need to bring, what we could leave, took photos (see above) and off we went to take the T to the Boston Common.

We had plenty of time before the race to check out the expo. I had the lovely opportunity to meet a friend from Twitter, @Kissing_Frogs at the Luna booth who is going to be running her first marathon in January. We met up with 'the boys', did our warm up and had one last pit stop before heading to the starting line. Deborah acknowledged she felt a little overwhelmed by it all. I told her to think of this as just another training run or as my fellow runners like to say - taking our victory lap. Sherri decided that she was going to run her own race which made so much sense since she runs a 9 minute mile. We all started together, gave hugs and high fives and were pumped up as we s-l-o-w-l-y made our way to the starting line. I realized during our warm up that I had not put on my watch and my heart monitor. Subconsciously I knew that I wasn't supposed to focus on time or heart rate.

I had no idea how many minutes it took us to cross the starting line. For the first time in a race, I let go of time. I let go of all the fears and angst of being last, of having to catch up, of being less than the rest of the runners and all the voices I had internalized and harbored for so many years. My friend and spiritual sister Kate Loving Shenk talks about how our 'stories' can get in the way of us enjoying the moment. I was not going to let the myths and untruths about me rob me of enjoying this incredible moment running side by side with a dear friend. What beautiful moments flowed out on the course with Deborah. We talked about nothing and we talked about everything.

As I instilled confidence in Deborah about the run (having run it in 2008 and also having done the training run with my running and life partner Tom just a week ago), I felt my own confidence soar. It was a mid day race which can be a challenge for fueling and pacing. I spaced out my breakfast over an hour and decided to have a banana pre race and use gel during the run.I live in the flow and go with the flow of the moment. When we got to mile 1 the clock read 24:00 minutes - what we did a 24 minute mile was a brief flashing thought but then I knew that it was not the case. I decided to see the time of our next mile and then would know what pace we were doing and how long it took to cross the starting line.

As it turns out we did a 15 minute mile for the first mile.16:00 minute mile for mile 2 - great pace for the start of the race. And saw that we were holding a 16 minute pace to miles 3 and 4. After that I let go of looking at the time. The goal here was very different from other races for me. My goal was to enjoy providing support to a friend who was about to accomplish something she had never done before; to help her push past any thoughts of limitation. Our strategy was to run the entire race (a first for Deborah) but walk through water stations. As we made the turn at the BU bridge heading back and Deborah saw the Mass. Ave bridge in the distance she said, 'we have to run all the way over that?'. I smiled and I told her stories of our marathon training runs - meltdowns, and funny moments. Who would have ever dreamed that I was doing for Deborah what so many runners have done for me -- talking her through a run, keeping her distracted as we ticked off the miles and instilling confidence in her health and fitness journey. When we got to mile 4, Deborah said that it was a psychological milestone because she knew we were more than halfway there.

As we approached the bridge, I suggested that Deborah just enjoy the beautiful view. Deborah stopped on the Mass. Ave bridge to take a photo on our way back into Boston. Once we got to Commonwealth Avenue, Deborah kicked it into high gear - and I mean high gear. Talk about a negative split. She was hauling and at this point she was asking me if I was okay. I said oh yeah - let's get to our guys at the finish line. At the last water stop, there were men in suits and tuxedoes holding the water cups in the cardboard box as waiters. What a fantastic touch Tufts 10K!

We began passing runners and walkers; I said, 'Look where we are Deborah' and she said, 'that doesn't mean anything to me'. I took for granted that I lived in Boston for the past almost 40 years and forgot she would not know the milestones so I told her all we had to do to get the chute down the finish line. I decided to take more gel at the last water stop and boy am I glad I did. Deborah was hauling and she was now setting the pace for us. As we turned the corner toward the finish line I got really choked up realizing the overwhelming meaning of the moment - for Deborah and for me. I told her to drink in every moment of coming down the chute. As we approached we heard the announcer say, "And here come the Sparkling Divas. Mary McManus and Deborah Woodbury Doiron. Go Sparkling Divas. You're almost there. Great job." (My husband Tom was by the announcer and he asked her to announce us). We saw Tom, Tim, Alex and Sherri and Alex was holding our Sparkling Divas sign. When Deborah and I crossed the finish line, we hugged each other so tightly. We did indeed start strong and finish stronger and I was there to experience the incredible joy of my friend having run her first 10K.

For me, this year's Tufts 10K is an incredibly emotional experience. I have written about how last year I was told it was time to give up running. The MRI of my cervical spine showed bone spurs, degenerative changes, bulging whatevers, esophagael bogginess etc etc. My last trigger injection was over a year ago. The fatigue and weakness had resurfaced. I did not know what the future held for me - again - but I knew that no matter what I would celebrate and be grateful for what I did have; I also knew that I was not going to 'settle' and would do everything within my power to be as healthy and fit as I could be. Truth be told, it is better than I could have ever dreamed it to be.

So what's next for the Sparkling Divas? The SuperHero 5K on Halloween (which will be my fifth race in five months!) and the Hyannis 10K in February. We'll see what pops up between now and then. Oh and by the way, my finish time was 4 minutes off of the Harvard Pilgrim 10K in July! Sweet!

Visit Mary McManus.com to see all the amazing adventures I am on - poetry books, creating original poetry for every occasion, News and Events with my upcoming appearances. I am blessed and grateful.

God bless, be well and live like you were dyin'
With love from my heart to yours,


j. said...

You are truly inspiring. It was SO lovely to finally meet you, I hope that we cross paths again very soon :) Perhaps for some baseball watching?

Douglas Welch said...

So proud of you! I remember a Mary who said "farewell" to twitter and (I worried) the running community not too long ago! You've come so far and I look forward to sharing in your journey as you train for Hyannis and hopefully another Boston (and Bermuda)!