Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

We had the first snowfall of the season yesterday. Last winter I did not dare venture out but this winter - look out! I've been embracing the cold weather but was I ready for a little snow? Oh yeah baby. My daughter is home from college for winter vacation and we decided to go to the place where we trained for the '09 Boston Marathon and where the path is cleared and sanded - Jamaica Pond. If you go back through my blog you'll see many posts about our training runs there. Fond memories for sure - like when Tom 'lost' me thinking I had gone into the woods to go to the bathroom. How do you lose someone at a Pond which is in a circle? It wasn't easy trust me.

So I layered and walked through the snow outside my house. It is an indescribable feeling to feel alive in winter. Sure I went out during winter training for the marathon but did I feel alive? No it was an incredible challenge and something to be endured. Today I felt alive and invigorated. Of course just having nailed a PR on Sunday contributed to this feeling,

The path around Jamaica Pond was only partially cleared but it was sanded so I knew it was safe for us to do a power walk. I was not interested in time at all but just being outside feeling the winter frost embrace my face and seeing the beautiful landscape of winter was magical! As it turned out, we did 3.2 miles in 50 minutes which, as Daily Mile tells me is a 15:40 minute pace. Pretty incredible!

I am so excited about Christmas and New Year's this year. We have many exciting plans. Christmas Day, my husband and daughter surprised me with tickets to Jersey Boys at the Colonial Theater. On the 26th we are doing our Satellite 6.1 mile Run for @operationjack and that evening we are joining two dear friends for dinner and karaoke. I am so blessed and hope that you are savoring every moment of this holiday season.

Even after Christmas, it's great to choose gifts that give so be sure to visit my Holiday Gift ideas at my website.

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

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas Magic at the Jingle Bell 5K

I know you are all wondering - did she do it? Did the trash talk come to pass or did she walk the walk of shame (said with a wink and a smile). Well those of you on Twitter and Facebook already know what happened. I PR'ed it with a vengeance - official time 42:21 which is one minute and 23 seconds off of the Super Hero 5K. There was Christmas Magic in the air.

The #NERTS were planning a meet up with Doug, Jessie, Ashley and Chris. We had a plan to meet in front of the Red Bones Pub. Tom and I had planned to park at a school building but all of a sudden we found ourselves at the race number pick up venue and there was a parking space so we knew that was where we were supposed to park. On the way to the starting line we 'just happened' to meet Jessie and then Doug! We couldn't find Ashley and Chris before the race because they were directing us all to the start. But what to my wondering eyes should appear but my team mates from the 2009 Spaulding Race for Rehab Team. Suzanne Showstack, Sarah Oulette and Suzanne's sister, Robin who I met at Suzanne's fund raiser. With almost 5,000 runners what were the chances that we would bump into them. Christmas magic was definitely in the air.

Tom and I took our place among the runners and I told him to kick my behind to the finish. Christmas music blared through Davis Square and at 11:04 we were off. I was so focused despite the cold air and cloud cover and I knew in my heart I was going to set a PR. We got to mile 1 and I looked at my watch - 13:21. I asked Tom what he had for time and he said, "Oh this has to be wrong; I have like a 13 minute mile". I said "no it's right." The 2nd mile had rolling hills and I only had to take one walking break after my heart rate climbed over 171. It was a fast course.

Mile 2 to the finish seemed like an eternity to me although I knew I was going to PR because our time at mile 2 was 27:21 - a 14 minute pace but something really strange happened as the officials told us we only had about a half mile to go. Unlike the Super Hero 5K when I heard the music at the finish and knew that I was going to PR, I was watching my time and for some strange reason the finish line looked like an eternity away. I saw my watch hit 42:00 and I heard this voice say, "don't worry if you don't do it, it's okay." The next thing I knew I was crossing the finish line and saw my watch 42:50. Doug was there to snap me at the finish and he said he was hoping I would have thrown my arms up in jubilant celebration. What he didn't know at the time was that I didn't think I was gonna make it despite the reality of time telling me I had plenty of time to spare. What a thrill to have Doug there waiting for me at the finish to take me picture and what Christmas magic to find Ashley, Chris and Jessie after the run just past the finish line. Everyone had a phenomenal day and there were congratulations all around. I am so grateful for the love and support that everyone shares. It's the best kind of family!

So how did I take 1:23 off of a race I ran not even two months ago. What is happening to allow this body to transform from finishing last to being able to run at a 13:38 minute pace? Well you know first of all I have to thank my life and running partner Tom. He talked me through the entire race coaching, coaxing, telling me what an inspiration I am. He really kicked my behind when he wouldn't let me stop at the water stop. He told me we had our own and it was a lot better for me than what they had a the water stop. He didn't want me to slow down my pace and I am so glad he did that for me. He kept me in the zone telling me to listen to the music and breathe with the music. He told me after the run these are the tricks he uses when he is on a long run especially in the cold weather which wants to take one's breath away. I am so grateful to him for sharing in my healing journey.My average heart rate was 167 with a peak of 185 - not bad for this girl who is going to be 57 in five days!

And of course I have to express my love and gratitude to my friends in the running community aka the #NERTS - to @adamm9, @reallynotarunnr (and you are you know), @anivs18, @kissing_frogs and @luau and all the rest of the gang.

Thank you Spirit for the gift of poetry in my soul that helped me to imagine myself free in my body despite being in a leg brace and using a wheelchair at times for mobility.

Christmas magic is in the air and thank you to all of the elves who fuel my journey!

Want to create some Christmas Magic of your own -- I have last minute holiday gift ideas that give while you give!

God bless, be well and live like you were dyin'
With the magic of Christmas in my heart,

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Live Like You Were Dyin'-Trash Talk

I sign off on my blog God bless, be well and Live like you were dyin'. I decided it's time to reflect on that tag line. What does it mean to Live Like you were dyin'. Did you see the movie The Bucket List - that's live like you were dyin. In truth we have all been given a terminal diagnosis. What we do between birth and death is what matters. When I was 'given' the diagnosis of post polio syndrome in December 2006 I had a choice as we all do when we are given a life altering diagnosis. I chose to find a way to heal my life. Last October I had a recurrence of symptoms. :What did I do with it? What did I do with it?" - an opportunity for more learning and transformation.

I am blessed beyond words to be surrounded by so much love and support on this journey. For the first time in my life I feel whole. I feel joy and I feel a sense of reckless abandon which brings me to the subtitle of today's blog post - Trash Talk.

During our Boston Marathon training we would gather at Marathon Sports on Saturday mornings. I remember Domenick D'Amico and the other runners talking about trash talk and talking trash talk. For my non runner followers trash talk is when you say you're gonna best someone at a certain race and you're gonna do a certain time. That was one conversation I thought I would never be a part of. At Lexs Run I am not sure who said it first but running a PR came up. And then at the Super Hero 5K - another PR. This Sunday we are running the Jingle Bell 5K Run in Somerville. Why am I running a race in the middle of December and why I am trash talkin' about setting another PR? Because I am living like I am dyin'. And so what if I don't achieve a PR on that day; it's the joy of the journey and not the destination that counts.

I spent so many years of my life living in fear and being shackled to untruths perpetrated by other people. "And I gave forgiveness I'd been denyin'..." But now I am alive and awake. I turn 57 on Christmas Day. My birthday celebrations consist of running the Jingle Bell 5K, {and setting a PR},running a 10K for autism with my daughter and husband at Doug Welch's home on the 26th, going out for dinner and singing Karaoke that night with Tom, our daughter,and two dear friends, and having a brunch with friends on the 27th.

So what's on my bucket list for 2011?
Setting a PR at the Hyannis 10K and the Tufts 10K
Speaking at Channel 7's Health and Fitness Expo
Going to the Exceptional Women Luncheon as an official 'exceptional woman' and who knows maybe even being selected for the Courage Award
Speaking at Rotary's District Assembly
Training for the Bermuda Half Marathon to be run in 1/12
Distributing my documentary "Keeping the Pace:The Mary McManus Story" to raise money for the End Polio Now Campaign
Working with Luna to create a run to End Polio Now
Raising over $10,000 for Childrens Hospital
Watching my husband cross the finish line of the 115th Boston Marathon
Being a guest on Good Morning America

Fairy tales can come true - it can happen to you - if you're young at heart! At almost 57 I am young at heart, dreaming big and aiming high because I'm livin' like I'm dyin!

God bless, be well and live like you were dyin
From my heart to yours with love and gratitude

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Run - Celebrate - Sing

I hope you'll take a few minutes to watch this You Tube of Kristen Chenoweth singing "Sing". The words are changed for the joy of the season. I found this song on iTunes and fell in love with her version of the song. As we count the days down to Christmas and the end of the year, I am overflowing with feelings of love, joy and gratitude. I want to "Sing" my song to you.

Yesterday was a perfect 10 day in my life. Our dear friend and trainer who got us through grueling marathon training, Domenick D'Amico returned to Boston for a visit. Tom and I decided that we would do the run out of the Brookline Marathon Sports store for auld lang syne sake. The runners in the running group are a lot faster than I am but Tom and I always do our pace together. It doesn't matter. It's the camaraderie of the group. Confession time - every Saturday before we would run out of the store I would have a nervous stomach. After all, I didn't belong among these runners and all those feelings from days gone by would resurface. Well, a Christmas Miracle happened - those feelings were gone and all I could focus on was the joy of a reunion with Domenick and getting out for a run and feeling good. It's amazing when you feel good about yourself, what you attract into your life.

A new member to the group asked if she could run with us. Sure I said but I run at a slow pace. Tom shared my story with her and she said what an inspiration I am and she would love to run at our pace. I met another woman with whom we have a mutual connection. There was so much wonderful energy at the store before the run and I know it was in large part thanks to the run of Domenick who is an icon of the running group.

What a difference in the temperature from my run on Thursday. The day felt incredibly warm compared to the frigid temps on Thursday and the sun was shining. It was a perfect day for a winter run. Our running partner seemed comfortable to run at my pace. We talked and got to know one another and the time flew by. During our last time around the Reservoir we saw our dear friend Ashley Niven. I said that I didn't want to slow down her pace and she said she had just started - don't worry! We introduced her to our running partner and talked about the day, running, health, Chicago Marathon. It was time for us to head back down Beacon Street so Ashley finished her run and we returned to the store. I ran a 14 minute mile for 5.2 miles with an average heart rate of 152 and a peak of 195. Great run!

We went to Starbucks after the run and the group gathered regaling stories about marathons, tri's, ultra's and drank coffee (mine of course decaf) and treated ourselves to croissants acknowledging 'that's why we run'. Later that evening, Domenick had suggested that people gather at Boston Beer Works. More reunions with our dear friends Alison and Jen and meeting Domenick's friends. I decided to take this opportunity to begin the celebration of my birthday which is on Christmas. It was also a celebration of life and healing and feeling so incredibly grateful for the freedom I feel in my body and spirit. I had a glass of white wine and we ordered a Yule Log which everyone shared.

It is a joy to ring out the old and ring in the new and to feel my heart sing as a celebration of the joys and love of life! 2010 has brought another round of amazing transformation. I am blessed to be able to share the journey with all of you. There is only three weeks until the end of the year so I'd better start my gratitudes now so I can get them all in between now and then - smile please.

To Linda Mitchell - You were there four years ago when this amazing journey began. Thank you for all of the incredible resources you gave me but most importantly thank you for the gift of your love and the ability to see beyond appearances of the fuzzy caterpillar.

To Domenick D'Amico - Thank you for being a wonderful friend and an amazing trainer. You've been on my running journey with me and I will always remember and cherish the words you spoke at the first meeting of our Spaulding Rehab team meeting:"My job is to get you to the starting line healthy and to the finish line with a smile." You my dear are a man of your word. Thanks for your continued love and support of Team McManus.

To my incredible husband - my life and running partner who told me yesterday that he was amazed that he had to run to keep up with me. He usually uses the runs he does with me to power walk and recover from his long runs and the 9 minute mile pace he runs on his own. Thanks for reflecting the growth and the changes I have made and for being a partner on this incredible healing journey.

To Kate Loving Shenk and Joan Adams my beautiful soul sisters in cyberspace. Thank you for the spiritual wisdom and insight you have helped me to find during this past year of gathering on the Prayer Blog and Moon, Moo and You.

To Jordan Rich - thank you for your friendship, your love and support. Thank you for the privilege and honor of being a guest on your show and for the opportunity to be your associate producer. Thank you for writing the foreword to my book, "Set Sail for a New World" and for the opportunity to launch it on your show. Thank you for embracing my gifts and sharing your heart with me.

Before I use up all of the megabytes for my blog I will stop there for today but my year end review and gratitudes will be continued....

Be sure to check out Holiday Gift Ideas that give while you give.

God bless, be well and life like you were dyin'
With love from my heart to yours - Happy Holidays

Thursday, December 9, 2010

It's Not Where You Start It's Where you Finish

It's not where you start, it's where you finish
It's not how you go, it's how you land
A hundred to one shot, you call him a clutz
Can out run the favorite, all he needs is the guts
Your final return will not diminish
And you can be the cream of the crop
It's not where you start, it's where you finish
And you're gonna finish on top

If you start at the top, you're certain to drop
You've got to watch your timing, better begin by climbing
Up, up, up the ladder
If you're going to last, you can't make it fast, man
Nobody starts a winner, give me a slow beginner
Easy does it my friend, conserve your fine endurance
Easy does it my friend, for that's your life insurance
While you are young, take it rung after rung after rung after rung after rung after rung after rung after rung

It's not where you start, it's where you finish,
It's not how you go, it's how you land
A hundred to one shot, you call him a clutz
Can out run the favorite, all he needs is the guts
Your final return will not diminish
And you can be the cream of the crop
It's not where you start, it's where you finish
And you're gonna finish on top!

As I was into a downhill during my 3.9 run today in 14 degree weather this song came to mind. When I searched on You Tube for the song, I was delighted to find one by Barbara Cook. My first Broadway show I ever saw was "She Loves Me" starring Barbara Cook. One of my friends on Facebook talked about calling the Nostalgia Police when we were talking about The Enchanted Village here in Boston. I guess the holidays bring out a sense of nostalgia - especially after having lunch with my brother yesterday. How wonderful to resurrect happy memories and to bring forward the joy of music which was a part of our family culture but boy did I digress or what?

I was mentally ready to embrace the cold today but I was not prepared for what my body would feel like at the beginning of the run. Despite having wonderful cold weather gear, my legs felt like two popsicles. I told myself there is no such thing as a garbage run - just be so incredibly grateful you are out here and able to do this. I knew that I was going to do the route my husband and I did on Sunday minus the little detour which brought us to 4.5 miles. I had no expectation of time. This was a run to acclimate myself to the coldest running day yet for me.

As I chugged up the hill in front of Boston College, the initials DNF came to mind (did not finish) but I heard my dear friend Doug Welch's voice ring in my ears "Strong Work Mary" and I knew I couldn't quit. My mind was wondering how I could cut the run short but I said to myself just clear all of that out of there. I had done 13.2 miles on the bicycle on Tuesday and lower body strength training yesterday and rather than look at why I couldn't do this, or hearing the voices of the docs telling me why I shouldn't run, I focused on feeling a surge of strength from deep within me. I knew this was one of those just finish training runs.

When I got to the top of the hill I felt an incredible sense of victory. As I turned the corner there was a little uphill but I knew the downhill on Commonwealth Avenue was right around the bend. I found a wonderful steady pace and the wind had stopped and the black head warmer was absorbing the sun. I couldn't feel my butt anymore but amazingly enough my feet were warm. My core was very warm and I could feel myself sweating. I had forgotten the delightful paradox of running in winter. It's cold as all get out but the body is sweating.

Part of me wanted to look at my watch and make sure I was doing a sub 15 minute pace. Why? I have no idea but suddenly I felt as though I wanted to add an extra dimension to the run. I went from feeling as though I couldn't do this to wanting to beat the clock. I decided to let go of either extreme and just enjoy the day. I focused on the warmth of the sun, the beauty of the reservoir and felt gratitude surge through every cell in my body. There was another hill to face heading toward home. I remembered that I am going to do a 10K the day after Christmas which is going to have hills. As Nike says, "Just Do It!" and so I did. I was never so happy to see my beautiful street and as I charged toward my house I thought once again, It's not where you start it's where you finish. And I did finish. My husband calculated the distance for me and it was 3.9 miles which I ran in 56:51 - a sub 15 minute mile pace (14:48 to be exact) despite feeling so frozen and sluggish as I ran. My average heart rate was 149 with a peak of 186. Bring on the Jingle Bell Run and the @OperationJack 10K.

Dear God - now that we know I can run in the extreme cold, could we please bring on some more moderate temperatures? Thank you very much.

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

I Am NOT My Diagnosis - But I AM a Runner

Four years ago I sat in my office at the Department of Veterans Affairs so relieved that I finally had a diagnosis for what plagued me for at least ten years and so frightened about my future. My then travel agent Linda Mitchell who has become an incredibly dear friend through the years and who I blogged about in Unfinished Business was helping me get through my final days at work before I left for a Bermuda vacation. She would email me photos of Bermuda and they brought me respite from the incredible physical and emotional pain I was experiencing.

When we met in Bermuda in 2007, one of the things she said to me was, "Don't claim your diagnosis by using the word 'my' for 'my post polio doctor' or 'my diagnosis'." I was able to release the diagnosis as I trained for and ran the Boston Marathon but my lesson had not yet been learned and integrated. Last year I 'owned' the diagnosis again. Life is truly a journey not a destination. I needed to do more soul work. I talked a lot about living with post polio syndrome in my blog posts last year but at the same time was reworking and healing on a deeper level so that I was able to emerge from last winter healthier and stronger for having taken the time to regroup.

This morning during my morning meditation and for those of you who watched the Merrimack Valley Striders video the words "I am not my diagnosis" continue to echo through my being. Yesterday I was blessed to have lunch with my brother - an early birthday celebration. He gave me a gift certificate to Marathon Sports. I reflected on the miracle of us being together and of us being as healthy and whole as we are having come from a scene right out of Mad Men. He reinvented himself in his personal and career life at mid life. He is a spinning instructor. I am a marathoner and a runner. Huh, who knew? Our parents and our family culture was certainly not one of health and exercise. Smoking, drinking, overeating, a sedentary, chaotic lifestyle was the norm. Yet here we were talking about what we do to stay healthy as we enter our later years. He will be 60 next year.

My brother did ask me about post polio and my physical diagnoses. He gently asked me if the tremors were part of post polio. He doesn't read my blog so it's safe to say that yes, the tremors are due in part to post polio but they are also due in large part to the beatings I experienced. As I talked about post polio and cervical spine disease I felt a detachment from the words. They describe what happened in my body but now I have slid across the rainbow and landed in a pot of gold of healing.

Every healing angel I have been sent has helped me to build on the work I have done before. I feel a comfort in my own body; I have shed feelings of shame and humiliation and the need to make apologies for myself. When I chose to do my recumbent bike instead of run out in the cold, I could focus on wow - I did 13.2 miles on my recumbent bike instead of - I should have gone on a run. Last night I used the gift certificate to Marathon Sports to get some heavy duty cold weather running gear. It was such fun to go on a shopping spree for me! I have more energy to enjoy life.

My heart aches for polio survivors who remain embittered and angry. I see posts on Facebook with the End Polio Now campaign from polio survivors who have not found the blessing wrapped inside the gift of polio and post polio syndrome. I had to leave the Polio Today forum because there was such rancor, discontent and a sense of victimization at what polio had done to destroy their lives and quality of life. I was so blessed when I worked at the VA to see people who, despite incredible challenges were able to find beauty and love and light in life. I wake up every morning to a painting one of the veterans gave me. He had lost use of his body from the neck down but taught himself how to paint holding a paintbrush in his mouth. He was also legally blind yet created beautiful paintings from the memories in his mind's eye.

No matter what challenges life may bring, it becomes our challenge to find the grace, the beauty, the strength, the blessings wrapped inside the challenge; to learn our soul lessons and to be grateful for what we learn and then to take that challenge and use it for the highest good to make the world a better place for us having been here.

It's time for me to test out the cold weather gear and go on a run because well, I am not my diagnosis, but I am a runner!

To read more about my journey and to check out incredible Holiday Gift ideas, be sure to visit my website.

I love being a fund raiser and two of my champion causes right now are End Polio Now and Childrens Hospital Boston.

I donate 20% of book proceeds from my books of inspirational poetry to the End Polio Now campaign. If you would like to purchase a copy of the documentary "Keeping the Pace", for $10 send me an email at mary@newworldgreetings.com. 100% of the proceeds are donated to End Polio Now.

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

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Inspiration Station

I was invited to speak at the Merrimack Valley Striders Club as their inspirational speaker for their December meeting. On their web page they have a section titled, "Inspiration Station". I sent them the link to the Channel 7 News Story featuring my Boston Marathon Run and they posted it before I was scheduled to speak last Wednesday.I had the pleasure of meeting guest speaker Channel 7's Steve Cooper at the meeting. He was taken with my story and during his speech he said that the winners of the marathon are the winners but we love to cover the "Mary stories" because they are the heart and soul of the Boston Marathon. My husband recorded my speech and posted it on You Tube.

Why? We all have stories and when we share them we discover we are not alone. There is a common human experience. I love sharing my story to uplift and inspire others; to help lift others out of the muck and mire of every day life to see the world through my eyes. I had to overcome so many physical, emotional and spiritual challenges that when I use my story to touch the hearts of others, all of the pain becomes transformed. Others feel the sense of hope and possibility in their lives and they in turn are transformed.