Friday, November 29, 2013

The Feaster Five: So Much More Than a Road Race

Yesterday's blog was a recap of my experience of the Feaster Five. I alluded to how the events from the 2013 Boston Marathon was very much present as I went to the Expo and was palpable among the running community. I spoke about the love I experienced with the Merrimack Valley Striders who sponsor the race along with DMSE, Dave McGillivray Sports Enterprises.

"The Merrimack Valley Striders is a 501c(3) organization whose mission statement is - "An organization whose mission is to encourage and enhance running at all levels". Organized in 1979, MVS has grown to be one of the largest running clubs in New England."

Because I was not near the start and many were not given the size of the field as reflected in this photo posted by Dave McGillivray on Facebook

I did not know that the race was dedicated to the Boston Marathon Bombing survivors and that Celeste Corcoran was the official starter for the race:

WHDH-TV 7News Boston

The race is geared for families and the average runner according to this article I found in the Eagle Tribune, "Top Racers Know Their Place in the Feaster Five" and that certainly was my personal experience.

But it is so much more than a road race.

"Several dozen runners yesterday wore the pink T-shirts, which read “Remember Ritzer,” in reference to Colleen Ritzer, the Andover native and teacher at Danvers High, who was murdered, allegedly by one of her students."

And some notes from our beloved race director, Dave McGillivray:

Here are some notes and nuggets sent to us by Feaster Five race director Dave McGillivary:

-- Final numbers were 10,616 entries, plus the number of kids who registered today. Last year, it was 10,720, so about 100 less this year.

-- About 55 percent women and 45 percent men.

-- 8,920 official starters (not including the kids) and 8,876 finishers.

-- For the first time ever, Monday-Wednesday online registration (no paper) was available, which worked great.

-- Weather on Wednesday, setting up, was difficult. Race day was much better even though it was cold.

-- A moment of silence for Colleen Ritzer and the victims of the Boston Marathon bombings.

-- The Andover Police get very high grades, enhancing support once again, with Safety Officer Chuck Edgerly and Andover DPW leading the way.

-- Someone stole everything at one of the water stations - tables, barrels, cups, pitchers, rakes, shovels and trash bags. Crews had to go back to the DMSE warehouse to replace all that was stolen.

-- All three nonprofits - Ironstone Farms, Bellesini Academy, Merrimack Valley YMCA and the Merrimack Valley Striders - combined to raise well over $100,000.

-- A lot of the leftover food was donated to Lazarus House after the race.

It was my best race ever and as I read the press today, I discovered what I already knew that The Feaster Five is so much more than a road race and will become a Team McManus Thanksgiving tradition!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Feaster Five: My Best Race Ever!

Our Thanksgiving holiday began Wednesday afternoon when we went to pick up our bib numbers and race schwag at the Feaster Five Expo.

I first met the Striders in Hyannis in February of 2009 at the pre race pasta dinner as Team McManus was preparing to run their first half marathon in preparation for the 2009 Boston Marathon. They invited me to speak at their December 2010 meeting. Here I am with Al Pappalardo and Channel 7's Steve Cooper:

and here's Tom Licciardello handling the sound system for the speakers

We stayed in touch on and off through the years but after the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, there was a feeling among many in the running community about the importance of staying connected with each other.

I've always wanted to run the Feaster Five. I had not recovered after the 2009 Boston Marathon to run the Feaster in 2010 and then wasn't feeling well enough to run after the 2011 Brookline Symphony Orchestra 5K. But this year it was my time!

It was an emotional reunion with my Strider friends
Tom L. and me

Al Pappalardo and me:

Tom's wife Lyn and me:

More MVS love:

and MVS gear including tumblers for the One Fund:

I had a reunion with Ric Beaudoin who was the first Strider that I met at Hyannis who wanted me to speak at the Striders' meeting to share my inspirational story and Dick Hoyt and Kathy Boyer who have known me since February of 2009. We are all healing; the bombings have resulted in close bonds and a resolve to allow love triumph over hatred.

I went to bed early and got up at 5:00am to leave by 6:00am to ensure that we would get good parking at the race. It was cold and windy but we got to watch the sunrise. So much heat was generated among the throngs of runners. It took us 10 minutes to get to the start!

The course involves a really steep uphill at the beginning of the race for a good half mile:

It wasn't a PR according to my time.

4985 258/393 F5059 59:46 49:43 16:01 Mary McManus 59 F 3663 Chestnut Hill MA

But it certainly was a PR according to how I felt in my body and during the race. It was 2 minutes slower than the Brookline Symphony Orchestra 5K Fun Run & Walk but it also had a huge almost mile hill at the start of the race and another small hill at the end of the race as compared to the Brookline Symphony Orchestra's 5K Fun Run & Walk fast, two loop course around the Reservoir.

According to my Nikeplus, I did negative splits:
17:28 mile 1 (which included a slow walk in getting to the start)
32:27 mile 2 (14.99 minute/mile pace)
46:23 mile 3 (13.96 minute/mile pace)

It was the first race that I ran that I felt I was in the middle of the pack. That's because I was in the middle of the pack; 4985/6135 finishers for the 5K. I wasn't too shabby in my age group either and this is the last race before I enter a new age group!

I've been used to being a back of the pack runner and watching a sea of runners fade into the distance in front of me. But the Feaster's field is different and it was an amazing experience for me to be passing runners and walkers.

As we headed for the finish, Ric Beaudoin stands atop a ladder calling out names of the runners spurring them onto the finish. We called out his name and he said, "And here comes Tom and Mary McManus all the way from Newton, Massachusetts."

Our daughter Ruth Anne met us at the finish line and she commented on how I was absolutely glowing looking so different than I had after any other race.

I ran in 30 degree weather; mercifully there was not a lot of wind during the race and there was the beautiful course through the Andover neighborhood. I was present in my body and delighted in each moment of the race. I was racing out there today.

The Feaster Five: my best race ever and my best Thanksgiving ever!

Thanksgiving from Seasons of the Soul available on Amazon

Make every day a feast of giving thanks
serving up heaping helpings of happiness
health and joy

be with the ones you love
------especially yourself
and feel your heart overflow
because there is so much gratitude stuffed inside.

Feast your eyes on beauty and wonder
feed your heart on kindness and compassion
forgive and remember love lasts
laughter heals.

Taste the sweetness that life has to offer
breathe deeply
as the scents of the season
delight the senses.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Why I Love Heartbreak Hill

I've written a lot of blogs about running on Heartbreak Hill.

I incorporated Heartbreak Hill into the poems I wrote on the road to the 2009 Boston Marathon

Ode to Marathon Training - March 22, 2009 (From A Celebration of Life available on Amazon.)
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.

I stood many years as a spectator atop Heartbreak Hill cheering on Boston Marathon runners. I never dreamed that one day I would be among them. And two years ago, after running the Brookline Symphony Orchestra 5K and I felt myself experiencing another relapse of post polio syndrome symptoms, I thought for sure my running days were over.

It was cold yesterday and windy (not as cold and windy as today I might add). I knew I needed to get in one more training run before Thanksgiving Day's Feaster Five Road Race.

I was planning on an easy flat 3.1 miles somewhere but I knew I needed to get out there and really challenge myself. I needed to open it up and just go!

The Spaulding Race for Rehab 2014 fund raising website is up and many of my friends are running on the team this year in large part because of the Boston Marathon bombings. I was with Greg Gordon, my dear friend and teammate from the 2009 Race for Rehab team as the bombs went off. He is running along with fellow 2009 teammates TK and Suzanne Adams. Suzanne and I first met in 2007, and have been friends ever since. We were with Suzanne when the bombs went off. Michelle Scribner-MacLean who I met at the 2008 pre race pasta dinner and with whom I have stayed in touch through social media is running. Her brother Mark was going to run in 2008 but an injury flared right before the gun went off. When I met Michelle, she was training to run her first half marathon.

As I read their stories on their fund raising pages, in addition to being moved to donate, I was moved to get out there and really get moving.

Thanks to Ellen Gabriel, manager at the Brookline Marathon Sports store, we had our winter gear ready to go.

We decided to run Heartbreak from Center Street to Chestnut Street. There is something magical and mystical about the sun in Winter on Heartbreak Hill. The trees were mostly barren and the sky was a brilliant blue. Despite the cold air, the sun's warmth could still be felt as somehow it is always felt on Heartbreak Hill.

There was an infectious energy on the hills yesterday. It's as though everyone is preparing in one way or another for the 2014 Boston Marathon. There are 148 days to go until April 21st as noted on my friends' fund raising pages. Everyone was greeting each other yesterday. There was a sense of camaraderie and togetherness - an unspoken bond of #bostonstrong. I felt a powerful emotional connection to my beloved coach and trainer, Domenick D'Amico from the 2009 Boston Marathon.

I felt the best I have felt in my body out on a training run and my statistics from Nike+ reflected that. 4.03 miles with an average pace of 14'8". I wasn't pushing myself or my body. I moved in my body, breathing hard and pouring sweat. I looked in the mirror after we finished our run and were back in the warm car. I had a glow about me.

I took a hot epsom salts bath when I got home followed by a hot shower. But despite my best efforts, I experienced muscle spasms in my neck, upper back and shoulders. I was having difficulty with cervical spine mobility. My legs were of course sore but felt wonderful.

But even though I was in a lot of discomfort, I was not worried about what was happening in my body. I know that I am blessed with two remarkably dedicated practitioners who would help me to work out whatever was happening in my body.

I went to bed at 9:00pm and woke up at 8:00am feeling wonderfully refreshed and recharged. (What a difference from waking up in the morning still feeling fatigued and foggy for years as I suffered with the residuals of polio and trauma stuck in my body.)

My body feels strong and healthy. I feel ready for my 2nd race after a two year running hiatus on Thursday. I have so much to be thankful for this year. Among my blessings, I have rekindled my love of Heartbreak Hill and can be a part of an incredible community that continues to heal and be #bostonstrong.

The 2009 Spaulding Race for Rehab Team at the starting line

A sendoff from Domenick as we head out for the last training run before the 2009 Boston Marathon

Two weeks ago posing with the Johnny Kelley statue on Heartbreak Hill

Even though my heart along with the City of Boston and the world was broken on April 15, 2013, there was something powerfully healing about healing my heart during yesterday's Heartbreak Hill training run.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Noting Weakness - Finding Strength and Compassion

Thursday evening's Aquatics Community Class - Find Your Core Strength - incorporates contralateral movements (side to side movements using opposite arm and leg) that are incredibly challenging for me. I can feel myself finding my way out of the stiffness in my neuromuscular system that is a result of having contracted paralytic polio as a child followed by 9 years of unrelenting trauma that caused me to stiffen up as in being scared stiff.

When I first began the Aquatics classes, I would find myself judging what I couldn't do. I would get frustrated as I felt this urgency to be able to "get it" and gracefully execute the movements as our therapist, Diana is able to do with ease on land.

Last night, I felt a shift in myself. As Diana reviewed and cued the movements specifically to me, I noted the weakness and the difficulty I had in executing the movement while at the same time feeling overwhelming compassion for myself for having experienced the challenge of paralytic polio.

But then there are those moments when I can feel the after effects of polio and trauma in my body. In the deep end of the pool, Diana had us doing the "pummel horse" gymnastics routine. I have done it before and suffered through the dizziness I felt. Not so last last night -- I decided to stop when I felt the dizziness and told Diana that exercise was not for me. She gave me another exercise that brings about the same results but wouldn't result in dizziness. I shared with her how, when I was in gym class, the teacher would unwittingly force me into doing things that were not right or good for my body and one day I had a mini seizure after she forced me into a somersault off of the pummel horse.

I used to feel really angry about these kinds of experiences in my childhood. I used to get so frustrated that my body would not and could not do what I was asking it to. In the healing waters of Aquatics Therapy at Spaulding Rehab, there is no room for anger or frustration. There is only noting the weakness and the challenges, finding and feeling my strength and discovering the healing power of compassion and acceptance. There is only joy and celebration for being able to do what I couldn't do a week or six weeks before and there is only resolve to continue working to be my healthiest and best self.

The Fire of Compassion from A Celebration of Life available on Amazon

Compassion warms my heart for those whose hearts were cold
once shivering in fear
leper shunned
one so tender and vulnerable…

the fire of compassion
wielding the welding torch
he opens the portal for my Spirit

melting strictures
molding structures
a blacksmith
changing what was wrought upon me
righting wrongs
lighting the way to find my way home.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Miracle of My Life

“The miracle isn't that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start.”― John Bingham, No Need for Speed: A Beginner's Guide to the Joy of Running

The holiday season is a time for bearing witness to miracles. It doesn't matter what your religious preference or beliefs are. There is something magical and mystical about being able to experience and celebrate the light during the darkest and coldest time of the year. This time of year is also a time to focus on gratitude and thanks giving.

In about six weeks, I celebrate the miracle of my life and turning 60 years old on Christmas Day.

Did you know that many believe that the reason that Tiny Tim's affliction was polio?

And like Tiny Tim for so much of my life, I was crippled! I was crippled by the ravages of paralytic polio and trauma. I had grown a body that was trying to protect itself and a body that had developed compensatory patterns as a result of wearing a heavy metal leg brace for 3 years, being in a cast on my other leg for 6 weeks, 3 years after coming out of the leg brace, over 25 surgeries and experiencing brutality at the hands of family members.

I had no idea that I would ever not be crippled by my past. Seven years ago I too, like Tiny Tim, came perilously close to death. My family rallied around me to support me but the healing path was mine alone to choose.

Deep inside of me I knew that while much of what the team at the International Center for Polio and Post Polio was suggesting was critical in my recovery, there was one piece of advice I could not follow -- "If you use it, you will lose it." I had a burning deep inside of me to get moving.

Last night my husband Tom and I went on our run. It was cold and dark (although thank goodness for Marathon Sports for outfitting us with winter gear complete with a headlamp) and I certainly did not run my fastest pace - 3.25 miles with a just sub 16 minute/mile pace but I was out there in the evening doing 3.25 miles!

Tom said to me, "What happened? How did all of this happen?" I had run the Boston Marathon yes and oh how I needed to get out there and shed my image as someone who was powerless and crippled and disabled. And I kept searching and searching and working so hard to find my way back home to my body.

We also talked about how hard I have worked and how I have to work so hard each and every day to find balance, listen to what my body needs, work in the Aquatics Therapy Program at Spaulding to build strength in a body that never knew strength and ease and I talked about how different everything is now in my body and in my life.

And today, I needed to take a few moments and give pause and thanks to the miracle that is my life!

Moving Forward from A Celebration of Life available on Amazon

Tethered and tied up to what once was
decades ago
staples, sutures
scar tissue
tenderly released
my form reappears

now training for a 5K
training mind
moving mindfully
retraining body

a surprising bounce in my step
a lightness in my heart
awesome creation
how is this possible?

A beacon of light for others
of what IS possible
once defeated
now defying the odds

trusting in this miracle
moving forward.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Healing Waters

Yesterday morning's aquatics therapy class at Spaulding Rehab brought me to another level of healing in overcoming post polio syndrome.

I felt the blessing of the healing waters. I felt my heart fill with gratitude. I was able to do squats with the weights. I can feel muscles fatiguing while I feel my whole body getting stronger. Under the watchful eye of Karis and listening to my body, I am not overdoing it. Next week I am going to try light ankle weights to take my strength training to the next level.

I have been here before over and over again but this time is completely different.

A question bubbled to the surface while I was doing quad strengthening exercises. Can I trust this change? Is this it? Can I really feel wholy integrated in my body? Is my body going to break down and am I going to have another relapse?

The answer came to me -- yes and no! There are no guarantees. Everything changes and everything is impermanent. I do know that I am doing everything I can to keep myself as healthy as I can. I am going to be 60 years old and while I feel vibrant and more youthful than ever, nature will take its course. And just like the leaves have their most vibrant colors before they tumble to the ground, I am enjoying this vibrant time in my life. I am no longer afraid of my body and what "might happen to it."

I allow gratitude to bathe my heart and soul -- gratitude for everything - not just the healing but the pain and the painful experiences themselves for together they weave the exquisite tapestry that is my life. I am incredibly grateful that I have my sight, my hearing and all of my limbs. I am grateful for my husband and partner Tom who has been with me throughout this healing odyssey. But most of all I am grateful to myself for staying the course and not giving up.

This week two women sent me emails letting me know that I have given them hope. One woman told me that by reading my blog, she found the courage to take the next steps on her healing journey. Another woman told me that she tried everything and nothing worked so she was about to give up but now she has a feeling of hope.

I want others to experience the blessing of healing in their lives that I have been fortunate to experience.

And yesterday, in the healing waters of Spaulding Rehab's Aquatics Therapy Class, I reflected on the blessings in my life and felt the appreciation in my heart overflow into the waters and out into the world.

The View from the Observation Deck from Elements of Healing. My books of inspirational poetry are available on Amazon

Stranger to myself
alone adrift
navigating waters of a turbulent past.

The choppy seas of my breath
afraid to explore the wonder of me-
intimacy, touch, tenderness and calm
tainted by twisted souls
temporarily blinded by octopus ink
stinging my heart.

I am my captain and my soul mate
watching the past shrink into the distance
drop anchor ….

Observing breath and letting it be
release the tentacles' hold
allowing Spirit come to calm.

Breathing as One
the heart a magnet
drawing like unto itself
resetting the compass of my life.

New life and inspiration
from fellow travelers
on a voyage of Truth and Love.

Dive in
discover magnificence
trust it
take the leap of faith
say hello to my new best friend.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

A Trip Up Heartbreak Hill - A Trip Down Memory Lane - "Today, Records Fell"

In training for the Feaster Five on Thanksgiving morning, I have been incorporating hill training since the beginning of the race is a .5 mile steep hill. There is also a smaller hill at the end of the race.

Yesterday morning I told Tom that I wanted to train on Heartbreak Hill. When we Googled the distance from Walnut Street to Lake Street, spanning most of Heartbreak Hill, Google said it would be 2.3 miles each way. Cool!

I set my Nike+ app and off we went.

We often associate triggers with a negative connotation of flashbacks and unpleasant experiences. Only yesterday, being on Heartbreak Hill for the first time since 2009, triggered a flood of wonderful memories:

I noticed the details of the way the stones are inlaid on the carriage road on Commonwealth Avenue. I remembered finding a Helen Keller Quarter from my blog 4/5/2009

As we were heading out along Beacon Street here in Brookline, Mass., I saw a penny. Those of you who have read my blog know that we have had a lot of signs with finding money while we trained. There were a herd of runners behind us and I knew that if I stopped to pick this penny up, I could get trampled and then where would I be after a year of training and being on the threshold of running the Marathon. So I felt God's Presence and ran on. While on Heartbreak Hill, my daughter stopped in her tracks. Buried in the crack in the sidewalk on Heartbreak Hill, my daughter spotted a quarter - not just any quarter but a quarter dedicated to Helen Keller. Her quotes and life story have always been a major source of inspiration to me and Bernie Siegel, MD (who through the years has been a guiding healing light for me) has quoted her so many times in his talks, books and on his forum. During the last two miles of our training run, we found two more pennies - 27 cents! Not 26 but 27 so God is letting us know that we have what we need to go the distance....

Our first run on Heartbreak Hill which was mapped out by our beloved coach for Spaulding Rehab, Domenick D'Amico. And then on Marathon Monday being greeted by a teary eyed Domenick who gave each of us a hug and told us to go get our medal.

We remembered coming home from Puerto Rico in January of '09 and our daughter sitting next to Johnny Kelley's nephew and his wife. She was bemoaning the fact that she had to get up early and do an 18 miler in the cold and snow after having 5 days in the warmth of Puerto Rico. His nephew's wife told us that Johnny would be watching over us every time we trained on Heartbreak Hill and especially on Marathon Monday. He was with us every step of the way. After we met them, my theme became the title of Johnny's autobiography, "Young at Heart"

But something was incredibly different on this Heartbreak Hill run. I felt so different in my body. I had a wonderful stride and I could experience my subtle body energy.

I use Nike+ to track my workouts now to support Marathon Sports and #bostrong.

As the voice of Nike+ began marking the miles, I knew that we were going farther than the 4.6 miles on Google maps. But I had no choice but to finish out the run because we parked our car at Walnut Street and had to do an out and back loop. {Tom thinks that perhaps my Nike+ took into account the elevation while calculating the distance--who knows?). While I felt tired toward the end of the run, I also felt that I still had a lot in the tank which really surprised me. I am going to taper for the Feaster Five and maintain at the 5K distance which we opted for thinking that there is no way I would be able to run 5 miles again but after the race, I am going to begin to slowly and steadily build mileage and see how my body responds.

Here are the results from my workout according to Nike+

5.33 miles
Average pace 14"34"/mile
Total time 1:17:49
Mile 1 13"
Mile 2 27:13
Mile 3 41:47
Mile 4 57:07
Mile 5 1:12:58
Mile 5:33 1:17:49

Nike reminded me that "Today, records fell." Okay it was only my 2nd Nike+ run but indeed records did fall.
I ran the farthest and fastest that I have run in the past 7 months since I began to run again after a 2 year running hiatus. My 5K time was 43:36. My time at the Brookline Symphony Orchestra 5K Fun Run & Walk was 47:50 - a 15:26/mile pace. I wasn't trying to go faster. I was not pushing myself in my body. I was in tune with my body moving from the inside out. There was a sense of unbridled joy being back on Heartbreak Hill, feeling the sun on our faces and a sense of coming home inside of my human form free from the ravages of trauma and paralytic polio.

Tom snapped this photo of me at the Johnny Kelley statue:

Today I am sore and it's a rest and recovery day but overall I feel strong and present in my body after taking a run up Heartbreak Hill and a trip down memory lane. But just like my 2009 run was so much bigger than me -- my healing journey is a message to all who were affected by the events on Marathon Monday -- that we do heal, we do become stronger and love and community is far more powerful than violence.

While I am not running Boston 2014, I am cheering on my friends in person and in social media supporting them with donations if they are running for a charity and feel so blessed to be a part of this amazing community. We are Boston Strong!

Ode to Marathon Training - March 22, 2009 from A Celebration of Life available on Amazon
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.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

So Much More Fun Than a Theraband!

I've been blogging about my adventures in Aquatics Therapy classes at Spaulding Rehab. The therapists who teach the classes make strength training an incredibly delightful experience.

When I was in the pool on Tuesday, I remembered when my strength training involved therabands.

It was challenging. It was Boring with a capital B and well, I hated it. Yet at the time I knew I did not have a choice because I wanted to build strength.

But what joy there is in using the water for resistance and enjoying movement that is helping me to build strength. Karis, our Tuesday morning instructor comes up with creative movements for proprioception and neuromuscular development as well as to build strength.

Here was our exchange on Tuesday morning:
"How many squats have you done?" - Karis
"I don't know. I lost count. A lot." - me
"Okay give me 5 more and then we'll move onto lunges and then free swim." - Karis
"Hey were you ever a camp counselor?" - me
"I sure was." - Karis

Last Thursday, Diana who has a doctorate in physical therapy and is the Assistant Site Manager and Orthopedic Clinical Supervisor at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital proclaimed that she was our cruise director! Who remembers The Love Boat?

Entering the warm waters of the Spaulding pool with its flood lights under the water surrounded by floor to ceiling windows that overlooks Boston Harbor is like being on a cruise ship. Diana's energy and passion is that of a cruise director. She watches each of us like a hawk and makes suggestions to either up level or modify the exercises. She keeps us moving from start to cool down with cardio and core strengthening exercises. Her smile and laugh are infectious. Her knowledge and skill keen and her support unwavering.

I feel challenged, frustrated, triumphant, jubilant and most of all grateful - deeply grateful and blessed that I have this opportunity to at last overcome post polio syndrome and to do it in a way that is so much more fun than a theraband!

Be Grateful from A Celebration of Life - available with all of my books of inspirational poetry on Amazon.

Be grateful you’re alive
and never give up
even when your body and mind
freak out
find peace
in the center of your soul
feel your Essence.

and in that moment of surrender
feel joy
freedom in detachment
abiding with the deepest darkest fear
difficulties transform into awakening
free fall
sky diving
the thrill of being fully alive.

Be grateful
feel every sensation
each moment passes
strength of Spirit
thrives in the face of adversity
coal becomes diamond
gold forged in the crucible
hidden treasures
be grateful.

Friday, November 8, 2013

#NikePlusBostrong - The Magic of the Night

The energy at Wednesday night's Marathon Sports Brookline Run Group was electric. An email had been sent out to the group about the following contest:

I have an exciting contest to announce. For the next 4 weeks, Marathon Sports and Boston in general will be toeing the line against the New York running company in a contest. The city with the most miles wins. We are already off to an early lead and we need to beat the snot out of them as the weather turns cold!!!

Here's the breakdown of how it will work...

- Anyone who runs with a Nike+ sportband, sportwatch, or the Nike+ app can log their miles and share their mileage on twitter via the Nike+ app or website. We have to use twitter for this so we have one place we can reference to log total mileage at the end of the contest. Anyone who wants to support Marathon Sports/Boston/MA simply needs to add the hashtag "#nikeplusBOStrong".

- If you are on a team and happen to be running without the team watch, use Nike+ and make your miles count for the overall if they can't count for team mileage.

- ANYONE can support our #nikepluBOStrong mileage. We will need the participation of the Run Clubs, friends, family, teams, etc. Domenick D'Amico out in CO can log miles to support our totals. Kristen and Ian up in NH. Patrick's teammates. ALL can participate. Please encourage everyone you know to create a Nike+ account if they don't already have one, use their sportband or sportwatch if they have one, or download the free Nike+ app, and share their mileage via twitter using #nikeplusBOStrong.

- There will be flash contests for supporters who log miles for us. We will also have a raffle for some cool prizes for anyone who logs miles for us at the end of the contest.

- The winning city will win a trip on a chartered bus to the losing city, where they will gloat in front of the losers and enjoy drinks and dinner.

We need to win. NY/NJ is already trash talking. We are veterans - we CREATED this contest. We also have our amazing Run Clubs that can support our collective efforts.

I asked our run club guru Spencer how to set up NikePlus on my Droid or if I needed to buy a sportband or sportwatch.

Brookline Marathon Sports manager Ellen Gabriel introduced me to Corey who is the Nike+ rep. He set up my phone and told me how to use the app. (He could certainly have sold me Nike+ gear but instead downloaded the free app for me.)

There was something magical about running in the night although I did go to Marathon Sports today and Ellen helped me to select a headlamp. Fortunately we had a flashlight app on our phones that we used to light the way navigating the dark path up to the Reservoir and to make sure we had solid footing on the path.

I savored each sensation watching the light in the distance shimmer on the water's surface. It was my first night time run. I was blessed to have Tom by my side and we were also joined by another member of the Run Club who was doing a recovery run from the Marine Corps Marathon.

When we got back to the store after our run, I was amazed to discover that I had run 4.01 miles in 15:34 and my fastest mile was 12:39. I tweeted to #nikeplusBostrong.

I know how lucky we were on Marathon Monday yet Tom and I along with an entire community - an entire world are still healing from the Boston Marathon bombings. I am so fortunate that I can get out and experience the magic of the night running 4 miles fueled by the energy of the Marathon Sports Brookline-Run Club. And I feel so fortunate that we, as a community, are Boston Strong!

Happy To Be Alive from Seasons of the Soul. My books of inspirational poetry are available on Amazon.

Face to face with death at knife point
cold darkened eyes stare into mine
unflinching I stare back
afraid to move a muscle
already dead.
Life force safely tucked away
unknowing the outcome of this untimely encounter with death
at the hands of a madman
reasoning destroyed by gin and vermouth.
Angels intervene
he finds peace in death
I am left to put the pieces of my life back together again.
As numbness gives way to pain
pain gives way to gratitude
appreciation for this wondrous wonder filled life
where nothing makes sense and everything makes sense
purpose out of pain
grace in ungodly moments
surrounded by love
happy so happy to be alive
to tell the tale of one who almost died.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

For Old Times Sake

Early Sunday morning, the rain was pouring down. In a few weeks we'll be running The Feaster Five on Thanksgiving morning. We have no idea what the weather will be like so I knew we had to get out there and do our training run.

I have also begun training for the 2014 Tufts 10K for Women so I knew I needed to continue to maintain mileage. Tom and I were deciding where to do our training run and we resorted to our old go to place for inclement weather; the Reservoir on Route 9.

We know it's about a mile around and about .8 miles from our house to the Reservoir. Perfect roughly 4.5 miles.

So when we were training for the 2009 Boston Marathon, we had to get a lot of miles into our legs. When you are a novice runner, without any of the fancy running gadgets, you resort to a rather primitive style to track how many times you go around the Reservoir. We broke a long stick into smaller sticks. Every time we would complete a lap, we would toss the stick aside. I remember when we were up to oh about 11 miles and it was pouring rain and cold. That was our first long run in the rain.

For old times sake we decided to use the stick method. Of course it was easy to keep track of 3 times around but there was something magical for me to resurrect the endurance runner within me.

Yet everything is so different now. Back when I was training for the marathon, I couldn't move in my body; I forced my body to move and yet it was a critical first step in being able to move beyond paralytic polio and trauma. I feel so wonderful in my body. I am taking it slow and steady.

I loved being outdoors. I felt unbridled joy experiencing the rain and being able to maintain my body warmth despite the chill in the air. I didn't time us but I could tell from my heart rate we were going at a really good pace.

During one of our laps I had this image of jumping over a hurdle. I have never jumped a hurdle in my life. When we had the pummel horse out in gym class and we were expected to jump over it, I would freeze in my tracks. I did not have the strength or coordination to even attempt such a thing.

Yet in my mind's eye, I was able to visualize myself graceful and jumping. I realized that I was connecting to Wilma Rudolph. She had polio and other infectious diseases as a child but with a mother's love and powerful healing intention and being surrounded by brothers who encouraged and challenged her, she became the first American woman to win 3 Olympic Gold Medals in Track and Field.

Take four minutes to watch this video about her triumph over polio

I am so blessed to have Tom by my side, stride by stride, encouraging and supporting me. And while I don't have another marathon in me, it was sure a joy to train like we once did for old times sake.

from A Celebration of Life now available on Amazon
This is the first poem I wrote after being diagnosed with post polio syndrome in the cold, dark winter of 2007 as I emerged from the dark night of my soul. The unconscious was preparing the way for me to run the Boston Marathon

Running the Race - Feb, 2007
Early summer 1959 my kindergarten year
everyone around me filled with nervous fear
Despite the Salk vaccine hope polio would disappear
the polio virus crept right up and knocked me in the rear.
Dancing all around the gym feeling free just like a bird
I dropped to the ground just like a stone and no one said a word.
The pain it was so searing-the diagnosis even worse
"It's polio" the doctor said...he was abrupt and terse.
Called one of the 'lucky ones' I had a 'mild case'
but with the other athletes I could never keep their pace.
Miss Holly physical therapist, curly hair and a warm, broad smile
it tempered the pain of being apart - to walk I'd take awhile.
I always wore those 'special' shoes the kids they poked and teased
with no support and much abuse with childhood I wasn't pleased.
But put nose to the grindstone and learned all that I could
I couldn't kick a ball but my grades were always good.
Years went by and no more thought to polio did I give
I accepted the limp and everything else and decided my life I would live.
But symptoms of weakness and muscle pain did grow
I kept a stoic face hoping no one else would know.

Life no longer was my own I struggled through each day
suffered in silence, isolated from friends-trying to keep depression at bay.
And with the grace of glorious God my world it opened wide
I discovered there was a Post Polio team and they were on my side.
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.