Thursday, February 27, 2014

We Run Together

The theme for this year's Boston Marathon is We Run Together.

Even before the Boston Marathon Bombings, I knew the powerful bonds and magic of the running community when I trained for Boston 2009. I remember how my husband Tom stayed with me stride by stride and wouldn't be concerned about anything other than getting me to the finish line of every race and every long run we did.

I remember when I bought my first pair of running shoes at Marathon Sports Brookline and news about my story spread throughout the Marathon Sports family. When I ran my first 5 mile race ever - the Marathon Sports 5 Miler, the Marathon Sports family was there to greet me as Tom and I finished dead last with an air horn blaring and the truck horn honking just as though we finished in first place.

I saw the we run together theme this past weekend in Hyannis. It's amazing to be a spectator at the finish line and experience the camaraderie of the running community. I watched the hugs and high fives; the tears of joy and the triumphs. I saw how, even if one person finished ahead of another person, they went back to hug the person who finished behind them. And I saw how people who had already finished (as evidenced by the medals around their neck) went back to run in another runner.

In 52 days, 11 hours and counting, Boston and the world will run together. Hearts and hands will be joined together as over 36,000 runners will make their journey from Hopkinton to Boston.

I will be back at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel this year ready to welcome the 100 members of Spaulding Rehab's Race for Rehab team to the Suite where I stood on 4/15/13 in a moment frozen in time. I will be tracking my friends who are running and will watch them triumphantly run down Boylston Street to the finish line.

On 5/30/2013, Amby Burfoot (who Bill Rodgers went to college with and played a pivotal role in Bill Rodgers development as a runner as featured in Bill's book Marathon Man) wrote this beautiful article for Runner's World: Just Imagine.

Ultramarathon great and biologist Bernd Heinrich, Ph.D., got it right in his book, Why We Run. Heinrich agrees we were born to run. But the secret, he argues, is not that we can trot along under a hot sun. No, the genius lies in our ability to visualize–to imagine–that such activity might lead to an important goal. We don't run primarily because we can, or because it feels good, though both might be true. Rather we were born to run with imagination and purpose.

Paleolithic runners pursued antelope with visions of a steak dinner. Today we run to score a soccer goal. To lose 10 pounds. To finish a 5-K and then maybe a half-marathon. To raise funds for good causes. We run long and persistent, hoping to one day complete 26.2 miles....

As John Hancock said in their promo for the video, whether you are running, volunteering or spectating, we all run together!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Find Your Distance

As I was reunited with my Spaulding Rehab Race for Rehab alumni

and talking with Boston Marathon legends, Billy Rodgers

and Dick Beardsley, everyone had the same message for me, "Find your distance!"

I toyed with the idea of becoming an endurance runner again.

About a week ago, the New England weather prevented me from going outside for a run so I went on my stationary bike on a Friday. I did 6.2 miles with intervals really kicking my bike workout up a notch. A storm with near blizzard conditions was predicted for Sunday so rather than take a rest day and run the risk of needing to do another bike workout, Tom and I headed out to Heartbreak Hill for 4.25 miles.

Last week, I co hosted Singing Boston Strong: Karis' Karaoke for a Kause and then we went into the Hyannis Marathon weekend.

As well as I feel and as well as I am doing, every once in awhile I am reminded and humbled that I do live with a spinal cord injury which is a result of contracting paralytic polio as a child. Five years ago I soldiered on through the brutal New England winter because I was a woman on a mission - to run the Boston Marathon.

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings, I realized that I could and I must run again but that I must respect where my body is at today. Everyone I met with whom I shared my journey celebrated my Boston Marathon run and where I am today. We all agreed that there is no such thing as "just" a 5K or a 10K.

Yesterday, although it was freezing - 29 degrees and not sure what the wind chill was, I went out for a 3 miler and did a sub 15 minute/mile pace. I felt wonderful and happy and so contented with the distance.

It's amazing - when champions Bill Rodgers and Dick Beardsley and the alumni from Spaulding Rehab's Race for Rehab team all say, "Find your distance," suddenly my distance becomes one to be celebrated.

And so does yours - whether it's a mile or 26.2 miles.

Find and celebrate your distance!

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Meet(ing) Dick Beardsley

The Hyannis Half Marathon was my first half marathon ever back in 2009! It holds a very special place in my heart and it always feels like coming home when we walk into the Resort and Conference Center at Hyannis.

Here are some photos from 2009:

And here I am 5 years later with Bill Rodgers - what a transformation!

There is always some kind of magic in the air on race weekend but this weekend was more magical than I could have ever imagined.

There is always a lot of "trash talk" and fun talk at the pre race pasta dinner. It's great to meet up with old friends and make new friends finding out whose first half or full marathon it is and sharing our Hyannis stories. I was in no way prepared for the story that Dick Beardsley was about to share. Initially Bill Rodgers and Dick quipped about running and shared some humorous stories about their shared past at the Boston Marathon. Dick went on to share his story.

It was a big deal for him to graduate high school. He was the first one in his family to graduate high school and when he graduated, he went over to his father who had tears in his eyes. His father handed him a piece of paper that said it was good for one round trip ticket to the Boston Marathon.

Dick went on to share how he got into a near fatal farm accident. He got choked up as he shared that there was a problem with the insurance and he had hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid medical expenses and Bill Rodgers sent him money as did Alberto Salazar.

He then shared how, as a result of the accident, he got addicted to prescription pain medication. He shared his powerful, inspirational journey and the group that was gathered in the ballroom were spellbound.

My husband and I were overcome with emotion. Addiction ran rampant in our families and we know the pain and struggle of addiction. But before us stood Dick Beardsley, a runner and a champion in every sense of the word. Out of his pain and suffering, he created the Dick Beardsley Foundation. Their mission as stated on their website is to:

The Dick Beardsley Foundation will educate the public (including the youth in schools and clubs) on the disease of chemical dependency, the warning signs of chemical dependency, the dangers of chemical dependency, and how chemical dependency can be treated; to promote living a healthy, active lifestyle, chemically free; and to promote greater openness about chemical dependency.

Dick shared with us that they also use funds to pay for recovery treatment programs if an individual has no means of paying for treatment.

Tom and I usually hang around after the speakers finish and if it is someone we haven't met yet, we usually go up and talk to them after their talk. But we were so moved by Dick's talk, that we decided to go back to our room.

The next morning - Race Day and the energy and excitement reverberates throughout the entire hotel. Tom and I had our usual routine of bringing our oatmeal to the lobby, getting coffee for Tom and a bagel for me with fresh fruit. As we were sitting there talking about the amazing weather (45 and sunny for race day in Hyannis - say what?!) and how grateful we felt for our lives together (we're comin' up on 36 years of marriage on 3/4), Tom nudged me.

"Look who's there," he said.

I looked up and I saw Dick Beardsley sporting his red New Balance fleece with his name on it.

"Oh my goodness," I said...

We both thanked Dick for his talk and told him how our family has been touched by addiction. He started talking to us totally wrapped up in the present moment. We suggested that he get in line to order his breakfast. We paid for it! It was the least we could do for all the time he was giving us. I asked him if he needed his space to get in the zone for the relay and he said he would love to have his breakfast with us.

His honesty, his vulnerability, his raw heart and his genuine interest in me and my journey touched my heart beyond words. He told me that he wanted to give me a copy of his book and as I walked with him, at quite a brisk pace I might add, we talked about my recovery from trauma and paralytic polio. We talked about our faith and asking God for help because our challenges needed a force greater than ourselves, yet a force that we possess inside of ourselves to get through the dark nights of our souls.

And after Dick autographed my book, Staying the Course: A Runner's Toughest Race,

he told me that one thing that humans cannot live without is hope. You can go without water for so many days and food for so many days and you can even be deprived of breathing for short periods of time. But once you are deprived of hope, the Spirit withers. I gasped as he talked about hope and told him that the title of my memoir is Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility.

He told me that I will touch and save lives by sharing my journey. I told him that he touched and blessed my life more than words could say. He knows that he has saved lives by sharing his journey and bringing chemical dependency out of the closet. He mentioned that often people hesitate to donate to his foundation because of the shame and stigma around chemical dependency. I told him that my mother was addicted to prescription pain medication. My father was an alcoholic who suicided. My nephew began using drugs at an early age and his addiction resulted in his suicide 3 years ago this March 4th. Dick's compassion and love, his warmth, his humor his passion and exuberance for life, for running and for using his journey to help others heal is overwhelming. As a retired social worker, as the daughter and aunt of losing two people I loved to chemical dependency, I share in his passion for the work he is doing.

Meeting Dick Beardsley has changed my life forever! Go to his website and meet him yourself! And please consider donating to the Dick Beardsley Foundation.

Monday, February 24, 2014

"It's a Fantastic Sport"

What a magical weekend in Hyannis. It will take me awhile to wrap my head and heart around all that happened this weekend in Hyannis. I hope I can convey some of the magic to you through my blog.

Tom and I left early Saturday morning for the Hyannis Resort and Convention Center. Our room was ready at 10:00am and we were able to get in a workout in the pool before lunch. We went to the Expo where I had the chance to talk with Boston's very own Bill Rodgers. I shared my story with him as he shared excerpts from his book, "Marathon Man" with me. He signed my book with, "We are lifetime runners. Let's run forever!" Bill Rodgers

As Tom took our photo, he gently placed his hand on my back and said to me, "Wow. Boston. You've got that mental toughness you know. You are one strong woman..."

After the Expo we drove the course for the half marathon and stopped at the JFK Memorial. Green grass, beautiful blue sky and ocean in mid-February:

At the pre race pasta dinner, we were treated to a feast of inspiration, laughter and tears by Bill Rodgers and Dick Beardsley.

Dick talked briefly about the day he had his duel in the sun with Alberto Salazar and his relationship with Bill Rodgers. He focused on the outpouring of emotional and financial support he received after a near fatal farm accident followed by his battle with addiction to prescription pain killers. Dick has a beautiful, raw heart and yes, real runners and men do cry! And laugh, and regale stories of races of days gone by.

Dick said that running is a fantastic sport and that many of the stories we runners tell have nothing to do with our races on the road but of the bonds that we as a running community share.

It is a fantastic sport and on Sunday, as I met up with my fellow alumni Race for Rehab teammates before their team photo:

Suzanne Showstack Adams, who I've known since 2007 and who I ran with in 2009 on the Race for Rehab team was also marveling at what a fantastic sport it is. She commented on where else can you be on the same course as elite runners? In what other sport do you get to stand side by side with the most celebrated men's distance runner in history.

And I would like to add, in what other sport could I, a polio survivor, cross the finish line of the Boston Marathon and be embraced and supported by a community of runners?

And in what other sport do you get to have breakfast with Dick Beardsley who, for a brief moment in the early 1980's became the most famous runner in the world - by losing a race. But more about that in tomorrow's blog!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Thankful Thursday

Dear Weather Goddess,

I am so deeply thankful for this day of 40 degree temperatures and sunshine. As you know, you have been creating a lot of intense winter weather and on this one day, I was hoping that we'd have moderate temperatures and no storm.

Why? Well you know the answer because, well, after all, you are a goddess....

Tonight is a very special night. After months of planning, it's time for Singing Boston Strong:Karis' Karaoke for a Kause.

We will be sending out thank you's but I want to publicly thank everyone who have made tonight's event possible:

To Karis Antokal -- thank you for your strength, your passion, your commitment and your being a little nuts to making your first endurance event the Boston Marathon (that's pot calling the kettle black right?). Thank you for being you and it is an honor to co host this event with you. Thank you to your family for donating the autographed Tom Brady Jersey for the take a chance drawing tonight and thank you to your mom for bringing you into this world 29 years ago on 3/2!

To Limelight Stage and Studios manager, Henry Wong for saying yes without hesitation when I asked if we could have our event at your venue. To Chris, the house manager who said we could set up anytime after 4:30pm and said he is so happy to welcome us to Limelight for our event. And to all of you who are coming out to Sing Boston Strong tonight!

To Kevin Fitzgerald, owner of Jacob Wirth Restaurant -- thank you for your incredible generosity in making sure that everyone goes home a winner! Kevin donated a $50 gift certificate, four $25 gift certificates and as many $10 gift certificates as people who attend the event up to a total of 80 people. We'll have a drawing at the end of the evening.

To our donors for the Silent Auction Items:

Rick Penn for his donation of Celtics Tickets (face value $350.

To our donors for our Cape Getaway:
One night midweek stay at the Inn on the Square Falmouth
Island Queen for four adult round trip vouchers
A gift card to Landucci's Restaurant

To Marathon Sports Brookline for hosting me last Saturday to promote the event. For your generous donations of a $30 gift certificate and giving us a pile of gloves to sell and keep the proceeds for Spaulding.

To Rick Leskowitz for your donation of The Joy of Sox Movie DVD's which will be used for our Silent Auction and a Take a Chance Drawing.

To my dear friend Lee Woodruff who always comes through for me donating 3 books autographed by Bob Woodruff and herself.

To Julie Ingalls who is the marketing director at Stapleton Floral Design - thank you for the $75 gift certificate and the gift of your friendship through the years.

Thank you to my husband and daughter for being support crew to me as I once again took up the reins for fund raising for Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. Hey at least this time we're not in training too!

And thank you to Spaulding Rehab Hospital for being there for me since October of 2006 when I faced an uncertain future and was terrified of what was happening to my body. I would not be where I am today in my healing journey were it not for your place of healing.

Here's to a wildly successful event tonight as we raise our voices and Sing Boston Strong to raise lots of money for Spaulding Rehab!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

And Now a Word About Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital

On my way to Aquatics Therapy Class this morning with Karis, I bumped into Suzanne Showstack Adams. From my soon to be released memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility":

I met Suzanne Showstack, now Adams in the fall of 2007. I told her that I was going to have a book of poetry published and wanted to donate a portion of the proceeds to Spaulding. We met for lunch at Legal Seafood in Chestnut Hill. I was still sporting my short leg brace and bright blue cane but was feeling much better since I had quit my job at the VA and took the summer to begin the healing process. I could experience Suzanne’s warmth and compassion through our email exchanges scheduling our luncheon. She took notes during our lunch intrigued by my healing journey. I told her how important it was for me to give back to Spaulding.

Suzanne shared my story in hospital newsletters. We thought that I was a remarkable recovery back then...Suzanne and I went on to run the 2009 Boston Marathon together as part of the Race for Rehab team

and we were together on 4/15/13 at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Suzanne and I hadn't seen each other since Tom and I took a tour of the new facility the week after the bombings. As she greeted Tom and me she said, "I was wondering when I was going to see you. I know you're here all the time." I noticed how we hugged each other just a little bit tighter ...

We reminisced and caught up and then I went off to Aquatics and she off to her work in the Development Office.

Spaulding has been a part of my life since October 2006 when I made that phone call to the International Rehabilitation Center for Polio at Spaulding. Whenever I needed anything related to care and management of being a polio survivor, Dr. Darren Rosenberg and the team of therapists have been available to me.

While taking the tour of the new Charlestown Facility, I saw the Aquatics Therapy Center

and took their flyer about their community classes. Every week, twice a week, since last Fall, I have been finding and building my strength in the healing waters of the beautiful Aquatics Therapy Center. It has been life changing for me as a survivor of paralytic polio and trauma and is the perfect complement to my running and my biweekly sessions with Joseph. I can feel for the first time in my 7+ years of my healing odyssey that I am on sure footing climbing to higher and higher ground:

This beautiful plaque on the grounds of Spaulding says:

Rarely does the path to recovery follow a straight line
Like a tidal stream, it bends and twists
It surges and trickles
It ebbs and flows.
That is why rehabilitative care must be fluid too.
Spaulding takes an approach to patient care that is flexible, highly personal and informed by a deep understanding that while every patient strives to reach higher ground, no two rehabilitative journeys are ever alike.

As wonderful as I feel and as well as I am doing, I do live with a spinal cord injury. Karis knows how to guide me and everyone in her classes, to challenge myself yet not over do. She provides me with support, encouragement, reminds me of how strong I am yet listens and is so understanding when I come face to face with my challenges.

Karis was at the Mandarin although we didn't know each other at the time. When I heard she was going to run the Boston Marathon even though she had never run a day in her life, I told her that I would support her run in any way I could. She is running for Spaulding Rehab Hospital to raise money so that patients' lives and the lives of their families can be healed after whatever life throws their way.

I know how Spaulding helps me to find higher and higher ground in my healing journey through the Aquatics Therapy program. It's a comfort to know that there are staff at the ready to support me as I age as a survivor of paralytic polio.

Please join us this Thursday at the Limelight Stage and Studios for Karis' Karaoke for a Kause with all proceeds benefiting Spaulding Rehab Hospital.

With your minimum $20 donation, you'll be entered to win an autographed Tom Brady Jersey and as second prize, a Joy of Sox Movie DVD.

And everyone comes away a winner. The owner of Jacob Wirth Restaurant in Boston has generously donated as many gift certificates as people who come out to Sing Boston Strong. One of the gift certificates is for $50, there are four for $25 and the rest are for $10. If 80 people show up 77 get half their money back, 4 get their donation back and one comes out ahead. And I must say, Jacob Wirth's has the most amazing sweet potato fries I have ever had in my life!

And don't worry if you're too shy to step up to the mic, we'll have plenty of people singing strong.

Cash bar and appetizers.

Silent Auction Items:

Autographed books by Bob and Lee Woodruff

Pair of Celtics Tickets - face value $375 to 3/9 game against Pistons

Gift certificate to Marathon Sports and The Joy of Sox Movie DVD

Gift certificate to Stapleton Floral Design

Cape Getaway package

If you are unable to join us, with a minimum donation of $35, we'll enter you in the drawing for the Tom Brady autographed jersey to be held on 2/20/14.

Read Karis' story on her fund raising page and make your donation today. In the comments section write "Karaoke."

Every day I give thanks for the care I have received and continue to receive at Spaulding. I bless the family that donated money for the Aquatics Therapy Center and all who have donated to support this place of healing. As Karis so eloquently states on her fund raising page:

Please consider making a donation to support my fundraising efforts as I work to raise $5,000 to benefit Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. Every dollar counts and will directly benefit the facility that gave 33 bombing survivors, and many others, their lives back. I am running the Boston Marathon to honor those survivors and memorialize those who lost their lives last April.

We ARE Boston Strong and will be Singing Boston Strong on Thursday. Won't you join us?


Sunday, February 16, 2014

We Run Together - We Heal Together - We Move Forward Together

When I woke up yesterday morning, on the ten month anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombings, I opened my email and in my inbox I received Christa in New York: Curating a Creative Life Through Ancient Wisdom and Modern Tech's blog post as I do every morning. Her posts are better than a morning cup of coffee to get my energy and creative juices flowing. I wept as I read her post:

Inspired: Don't Just Remember the Boston Marathon: Honor Boston and Its Residents.

The weather forecast was calling for a winter storm warning. L Street Running Club cancelled its Sunday long run. I had done 6.2 miles on the stationery bike with intervals on Friday and I knew that I couldn't do the bike again on Sunday. I knew that even though I "should have" taken a rest day, I had to get outside and get my miles in.

My running and life partner, Tom, told me that he could do his training run at my pace and distance and then do 'cross training' by cleaning off the ice on our walkway and driveway.

We hurried to get ready and map out our route. The energy on Heartbreak Hill was electric. Ten months later, runners were getting their miles in being very mindful of patches of black ice and slush. We saw several people we knew and in truth everybody knew everybody out on the course. There were no strangers. There were charity runners' water stops and they offered water to anyone who ran by. We run together.

There were several runners who were fighting their way through the hills. I knew that look and I smiled, gave them a thumbs up and told them they were looking good. They smiled through the pain. We heal together.

After getting my run in, it was time to head to Brookline Marathon Sports store to promote Singing Boston Strong:Karis' Karaoke for a Kause.

Despite the falling snow outside, customers came into the store and I had the opportunity to talk about Spaulding and Karis' fund raiser. Several people said they would donate on line and two young ladies from the Newton South High School Girls Basketball Team said that they would spread the word and come out to lend their voices to Sing Boston Strong. I talked with the staff at Marathon Sports and we had an opportunity to debrief about that day ten months ago.

When I got home and logged into Facebook, I saw this post from Ellen Gabriel, the manager of the Brookline Marathon Sports store:

Our long-time loyal customer and friend, Mary McManus, is fundraising for Karis Antokal and Spaulding Rehab. Check out her story here:

Thursday I will co host the first of two fund raisers to benefit Spaulding Rehab Hospital where I took the first steps on my healing journey over 7 years ago now and continue to find my strength in the Aquatics Therapy classes; and where so many of the Boston Marathon bombing survivors found and continue to find their strength.

In two months, as my friend Christa Rose wrote, the media will turn its attention to the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon Bombings. We move forward together.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Why Yesterday's Blog Post Wasn't Written Until Today - 10 Months Later

I had started to write a blog post yesterday. I was writing about how we are almost at ten months later since the Boston Marathon Bombings and about two months to go until the start of Boston 2014.

When the sun came out, and there was a forecast for another winter storm today, I decided to head out and flyer the town for Singing Boston Strong:Karis Karaoke for a Kause.

When I got home, the evening seemed to fly by and I never got around to finishing that blog post...with good reason...

There was no way that I could capture the sentiment of the ten month anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings as did my friend Christa of Christa in New York:Curating A Creative Life Through Ancient Wisdom and Modern Tech.

Please read her beautiful blog post:

Inspired: Don't Just Remember the Boston Marathon. Honor Boston and Its Residents.

and "like" her pages on Facebook:
Christa in New York

Compass Yoga

And follow her on Twitter @christanyc

along with her fabulous four footed companion Phineas @phineasnyc

Thursday, February 13, 2014


During the start of yesterday evening's Aquatics Therapy class at Spaulding Rehab, I felt tired and my joints were achy given the never ending winter weather. We warmed up by gently running laps in the pool. We slowly increased the intensity of the cardio workout so that by about 30 minutes into the class we were really moving. I was able to notice how I was able to gain momentum during the class and by the end of the class, felt this wonderful cardio high.

And that got me thinking about momentum...

There are many quotes about momentum such as:

Enthusiasm is the energy and force that builds literal momentum of the human soul and mind.
Bryant H. McGill

When you're that successful, things have a momentum, and at a certain point you can't really tell whether you have created the momentum or it's creating you.
Annie Lennox

And tying in with the never ending New England Winter theme:

I thought about a once blank page now a soon to be released memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility."

I thought about declaring I was going to run the 2009 Boston Marathon and seeing a year of training loom before me. 5 minutes of running turned into 30 minutes of running and then 1 mile became 3 became a 10K became a half and then a full marathon:

I thought about a whisper of having fund raisers for two of my friends running Boston this year for Spaulding and now Singing Boston Strong:

I can feel the momentum building as I count down 7 days to Singing Boston Strong: Karis' Karaoke for a Kause.

I can feel the momentum as runners build the miles and everyone counts down to the Hyannis Half Marathon; the premier training ground for Boston.

I can feel the momentum and building strength in my own life as I move forward, having healed so much of paralytic polio and trauma. And even when I feel tired or achy, I know that I can always dig deep and find that momentum that carries me through feeling incredible gratitude for all that is so right with my life now.

Monday, February 10, 2014

70 Days to Go - Stay Focused and Have Faith - An Inventory of Grace

During this morning's meditation I was recalling two quotes on optimism that recently came to me:

From Gil Hedley:

Optimism isn't merely a disposition. It is a skill, a viewpoint that can be chosen. Genuine optimism doesn't pretend that awful stuff isn't going on. It isn't in denial of all that the pessimist sees. Optimism simply represents a willingness to see the best in a given situation or person, notwithstanding the accompanying hard realities. Worth experimenting with!

And this from Winston Churchill:

My monkey mind was in full force this morning as I jumped from anxiety about two upcoming fund raisers for Singing Boston Strong to feeling the pangs of grief around the 3/4 anniversary of my nephew's suicide 3 years ago and various other items I threw into the mix.

And then I said to myself, be calm - stay focused and have faith and Martin Luther King Jr's quote floated into my mind:

I allowed tears to swell and then I took a grace inventory...I reflected on moments of grace in my life reaching back to when I was 5 and contracted paralytic polio to how fortunate we were on 4/15/13 to escape after the bombings.

I thought about Friday night's Kirtan and how people have been sharing my poem,
"If Only" from Elements of Healing
If Only I could stay in the sacred space of my spirit
to feel the delicious warmth and leaps of joy.
If only I could sweep away all the fear,the doubt
to allow my spirit to take center stage.
If only I could live in love
and allow trust to take the spotlight.
If only I could let peace wash over me
and watch anxiety go out with the tide.
If only I could wholeheartedly believe what i know to be true
and allow my heart to bathe in delight.
If only I could allow myself to experience the magic and wonder that life has to offer.
If only I allow my heart to break wide open
crushing the walls of protection and divine love comes rushing in.
If only I live my truth
and allow me to be my authentic self
when i throw off the shackles of the past.
If only becomes now.

I realized that all I need to do is stay focused and have faith and trust because time after time after time, everything has always worked out. And as one of my dear friends Mandi Monique Bateman posted on facebook:

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Two Weeks From Today ---

Show of hands -- who knows what is happening in Boston two weeks from today?

Here is a clue:

We are going to be raising our voices and raising a whole lot of money for Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital where I took the first steps on my healing journey with post polio syndrome over 7 years ago and where so many, including the survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings have found and continue to find their strength!

Here is Karis' story from her fund raising page:

On April 21, 2014, I will be participating in an event that I never thought I could: The Boston Marathon. The tragic events of last year’s race combined with witnessing first-hand the determination that the survivors displayed, has lead me to sign on as a member of Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital’s Race for Rehab Boston Marathon Team.

Many of you know that I was volunteering at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel last year for Spaulding’s Marathon viewing reception, when the bombs went off. Words cannot describe the scene nor the emotions I felt when I saw the second bomb explode. I wanted to run to the streets and help those who had been injured, but I was quickly evacuated and began the unknown journey through the streets of Boston. I was scared, but blessed to be in the company of wonderful friends. The streets were chaotic, no one knew where to go or what to do. As I ran down Huntington Avenue, it began to sink in: Lives have been changed forever.

As a massage therapist at Spaulding, I have had the great privilege of working with individuals who despite their life altering illness and/or injury, are determined to get back to their everyday lives. Those who know me personally know I am not a runner! I have never enjoyed running, but it is the strength and determination of my patients that has inspired me to run the Boston Marathon. The mental, physical, and emotional training that it will take to run this race is only a fraction of what those who I treat experience during rehab and for the rest of their lives. Each and every day I am strengthened by their strength.

Please consider making a donation to support my fundraising efforts as I work to raise $5,000 to benefit Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. Every dollar counts and will directly benefit the facility that gave 33 bombing survivors, and many others, their lives back. I am running the Boston Marathon to honor those survivors and memorialize those who lost their lives last April.

As Boston and the world count down the days until the start of the 2014 Boston Marathon, I am honored and proud to co host Karis' phenomenal fun(d) raising event Karis' Karaoke for a Kause happening on 2/20/14 from 8:00-10:00 pm at the Limelight Stage and Studios at 204 Tremont Street Boston.

Suggested minimum donation is $20 and you receive a Take a Chance ticket to be entered to win an autographed Tom Brady Jersey. And don't worry if you're too shy to step up to the mic, we'll have plenty of people singing strong. Write "karaoke" in the comments section when you make your donation. Cash bar and appetizers. Silent Auction Items include autographed books by Bob and Lee Woodruff, A Cape Getaway Weekend, Celtics and Red Sox Tickets, Gift certificates to Stapleton Floral Design and Marathon Sports.

So join us as we raise our voices and a whole lot of money to show that we ARE Boston Strong!

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Making Peace with Polio - Passion for Spaulding

At my husband's new job, he has a flexible health spending account which I learned I could use for massage sessions and for my Aquatics Therapy sessions at Spaulding Rehab as long as I had a letter of medical necessity.

I must say that even though Dr. Darren Rosenberg who heads the Post Polio Clinic in Spaulding Framingham and I might not have always agreed on my healing path, he has been there every step of the way to support me on my journey.

Here is what he wrote in the letter of medical necessity:
I am overseeing Ms. Mary McManus for Post Polio Syndrome, a chronic neurological condition. Due to Ms. McManus' history of paralysis due to polio, she suffers from upper and lower extremity weakness and pain. In order for Ms. McManus to prevent further decline and preserve her current level of independence, I deem it medically necessary for Ms. McManus to have Massage Therapy as well as Aquatic Therapy.

I am doing extremely well for a 60 year old with a history of paralytic polio. I live a full, vibrant and active life. But from time to time, I have reminders of polio - tremors, fatigue, weakness especially on my left side, coordination and balance issues that manifest as I challenge myself with strength training and finding my aquatic strength through the Aquatics Therapy program at Spaulding Rehab. Yet I have a heart full of gratitude and realize how fortunate I am to have been able to heal physically, emotionally and spiritually. This past weekend was a very busy weekend. Thursday evening a trip to Target to stock up for our water table stop. Friday grocery shopping. Saturday a joyful 7 miles and more grocery shopping. Sunday - water stop for L Street. Yesterday and today I have needed to take naps and I do notice that my system needs time to reset. Sometimes I do forget and get ahead of myself but rather than fight to overcome what is happening or experience frustration, I feel a beautiful sense of peace with the residuals of polio that manifest from time to time in my body.

And that brings me to the subject of my passion for Spaulding. Spaulding was there for me in October of 2006 when I was so frightened of what was happening to my body, mind and Spirit. I was a proverbial hot mess and had no idea what my future held if I had a future. Spaulding was there for me as I crossed the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and now again through the Aquatics Therapy Program.

I was in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel celebrating Spaulding and the Race for Rehab Team on 4/15/13 and now I want to be there for Spaulding to raise money to support two of my friends' Boston Marathon run and fund raising efforts.

With 75 days to go, we are counting down and getting ready to Sing Boston Strong at these two phenomenal fun(d) raisers to benefit Spaulding Rehab:

Karis' Karaoke for a Kause happening on 2/20/14 from 8:00-10:00 pm at the Limelight Stage and Studios at 204 Tremont Street Boston. Suggested minimum donation is $20 and you receive a Take a Chance ticket to be entered to win an autographed Tom Brady Jersey. And don't worry if you're too shy to step up to the mic, we'll have plenty of people singing strong. Cash bar and appetizers. If you are unable to join us, with a minimum donation of $35, we'll enter you in the drawing to be held on 2/20/14. Read Karis' story on her fund raising page and make your donation today. Silent Auction Items include autographed books by Bob and Lee Woodruff, A Cape Getaway Weekend, Celtics and Red Sox Tickets, Gift certificates to Stapleton Floral Design and Marathon Sports.

An Evening of A Cappella to Benefit Spaulding Rehab happening on 4/4/14 at Boston University. Terpsichore, Boston University's premier all female a cappella group will be your host from 7:00-9:00 pm at Sleeper Auditorium located at 871 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, MA. The evening features performances by Terpsichore, the BU Dear Abbeys, BU's In Achord and Bostonality, a post collegiate a cappella group. Minimum suggested donation is $10. Make your donation to Greg Gordon's fund raising page and in the comments section note that it is for the benefit concert.

It's been an incredible 7 year healing odyssey since I took those first very tentative steps at Spaulding Rehab's Post Polio Clinic. Now that I have found my strength, and made peace with polio, it's time for me to help give back. I hope you will join me!

Sunday, February 2, 2014


What a weekend! And what a difference a week makes....Last Sunday, I had a really rough run around the track but as runners like to say, for every bad run, there's a good run waiting to happen. On Friday I was back on the roads with a 3 mile run. Yesterday, I had an amazing 6.44 mile run that was filled with Pure Joy.

Tom and I signed up to be support crew for L Street Running Club for today's water stop. So much changed since last 4/15/13 and we rejoined L Street and have reconnected with the running community. While the bombs may have shattered glass and caused bodily harm and even death, the fabric of the running community has gotten stronger and tougher.

On Friday evening, we went to Target and got provisions relishing choosing what we thought the runners would enjoy. I even asked for requests on Twitter and Facebook. One of the members said, "no requests - just seeing your smile will be enough." Another said, "swedish fish please." Our daughter joined us on the shopping expedition and reminded us of how important having salt was on our long runs so we added pretzels to our water stop.

Often times, people make fun of me for being early, but today it really paid off. There was a group of runners that had left early for their long run and arrived 5 minutes after we had set up our water stop. They were so grateful that we were out there early. We filled bowls with pretzels, cookies, skittles and swedish fish and poured cups of water and gatorade.

There was a slow stream of runners and then a whole entourage of L Street runners heading for the water stop. I saw people I hadn't seen in awhile and met people who I had connected with on Facebook and Twitter. There was one member of L Street who remembered when I spoke at the Club in two pre marathon meetings. My favorite time was on April 15, 2011 when the then club President, Mac, told me he didn't need me to speak but at the last minute realized that the keynote speaker was going to be late. You can see my talk on my You Tube Channel.

Kevin fist pumped me and asked me if I was still writing. He told me he loves to hear me speak and told me how much I inspire him.

When the water stop got busy, we splashed and sloshed gatorade and water as we hurried to fill cups. Every member expressed gratitude for our being out there. We all expressed gratitude for the good weather! Tom and I told the runners that they were doing the hard part - running the miles to train for Boston 2014 but they said that doing the water stop also took a lot of work and effort.

There were hugs, smiles, pain and struggle. Because of my bad run last week, I was able to provide runners with a lot of support and encouragement reminding them that there is always a good run waiting after a bad run. There were shared moments of Boston 2013 for runners who didn't finish but are fiercely determined to get to the finish line this year. There was a sense of camaraderie and oneness and a palpable feeling of being Boston Strong.

When one of the members of L Street asked me if I were running Boston this year, I told him I don't have another marathon in me. He said, "When you say you don't have another marathon in you, it means you have at least one more."

I don't know about that but I do know that I felt honored, proud and contented to be a part of the #supportcrew for my L Street Running Club and look forward to a repeat on March 9th as the runners go from Hopkinton to Boston College on their 22 miler!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Pure Joy - A Fabulous Start to February

After last week's rough track run , I wasn't sure if this running beyond a 5k was going to be good for me. That's the thing about living with a neuromuscular disease, you just don't know what is going to happen. I've learned to make peace and accept whatever is in every step of this 7 year healing odyssey. I recently read Tara Brach's post, "It's Not What's Happening, It's How You Respond." My mantra is that I play the ball where it lands.

It was supposed to rain today. Imagine my delight when the sun was shining and it was 43 degrees outside. I planned out what I thought was going to be my 5 mile route. As it turned out I ran for a total of 6.44 miles at a 15 minute pace because I did not look closely at the route that google directions mapped out for my run. They had me going a route that was obviously shorter than what my Nike tracked.

The energy was electric on Beacon Street which is part of the Boston Marathon route. There were smiles and fierce determination on the runners' faces. You couldn't tell who was training for Boston and who was out to get their miles in just didn't matter because as my friend Elizabeth Comeau says, "#weruntogether".

I was feeling a little tired realizing that I had gone for longer than anticipated, but smiling and basking in the beautiful sunshine when I see a runner in the street who called out, "Mary!". He came running over to me and it was none other than David Brown former meteorologist on Channel 5 and now director of development at the Forsyth Institute. We hugged and as he posted on Facebook, "It was pure joy."

We've been friends for over 2 years on Facebook and we finally got to meet each other. I also met his teammate for #miles4smiles, Katie Eastmann.

What a boost of energy seeing Katie and David and sharing hugs gave me. I was smiling the whole way home.

I could sense the healing energy happening in the streets of Boston today. The cloud from 4/15/13 seemed all but gone as now runners are digging deep and getting ready for 4/21/14. The sunshine and the warmer temperatures seemed to fuel everybody's run and sense of optimism that yes we are moving forward! I passed water stops set up for different charity runners and felt the excitement that tomorrow, we will be hosting a water stop for L Street Running Club. Last night we did a Target run and got the necessary provisions.

I saw on Facebook that my friend Karis Antokal got in her 12 miles with 3 hills at a 12 minute/mile pace. Karis has never been a runner; she hated running as a matter of fact yet she is taking on the challenge of a lifetime.

On 2/20/14, from 8-10pm we are going to be singing strong for Boston Strong as we raise our voices and a whole lot of money for Spaulding Rehab. All the details can be found on my webpage, "Singing Boston Strong."

Read Karis' story on her fundraising page and be inspired and moved to make a donation. We would love to see you at Limelight but if you can't come or aren't in the Boston area, with a minimum donation of $35, you'll be entered to win the autographed Tom Brady Jersey. For those of you who can join us, minimum suggested donation is $20 and you'll be entered to win the autographed Tom Brady cool is that? We have cash bar and apps.

Oh yeah - and about whether or not I should or could run beyond a 5K -- at least for today - I felt absolute pure joy in running 6.44 miles at a 15 minute/mile pace feeling one with the Boston running community. What a fabulous start to February!