Monday, March 31, 2014

Singing Boston Strong: Spotlight on Tufts Jackson Jills

When I reached out to Boston area collegiate a cappella groups for Music for Miracles back in 2011, Tufts Jackson Jills jumped right on board. They rocked Morse Auditorium and helped us raise a lot of money for Childrens Hospital Boston and my husband's 2011 Boston Marathon run.

When I got the idea to do another a cappella concert, Singing Boston Strong: An Evening of A Cappella to Benefit Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and contacted the Jills, they immediately said yes to donating their time and talent to the event.

Founded in 1963, the Jackson Jills is Tufts’ oldest all-female a cappella group. We are a non-profit group, and we frequently sing at charity events, fundraisers, nursing homes, schools, and private parties, sharing our love of music with our audiences. Our vocal styles range from standards like The Beatles and Pat Benatar to modern stars like Rihanna, Bruno Mars, and Beyonce. Our recordings have received numerous Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards, been featured by Rolling Stone, and our tracks have appeared on Best of College A Cappella (BOCA) albums and CAMO best-of a cappella albums. We just released our 50th anniversary album, Moonlighting, in Spring 2013.

Their appearance on Fox25 news went viral last year after the Red Sox made it into the World Series:

Welcome the Jills back to Boston University with a sell out crowd all to benefit Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. Let's hit a home run after we celebrate Opening Day here in Boston.

Donate to Greg's fund raising page and in the comments section write how many tickets you would like set aside. We will have them ready for you at the will call table. Minimum suggested donation/ticket is $10 to reserve your spot for one of the hottest a cappella shows this Spring.

See you on Friday!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Singing Boston Strong: Spotlight on In Achord

When I reached out to Boston University's In Achord to invite them to lend their voices to Singing Boston Strong: An Evening of A Cappella to Benefit Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, they said that they remembered our 2011 a cappella concert Music for Miracles and would be delighted to donate their time and talent to the event.

From their website:

Who is In Achord?
Original Co-Ed A Cappella at Boston University Since 1990

Founded in 1990, In Achord is Boston University’s oldest co-ed a cappella group. The group is an annual host and competitor in the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella. In recent years, In Achord has received distinct awards for its arrangements, soloists, vocal percussion and choreography. The group is also hosts the Beanpot of A Cappella, an annual fundraiser that brings together college a cappella groups from all over Boston to raise money for for the Franciscan Hospital for Children.

In Achord was proud to celebrate its 20th anniversary in Spring 2011. When not singing, In Achord enjoys singing recreationally, listening to songs and talking about how we could be singing them and watching YouTube videos of people singing OH and harmonizing (we just can’t get enough). In Achord’s other interests include Thanksgiving dinner, Space Jam, cats, writing inappropriate website bios for new freshmen, and last but not least, bacon.

And on 3/2, they posted:

In case you have not already heard, In Achord won third place in what was referred to as the most competitive International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA) Quarterfinal in the entire country at the Berklee College of Music on February 16, 2014.

Talented groups from all over the Northeast were scheduled to compete in the ICCA Quarterfinal at Berklee on Saturday, February 15, but due to extreme weather conditions the event was rescheduled for the following evening. Although the date change originally had us worried that family, friends, and fans who had been planning to attend the show on Saturday would not be able to make it on Sunday, everything worked out and we had a full crowd cheering us on.

In Achord’s impressive three-song set consisted of Downfall by Matchbox 20, Choices by Bernhoft, and Gypsy by Lady Gaga. We blew the audience and judges away with our outstanding soloists, complex arrangements, and fun choreography.

And on 4/6th you can find them singing the National Anthem at Fenway Park!

Here they are performing What Dreams Are Made Of:

Patients at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital have their dreams of finding their strength again and with your support, these dreams can come true!

Donate to Greg's fund raising page and in the comments section write how many tickets you would like set aside. We will have them ready for you at the will call table. Minimum suggested donation/ticket is $10.

See you on Friday!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Singing Boston Strong: Spotlight on The Dear Abbeys

Back in 2011, I had this vision for an a cappella concert to benefit my husband's Boston Marathon run for Childrens Hospital. We called it Music for Miracles. When I put out the call to BU a cappella groups to help create this event, the Dear Abbeys were first in line to help.

In February of 1992, three gentlemen gathered to change the course of aca-history. Their goal: to create an all-male a cappella group at Boston University. After several attempts—and a few close calls—the Dear Abbeys of Boston University were born.

The idea was simple: assemble a small group of men who enjoy music, camaraderie and “no show-tunes”, arrange popular songs for voice, and sing.

Now—over 20 years later—the Abbeys have gained a reputation in the a cappella community for musical precision, complex and unique arrangements and an energetic style of live performance that’s difficult to match.

After winning the International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella (ICCA’s) in 2005, the Abbeys have performed in stadiums, on street corners and everywhere in between. Their unique style is frequently heard at weddings, corporate events, charity functions, high schools, and the greater Boston community.

Most recently, the group has focused on sharing their talents with students around the country. The Abbeys aim to inspire, inform and entertain—introducing young thinkers to the arts with the hope of initiating positive change.

Since 2005, the group has toured the U.S. and beyond, traveling to New Orleans and New Mexico, Alaska and Colombia. In the past they have been so lucky as to team up with musical heavyweights like Steven Tyler, Ben Folds, NOTA, Pentatonix and Ball in the House.

To date, the Abbeys have produced eight studio albums, four of which can be purchased on iTunes.

And when I put out the call for Singing Boston Strong: An Evening of A Cappella to Benefit Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital

The Abbeys said yes!!!

Here's their fun music video with a smash up of Toxic and Hold It Against Me

Donate to Greg's fund raising page and in the comments section write how many tickets you would like set aside. We will have them ready for you at the will call table. Minimum suggested donation/ticket is $10.

See you on Friday!

Friday, March 28, 2014

Singing Boston Strong: Spotlight on Terpsichore

One week from tonight we will be raising our voices and a lot of money as 5 premier Boston area a cappella groups Sing Boston Strong to Benefit Spaulding Rehab Hospital.

Between now and next Friday, I will feature each of the 5 groups who have generously agreed to donate their time and talent to our event.

First up is Boston University's Premimer All Female A Cappella group and our host for the evening Terpsichore

Just this week they dropped their album, "25" on iTunes.

From their home page:
Terpsichore (terp-sik-oh-ree) is Boston University's premier all-female a cappella group, established in 1989. Affectionately known as "Terps," these girls are the finest group of windpipes you'll ever meet. From Maroon 5 to Kimbra, Terpsichore's repertoire is full of favorites. Visit their facebook page for up-to-date information on where to catch them performing!

Follow us on Instagram and Twitter @BUterpsichore

Friday April 25th, 7:30pm 725 Commonwealth Ave

Terpsichore provided front of the house support when we had our Music for Miracles concert at Boston University in 2011. They said that if ever I did another a cappella benefit concert, they would like to perform.

When I contacted them last Fall to propose Greg's Boston Marathon Fundraiser, they were totally on board and offered to host the event. There is a lot more that goes into hosting besides just showing up on the night of the event and welcoming everyone. There is paperwork and coordination and wading through the wonderful BU bureaucracy. Terps brought it in every way for Spaulding Rehab.

We are so blessed that they are lending their voices to Singing Boston Strong next Friday.

Here they are performing Landslide:

Donate to Greg's fund raising page and in the comments section write how many tickets you would like set aside. We will have them ready for you at the will call table. Minimum suggested donation/ticket is $10.

See you on Friday!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

All We Have is Today - All We Need is Love

As I was driving down Beacon Street on my way to Spaulding Rehab's Aquatics Therapy Class last night, I noticed that the mile markers have been repainted in anticipation of the running of the 118th Boston Marathon. As I drove through Kenmore Square, I saw the freshly painted "One Mile to go" marker. I got on Storrow Drive and I could not process what I saw in the distance; thick smoke coming from a building.

Oh maybe it's just the smoke from a fireplace in the brownstones being carried by the wind gusts.

We had an amazing Aquatics Therapy Class. I could feel my legs building strength as I did laps with the kick board. Because we had a small class, we received even more individual attention than usual. We could make use of the entire pool since there were no patients and a small class. I was able to experiment with challenging myself using deeper or shallow waters and then talking with Karis, our therapist, about my experience. We did planks using a noodle and I could feel my core strength. I was "deep" into my mind/body connection. I had the equivalent of a runner's high after the class and felt the best I have felt in a long time. The aches and pains that linger with our never ending winter had melted away. They were replaced by soreness and a sense of strength and a renewed sense of healing on a deeper level.

As we drove down Charles Street the #weruntogether banners were flapping in the wind:

Traffic was backed up on Storrow Drive and the Copley Square exit was blocked off by State Police cars. A heaviness hung in the air although it was yet unnamed. Cars were uncharacteristically polite allowing for lane changes. There was an eerie silence as we drove by the fire scene with ambulances and fire trucks and a building that had been gutted. It was another moment frozen in time in less than 12 months in Boston.

When we returned home and went through my Facebook feed, we learned the tragic news that two of Boston's heroes had fallen and 18 were injured and taken to local hospitals. One of the firefighters, Michael Kennedy, had been a first responder at last year's Boston Marathon bombings and was training to run this year's marathon.

Hearts are broken once again in our beautiful city and once again we come together as a community to grieve, honor lives that were lost and see beyond the tragedy to strength, heroism and sharing love and caring. There is an outpouring of love at the Fire Station for those who were lost as flowers and food are being delivered to support Engine 33 and Ladder 15.

I am once again reminded that all we have is today; a lesson I started to learn at the age of 5 when I contracted paralytic polio and my life was changed forever and a lesson I learn over and over and over again. But along with the fragility of life, and knowing all we have is today, I am also reminded that all we need is love to get us through whatever tragedy and trauma life throws our way. While we cannot change tragic events, we can help each other heal through the power of loving and caring for and about each other.

My heart goes out in love and prayers to the brotherhood of firefighters who lost two of their beloveds and their families, those injured in the blaze and those who lost all of their possessions and to all who are moved by yesterday's tragic events.

Out of our deepest wounds we find our greatest strength, our most beautiful treasures and the knowledge that love is far greater and more powerful than any experience we endure.~Mary McManus

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

On Hope, Faith, Healing and Grace

Even before I looked out the window this morning, I heard the wind howling letting me know that winter is not ready to say goodbye anytime soon. As I opened the curtains I saw the barren trees, remnants of ice and snow on the ground, a cloudy, cold grey sky and the brown leaves that still cover our lawn. There was no time to do Fall yard clean up before the first snowstorm hit.

I know Spring is poised and ready to make her appearance. I know how magnificent that warm sun feels on my face and I rejoice when our evergreen bush mysteriously blooms every year:

This cold, harsh seemingly never ending winter seems to parallel our recovery from the Boston Marathon bombings. We are poised and ready to move on; to move beyond the harsh reality of the events of 4/15/13 and know with hope and faith that Spring always comes again.

There are some days when the sadness, the nausea and all of the physical manifestations of having experienced the bombings seem that they will never end. And just as there are unexpected moments of being swept away by the emotions from that day (and for me a long history of surviving trauma), there are moments of joy, gratitude, love, excitement, exhilaration, light and a deep appreciation for being able to see all there is to embrace in this life of ours.

April is right around the corner. My friend Tina posted this video from 4/29/13 on Facebook this morning:

"And this time next year on the 3rd Monday in April, the world will return to this great American this state of Grace."

I was dreading the arrival of two weeks from Tuesday, 4/15/14 and realized that I was struggling against allowing myself to just feel. And the thing about feelings is that once you try to fend off any feelings, all feelings end up suppressed. I was fighting the tears. I was fighting the depression I felt fearing its weight would crush me yet once I gave into those feelings and allowed myself to go to bed at 7:30pm last night and stay in bed until around 9 this morning, I feel a sense of renewal. Feelings of strength, resilience, courage, yes anger is in there too, and the power of the Spirit to not only survive but thrive rise!

I did not know how I was going to spend the anniversary of 4/15 but the Universe had orchestrated the day for me back in November when I experienced a "Coincidence" after Aquatics Therapy class.

Suzanne Corkin, Ph.D. and I were trying to find a time to get together for me to share my healing odyssey with her. In yesterday's email, she proposed Tuesday 4/15. I hesitated not sure for a moment if that was a good choice for me and then I felt Spirit leap within me letting me know that it is a perfect way to spend the anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings. I'll be sharing my message of healing, hope and possibility and how despite all the odds stacked against me as a result of paralytic polio, trauma and the diagnosis of post polio syndrome, I held onto hope and had faith that I would be able to find healing in my life whatever the actual physical outcome of that healing might be.

And as we prepare as individuals and as a City for the anniversary and then the running of the 118th Boston Marathon, my fervent prayer is that we are all able to live in a state of grace.

My memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility" is now available on Amazon.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

"This year's different...there's a lot of intensity."

Ever since I arrived in Boston in 1971, the Boston Marathon has been a part of my life.

From my memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility":

We woke up early on April 15, 2013. You would have thought we were running the Boston Marathon again. Tom and I had a ‘perfect’ morning together enjoying the coverage on WBZ TV and leisurely making our way to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel for a reunion with some of our Race for Rehab team members. Although I grew up in New York, I called Boston home since 1971 when I began my freshman year at Boston University. Following numerous orthopedic surgeries when I hobbled around on crutches, I would often joke, “No I’m not going to run the marathon this year, maybe next year.” Be careful what you say out loud to the Universe.

I saw a link to the WHDH news story "Runners stop for painting of Boston Marathon finish line."

Bill Rodgers said, "This year's different...there's a lot of intensity."

I love Bill and the way that he states things so simply yet with such eloquence.

Here he is at the unveiling of the banners this year with a powerful conviction about the Boston Marathon and Bostonians:

I was blessed to meet Bill Rodgers in Hyannis 5 years ago

as I was preparing to run my first half marathon ever and then this year as he signed a copy of "Marathon Man: My 26.2 Mile Journey from Unknown Grad Student to the Top of the Running World."

He is so unassuming and perhaps one of the things I love most about being in the running community is that the every day runner can stand and chit chat with elite runners. As an aside, Bill Rodgers does say in his book that he hates the term elite runner. In his book, he sees the Boston Marathon first as a college student in Connecticut. His roommate, Amby Burfoot is the one who introduces him to endurance running. He offers a wonderful historical perspective about the race.

When we were training for Boston 2009, our daughter happened to be sitting next to Johnny (the elder) Kelley's nephew Tom and his wife Dottie on our return flight from Puerto Rico. We had to get out of the brutal cold for five days and train in warmer weather. We were treated to stories about Johnny and an autographed photo of Johnny graces our living room wall.

The other day I was going through our Boston 2009 Memorabilia and came across the note they sent us:

This is a poster created by Adidas for the 2004 BAA Marathon. I had Johnny sign a few when we roomed together at the Copley Plaza that week, and I know he would have gladly signed one for your family if he were here. Perhaps it will inspire you to run a good race, especially the last 6 miles. Johnny was an inspiration to many of us amateur runners and he lives on in the memories of countless runners. You can get a copy of his book Young at Heart on Amazon I believe. You'll note that his forefathers came over to the USA on the SS Marathon!!! Keep on running as I do..We loved your website and maybe some day we can meet again.

We did meet again when we picked up our bib numbers for the 2009 Marathon.

This year IS different. And to be honest, I don't even know how to begin to process or where to put the range of intense feelings I am experiencing as we prepare for the one year anniversary of the bombings and as we get ready for Marathon Monday in just a few weeks. In yesterday's post I shared how we decided we would not be at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel this year and needed to be cheering on our friends on Beacon Street either at Cleveland Circle or Dean Road.

Part of me wants to savor every moment leading up to Marathon Monday. Being support crew for the last long run this Saturday.

Greg Gordon's Boston Marathon Fundraiser Singing Boston Strong: An Evening of A Cappella Music to Benefit Spaulding Rehab

Tom's running of the BAA 5K and then packet stuffing the following weekend.

And part of me just wants it all to be over with!

Instead, I will breathe deeply and abide with whatever feelings may come up no matter how intensely because well - this year's Boston Marathon is different.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Countdown to Boston-Moving On

It's not easy to move one.

I had to learn how to move on after contracting paralytic polio at the age of 5.

After 9 years of unrelenting childhood trauma, I had to find a way to move on with my life. One month after my father committed suicide, I arrived as a freshman at Boston University in 1971.

After being diagnosed with post polio syndrome in December of 2006, I wasn't sure how I would ever be able to move on with my life but I ended up running the 2009 Boston Marathon as a mobility impaired runner.

Three years ago, after my nephew's suicide in March, I wasn't sure how I would be able to move on. I thought I would never return to running and thought for sure that at that time, all that I had endured would finally win. But my Spirit wouldn't let that happen and I was able to move on.

And most recently there was 4/15/13....

One more long run and then taper time for those training for Boston 2014. For me, I have one more support crew for Spaulding Rehab's last long run next Saturday, one more fundraiser, Greg Gordon's Boston Marathon Fundraiser, "Singing Boston Strong: An Evening of A Cappella to Benefit Spaulding Rehab", BAA Packet Stuffing and our L Street Pre Marathon Meeting.

On the 11 month anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, I could feel emotions begin to thaw and flow just like the lakes, ponds, and reservoirs are doing here in New England. The time of busy-ness is winding down for me. It's time to allow healing to happen and move on.

As we countdown to Boston, I realized that I needed a new bodywork practitioner who could bring me to a place of deeper relaxation and healing through massage and bodywork. My previous practitioner and I were out of sync. I realized that the dynamics in our relationship were not healthy. I knew this time of healing was too important in my life to settle for anything less than what I needed to continue to heal especially as we approach the anniversary of 4/15/13.

I was so blessed to find my way to Sollievo Massage and Bodywork in Cambridge. My new therapist, Joseph Brescia, LMT is a trained mental health practitioner and has over 20 years of experience as a massage therapist. He incorporates several modalities into the 90 minute session and I feel a renewed sense of healing, hope and possibility as I take my healing journey to the next level.

I notice that traumatic memories from my past that still need healing are surfacing in my body in the wake of 4/15/13 but they are also being released to create space and freedom for me to fully live. I notice the physical sensations from that day coming to the surface. They seem to have a mind of their own but in truth it is the energy from experiencing the bombings, then needing to evacuate and all that was experienced absorbed in my body that is working its way through me. I continue to experience a deep sense of gratitude for how blessed we were to be spared so much that day.

And my heart is open and filled with gratitude for the blessings and the healing that have come out of the tragic events of last year's Boston Marathon. I had gone into the day with high hopes that perhaps this was the year Ernst van Dyk would win his 10th Boston. I had wonderful expectations for celebrating my 2009 Boston Marathon run with several of my Race for Rehab teammates regaling them as they entered the ballroom as I was once regaled. While none of that would happen and instead we were faced with a day filled with tragedy, I have been blessed to rekindle connections with people I had lost touch with since 2009, deepen friendships with people in my life, move on from relationships that were rife with struggle and old patterns, and connect with new friends through a common bond of love and healing. There is unconditional love and acceptance and listening with compassion.

On Friday evening, Team McManus, made a decision that we are not going to return to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel this year to be with Spaulding Rehab and the Race for Rehab Team. We knew that given the size of the team and the emotional frenzy that is sure to accompany this year's marathon, that being there would not give us an opportunity to heal and move on. I could feel my nervous system ignite when I thought about being back in the Suite at the Mandarin. I realized that I needed to make peace with what was and to allow all of the emotions to wash through me.

We will be outside in Brookline on Marathon Monday not far from where we live beaming love and smiles for all of our friends who will lace up their shoes and are running Boston 2014 as they move on from 4/15/13.

Saturday evening, I attended a fund raiser for Katie Eastman of Team Miles4Smiles. It was as much a group therapy session as it was a fund raiser. One of the beautiful people I met as a result of 4/15/13 is Elizabeth Comeau. Today she writes about moving on in her blog Day 28: The Spot.

Yesterday, my friend Tina Perry Karas' was interviewed on WBZ. Tina is one of the friend's I reconnected with by renewing my membership with L Street after the bombings realizing how important it is to stay connected with those who matter most to us. We have known each other since 2010 when I was a speaker at the L Street Pre Marathon Meeting to inspire the runners. In 2011, she was kind enough to videotape my impromptu speech at the behest of Club President "Mac" to fill in while Greg Meyer made his way to the Club.

WGBH news posted this article this morning with the theme One Year Later: At Site of Marathon Bombing, Gearing up for Another One. It features, Jon Masters a new friend I met through Elizabeth and my beloved Marathon Sports family.

And here's how two Boston Marathon bombing survivors are moving on after their lives were forever changed almost one year ago:

Adrianne Haslet-Davis dances again on the stage at TED.

As we count down to Boston, each one in their own unique way is finding ways to heal and move on. But none of us is moving on alone. We are moving forward as a community whose fabric has been made stronger by the very events that tested its strength. We run together. We heal together. We move on together.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Five Years Ago: Ode to Marathon Training-Poetry in Motion

It's fun to take a look back to five years ago when we were training for the 2009 Boston Marathon. What a journey. From a wheelchair, leg brace, polio shoes to running shoes, to taking a total leap of faith saying that I, a survivor of paralytic polio and having been diagnosed with post polio syndrome would run the 2009 Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab Hospital.

When I contracted paralytic polio in 1959, I was blessed with a physical therapist, Miss Holly, who would read Dr. Seuss to me before every painful physical therapy session. She would have me recite my favorite Dr. Seuss books with her to ease the pain of the treatments. It's really remarkable how years later, after being diagnosed with post polio syndrome, a "progressive neuromuscular disease" that I would turn to the healing cadence of Dr. Seuss only now I was the one holding the pen.

Writing poetry released my unconscious desire to feel healthy and whole despite physical appearances to the contrary. And when it came time to train for the Boston Marathon, my trusty pen helped me to visualize and harness strength fueling me through those long runs and to also capture my journey.

Here is one of my favorites that I wrote 5 years ago today:

Ode to Marathon Training - March 22, 2009

Blisters, black toes, aches and pains
A change in my routine
Long training runs, the hills, the sprints
Keep 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.

One more long run and then taper time. My love and prayers are with all getting ready to run long and show the world what Boston Strong is all about.

Friday, March 21, 2014

The Importance of Sharing Our Stories-Courage to be Vulnerable

I was blessed to meet champions Bill Rodgers and Frank Shorter at the 2009 Hyannis Marathon before and after I ran my first half marathon ever.

When I came into the ballroom, Frank Shorter made sure he connected with me amidst the thousands of runners celebrating after the race. He could tell that the run had taken a lot of out of me. I was shivering from the sleet that had started falling during the last several miles of the race. He put both of his hands on either side of my arms, looked at me straight in the eye and told me how much courage and strength I had to do what I had just done. He told me he had no doubt that I was going to cross the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon. He told me to hydrate, get some hot soup and take a hot shower. He signed the back of my bib.

Fast forward to yesterday as the media frenzy begins with the coverage of the 2014 Boston Marathon. I saw this Runner's World article about Frank Shorter deciding to not run Boston this year, although he had begun to train for it. He would rather return to covering the event for Universal Sports which is where he was when the bombs exploded last year. There was a line in the article that caught my eye:

Shorter remembered his own experience with childhood abuse,

I clicked on the link: Frank's Story from a 2011 Runner's World article.

Frank had seen me as a survivor of paralytic polio who came out of a wheelchair and leg brace to take on the Boston Marathon. I saw him through my starry eyes of meeting an Olympic Gold Medalist and an elite runner in every sense of the word.

When I met him in 2010 at Hyannis, I had brought my bib from Boston for him and Bill Rodgers to sign. Frank Shorter signed it: To Mary, You're unbelievable.

Neither one of us knew that we lived through the same terror and fear with fathers who were psychotic and inflicted unimaginable physical and emotional harm on their children. Frank had not shared his story until 2011. Yet the two of us shared this deep, powerful connection with each other; almost a wordless knowing about what it took for us to be where we were in our lives.

When we have the courage to be vulnerable and share our stories, magic happens. Walls come down and people suddenly say, "oh my goodness that happened to me..." or "that happened to a dear friend of mine" or "what a brave soul you are". People have the opportunity to look beyond the horrific acts of violence to witness the incredible resilience of the human Spirit.

I was even quoted in the Cape Cod Times after completing my first half marathon:

Mary McManus, 55, of Brookline completed her first half-marathon after making a remarkable recovery from a life-long battle against post-polio syndrome.

She spent time at the Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital and began running just last February. She competed in her first race in June 2008, finishing a 5K.

"It's like having a new lease on life," said McManus, who ran yesterday's half-marathon with husband Tom. "I was limping my way through life, but then decided to do something about it."

As we countdown to Boston, we are all looking beyond the horrific acts of violence to see the resilience and strength and courage of the human Spirit. We are finding the courage to share our stories and be vulnerable as was Shane O'Hara as the banners were unveiled yesterday.

I am so glad that I found the courage to be vulnerable and share my story in Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility.

We all need to share our healing stories and share the message of healing, hope and possibility!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Out of our deepest wounds.....

As I was writing my memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility,"

this quote came to me:

Out of our deepest wounds we find our greatest strength, our most beautiful treasures and the knowledge that love is far greater and more powerful than any experience we endure. ~Mary McManus

After the Boston Marathon bombings, this quote took on even greater meaning for me. As we near the anniversary of 4/15/13, and as we prepare for 4/21/14, I see this Truth being manifested all around me.

Adrianne Haslet-Davis vowed that she would dance again even though she lost her lower left leg in the bombings. And yesterday she did just that at the TED conference in Vancouver. There are many news stories covering the event. My favorite so far has been the Boston Globe's article, Marathon bombing survivor dances onstage at TED talk. And a longer article from TED, A first dance on a next generation bionic limb.

The banners are being unveiled today in Boston. A sure rite of Spring.

Boston's Mayor Walsh had this to say in a press release:

“The Boston Marathon street banners mark the kick-off of a world-class event the City of Boston is so proud to host,” Walsh said in a news release. “This year, we have the opportunity to reflect and draw inspiration from the strength and courage of all those affected by last year’s tragedy — by the heroics of our first responders and caregivers, and by the countless acts of selflessness throughout our community.”

As I have been reading news stories and look at the date on the calendar, I feel such a wide range of intense emotions. I've been crying a lot this morning - healing tears filled with sadness overflowing from a raw heart that has borne witness to the darkest side of humanity beginning when I was 8 years old; and tears of joy and gratitude. Tears of hope and tears that glisten with possibility that, as Hugh Herr said during his TED talk, "I didn’t view my body as broken. I reasoned that a human being can never be broken." It's funny that my working title for my memoir had been Broken Into Wholeness and then I came to realize that I was never broken only wounded and in need of healing.

My heart leaps with joy as I anticipate Spring after this long New England winter feeling as though the Polar Vortex would never leave us. Just as we feel that the pain and pangs of grief and trauma will never leave us, Spring always comes again.

And it bears repeating:

Out of our deepest wounds we find our greatest strength, our most beautiful treasures and the knowledge that love is far greater and more powerful than any experience we endure. ~Mary McManus

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Ode to Marathon Training-Countdown to Boston

I looked through my blog posts from 2009 as I was counting down the days to running Boston. I can feel the excitement throughout social media land and in real life with my runner friends as everyone counts down to this year's Boston Marathon: 32 days now.

The range of emotions that anyone experiences leading up to Boston is amplified in the wake of last year's bombings. The themes I noticed from five years ago were that I just wanted the day to arrive. I was mindful about really listening to my body because the last thing I wanted was an injury or to get sick. Even before taper time, there was a restlessness I was feeling throughout my body and in my heart.

Here is an excerpt from my 33 Days and Counting: The Waning Days of Training blog:

They say the final stretch of anything can often be the hardest to get through - I can attest to that! On Saturday night we were so incredibly blessed to have a marvelous turn out for our benefit concert. We are so close to our fund raising goal - only $332.80 left and we know people are sending in donations. We are certain that we will exceed our fund raising goal of $9,000. The concert was magical and we are so grateful to everyone who made it a success. As I look back on what we have accomplished in the past year - going from running 30 seconds to running 20 miles; hosting two benefit concerts; running several road races and meeting incredible people along the way I know it is a result of incredible faith, courage, determination and overwhelming love and support from so many sources - the most incredible Source of all being our Loving Creator.

Today, my daughter and I went out and ran 3 times around the reservoir - about a 3 mile run and we ran it in 38 minutes. That's about a 13 minute mile pace. I did not want to run today but once I got out there something happened and I knew we had to give it our all.They say that in the waning days of training, it is a time of great challenge - you just want the starting gun to go off! This is a journey of the mind as well as the body and my mind can take me to magical places as well as the memories of how polio affected my life. I know that I am going to finish what I set out to do - to raise money for Spaulding Rehab and to cross the finish line of the 113th Boston Marathon. Along the way, the fears, doubts and feelings of being a polio survivor have emerged. I am, thanks be to God, able to place these feelings where they belong rather than project them onto the fear of the future or if they begin to creep in, can realize their source.

It was indeed, a very sad day, when I collapsed in the gym and my life was interrupted and changed forever by the polio virus but I learned life's lessons of overcoming challenges at a very early age and discovering that God is with me to guide my footsteps and give me the strength that I need to carry on. And then, in December 2006, my life once again was interrupted - this time by post polio syndrome and life since then has never been the same. It has been phenomenal - overflowing with blessings, triumphs, tribulations, trepdiations, and more growth than I ever dreamed was imaginable in one lifetime.

This time in thirty three days as the sun moves lower in the sky, we will have crossed the finish line of the 113th running of the Boston Marathon and I give thanks to God for this amazing journey.

And five days later, I wrote this poem:

Ode to Marathon Training - March 22, 2009

Blisters, black toes, aches and pains
A change in my routine
Long training runs, the hills, the sprints
Keep 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.

As a way to manage my restlessness this year, I am volunteering at the 3/29th water stop for the last long training run of Spaulding's Race for Rehab Team.

It seems like only yesterday we were at 100 days until Boston. It will be here before we know it and as the sun sets on 4/21/14, and the city has run again, we will know, unequivocally that we ARE Boston Strong.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Gratitude and Forgiveness: Lynchpins in My Healing Journey

When I was first diagnosed with post polio syndrome in December of 2006, I was devastated. I faced a grim future of a progressive neuromuscular disease that would for certain land me in a wheelchair by now.

In February of 2007, I got still and felt this urge to create. I began to write poetry and themes of gratitude, feeling blessed, visualizing health and wholeness poured out of me. The first poem I wrote was Running the Race:

Running the Race
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.

That's right - so much gratitude filled my heart - as I sat in a leg brace, needing to use a wheelchair for mobility and having been told I needed to quit my full time award winning career as a VA social worker. I began to awaken to the blessings of all that I lived through rather than experience self loathing and anger for what happened to me.

That's not to say that these past 7 years have been easy. I have never worked harder in my life than I did and do in my recovery from the debilitating symptoms of the late effects of paralytic polio and 9 years of unrelenting trauma in my life. There's a daily practice of finding the right balance of rest, exercise, and engaging in activities I am passionate about with people who nourish and support me and leaving everything else by the wayside. I continue to heal, find paths for healing and practice an attitude of gratitude for the grace in my life.

With a heart full of gratitude and discovering how to forgive, I am able to heal.

An excerpt from my memoir:

I had a very ‘weepy’ day feeling a deep sense of grieving. I know at the end of our last session and many times
throughout our work I have said things like oh snap and they tried to f**k with me and couldn’t get me and that’s true. It’s cool to walk with a little swagger and to begin to feel a sense of freedom in my pelvis and to feel a whole body connection; a sense of embodiment. But there’s a shift in the way I feel. I feel so sad for the tragedy of my family. Not so much for my mother and her mother although I know they suffered in their own ways but a deep sense of sorrow for my dad.

Last year he came to me in a dream. I couldn’t let it in at the time. I wrote a poem about it –

Focus on the Healing

Focus on the healing not on the wound
at first blush imperceptible changes
like the first peak at the crocus breaking ground
we can only imagine
what flower will emerge after the darkness of winter…

I had a dream last night
terror filled my body in the darkness
my father the intruder
thunder and lightning filled the room
crashing around me
home made sticky buns on the stove
what a mess

“I never wanted to harm you”

Hyperventilation slows into steady breath
no longer raw and weary from the fight
wounds bound

roots grounded

peace descends
Spirit soars
only the trace of a scar remains
a reminder of the miracle of my life.

I know how crazy all of this must sound – well it sounds crazy to me that he never wanted to hurt me. I’ve gone through so many phases in this journey in my relationship with him. There are have been raging storms of anger and disgust and wanting to sever the tie completely and on and on it goes but I’m at this strange new place now that goes beyond forgiveness and compassion to this place of deep spiritual wisdom knowing it all was as it was meant to be.

As I proofread my memoir, I realized just how powerful gratitude and forgiveness have been and continue to be in my journey.

Dr. Chris Carter speaks to this in a recent CBS article about the Boston Marathon bombings:

“As bad as it was, what are the positives that have come out of this? How can we use this as an opportunity to grow and be stronger?” Carter said of questions needing to be asked.

Dr. Carter saw the strength in many of the survivors first hand. At Spaulding, he met with survivors once a week for almost two months. He watched their sadness and fear become anger and then resilience and gratitude."

I know how fortunate and blessed I am with how I was able to eventually emerge whole from paralytic polio and 9 years of physical, sexual, and emotional trauma which included torture rituals at the hands of my grandmother. And I am so grateful to everyone who nourished me throughout my life and all of the healing earth angels that helped me to find my way home after wandering around in my body and in my life feeling so lost and ashamed for what happened to me. Gratitude and Forgiveness are lynchpins in my healing journey. What are some of yours?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Fiery Determination

I sent out an email blast about the release of my memoir, "Coming Home: A Message of Healing, Hope and Possibility."

After she sent me an email of congratulations, I said to Diana Cullum-Duggan that while I did not mention her per se in my memoir, she was certainly an important part of my healing journey. She offered yoga at no charge pre and post marathon to the members of the 2009 Boston Marathon team. She said:

Didn't expect to be mentioned, Mary. I was a blip on the radar of health for you. You found a team of practitioners that have helped you, along with your fiery determination to heal.

Well Diana was more than a blip on the radar as she gave her time and treasure to support us on our road to the Boston Marathon through yoga and meditation and in post run recovery.

But she said something very important to me in that she acknowledged my fiery determination.

Last week we met with Dr. Chris Carter, the team psychologist for Spaulding's Race for Rehab team to talk about Looking Back and Looking Ahead as we approach the one year anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings and get ready for the 2014 Boston Marathon.

He and others who were in attendance who worked with the survivors at Spaulding spoke to how inspired they were by the determination, strength and courage of the survivors. Here is a link to a CBS interview with Dr. Carter: Experts think that anniversary of Boston Marathon could come with anxiety for some...

In the article and at last week's meeting, Dr. Carter talked about the importance of community for healing.

When I was growing up, I was completely isolated and ostracized; a combination of growing up in a home rife with chemical dependency and violence and the results of contracting paralytic polio at age 5. I cut myself off from myself, dissociating from my body and from others. By the time I was 52 years old, my body had virtually shut down crying out for healing.

My first sense of community was through Spaulding Rehab's International Rehab Center for Polio being cared for by a multidisciplinary team of caring providers. And then I went on to become a part of the Marathon Sports family and the running community at large as I embraced the challenge of a lifetime, running the 2009 Boston Marathon.

Physically I had no business running a marathon but spiritually and emotionally fueled by the love and support of so many, I felt a fiery determination in my soul and went from polio shoes in February of 2008 to the finish line of the Boston Marathon 2009.

Two years ago, after my nephew's suicide, I experienced a relapse of post polio symptoms. I would not stop and I would not settle. In the wake of the bombings, I returned to the roads after a two year hiatus and continued to seek out paths for healing. How blessed that I could find my way to the Aquatics Therapy program where twice a week, with fiery determination, I continue to build my strength.

I have been so blessed by healing angels throughout my life and especially during my 7 year healing odyssey after being diagnosed with post polio syndrome. I am especially blessed that somewhere, somehow, I kept hope alive through the most horrific events one person can experience and that my fiery determination would not let me quit even though it seemed as though I was doing so against all odds.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

"Welcome Back" - 11 Months Later - Don't Stop Believing

I love a cappella and am getting stoked for 4/4/14 Greg Gordon's Boston Marathon Fund Raiser: Singing Boston Strong: An Evening of A Cappella to Benefit Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital. As I sat down to write my blog on this, the 11 month anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings, I put on All A Cappella on WERS and the song "Don't Stop Believing" came on air.

How perfect as we prepare for the one year anniversary of 4/15/13 and get ready for the Boston Marathon 2014.

I was feeling really anxious about returning to the Mandarin on Marathon Monday. I knew that I had to go back and visit before Marathon Monday. What better time to visit than on the 11 month anniversary. We were at the Mandarin, across the street from The Forum where the second bomb exploded. Here I am outside the Mandarin before we went up to join Spaulding in the 2nd floor suite on Marathon Monday.

On our ride to the Mandarin, along Beacon Street, we saw a group of runners, one of whom was sporting a Spaulding Rehab running shirt. We opened the windows and screamed to cheer them along. Tom honked the horn.

Today we parked near the finish line and took a photo:

We look forward to going back in a month to see the freshly painted finish line waiting to embrace all the runners who will cross it on 4/21/14.

When we walked into the Mandarin,

the woman standing behind the reception counter said, "Welcome Back."

I welled up with tears. I could feel a jittery feeling throughout my body.

We walked up the stairs where we had "walked" 5 years ago after 7 hours and 47 minutes out on the Boston Marathon course to be regaled by members of the Race for Rehab team, friends and family.

From my memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility":
But nothing, nothing compared to that moment when we walked up the stairs or should I say hobbled up the stairs in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel to be greeted by a round of applause and so much love from friends and family and the Spaulding Rehab Community.

David Storto, the President of Spaulding Rehab, said that I was a shining example of what Spaulding Rehab was all about. He asked me to give a speech. Damn, I had just run 26.2 miles and was out there for over 7 hours. This man wants me to give a speech? Part of me was absolutely delighted! It was an Oscar worthy moment in which I expressed my gratitude to Spaulding, to my therapists, to my friends gathered for their emotional and financial support. Our final fund raising total was $10,535! And because I ran the race in under 8 hours as a mobility impaired runner, I had actually qualified for the Boston Marathon. There was a problem with recording our times which I did not pursue since I was not planning on running the Boston Marathon again any time soon.

And those were the stairs where we walked to the Spaulding Rehab reception suite where time froze and lives were forever changed on 4/15/13.

The doors to the suite were locked but we were there; on the second floor where 11 months ago we and hundreds of others experienced terror. Tom and I tried to figure out where we stood while we waited for Greg to find his wife and son and keep his daughter and friend's son calm. I told him how everything looked so incredibly different to me. I remembered the scene so different from how it is today and we both had very different recollections of our evacuation but did both remember the door we exited to go outside. We looked outside to where people were hysterical and dazed and where we had to decide which way to go and what to do. Today, the scene was peaceful. The blue sky and sun was set against muddy patches on the ground. The trees seemed poised and ready for Spring to return to Boston.

We stood for a few moments breathing deeply and giving thanks for the staff at the Mandarin who calmly led us to safety.

We went downstairs to have lunch at the M Bar overlooking Boylston Street. We had amazing service and food and mentioned to our waiter that we had been at the Mandarin 11 months earlier. He had been riding his bike to work and was several blocks away when the explosions happened. He shared with us that he hadn't witnessed anything but when he got to work, they closed early. We thanked him for the outstanding service and food so grateful for life's simple and elegant pleasures.

As we were walking back to our car, a runner passed us who was obviously training for Boston. She was turning around just shy of the finish line and had stopped to catch her breath. "You training for Boston?" I asked her. "With a huge smile she said, "Uh huh. Just did 18 miles but gotta finish up this run. Doing a 20 miler today." I gave her a high five, told her she looked great and she went on her way.

So on this 11 month anniversary of the Boston Marathon bombings I say
Don't stop believing
Don't stop believing in the goodness that is in the world.
Don't stop believing that we can heal and move forward after terrible tragedy.
Don't stop believing that we do run together and that while the bombs may have shattered glass and caused horrific damage, they only strengthened the tapestry of our individual Spirits and as our community as a whole.
Don't stop believing that all it takes is one spark of light to dispel darkness.

And in 36 days, 13 hours and some odd minutes according to the Marathon Sports countdown clock, we will say welcome back to the 118th running of the Boston Marathon, the oldest and most revered marathon in the country, perhaps the world.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Three Weeks From Today - Barn Raising at B.U. Singing Boston Strong

After months of planning, we are seeing the finish line of Greg Gordon's Boston Marathon Fundraiser Singing Boston Strong: An Evening of A Cappella to Benefit Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital.

In 2011, I arranged an a cappella fundraiser at BU's Morse Auditorium. In his opening remarks, Dean Elmore commented about how, in the old days, neighbors would come together as a community for barn raising: (from Wikipedia)

A barn raising, also historically called a "raising bee" or "rearing" in the U.K., describes a collective action of a community, in which a barn for one of the members is built or rebuilt collectively by members of the community. Barn raising was particularly common in 18th- and 19th-century rural North America. A barn was a necessary structure for any farmer, for example for storage of cereals and hay and keeping of animals. Yet a barn was also a large and costly structure, the assembly of which required more labor than a typical family could provide. Barn raising addressed the need by enlisting members of the community, unpaid, to assist in the building of their neighbors' barns. Because each member was entitled to recruit others for help, the favor would eventually return to each participant.

He said we tend to lose that sense of community; of coming together for a common cause but he pointed out how we did just that at our Music for Miracles Concert.

This year's concert to benefit Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital will be filled with many emotions. We are going to have a moment of silence for Lu Lingzi, the BU grad student, who tragically lost her life on 4/15/13. There are seven runners who were given numbers to run in memory of Lu Lingzi and are raising money for the Lu Lingzi Scholarship Fund.

We will be anticipating the anniversary of the bombings yet to quote Leonard Bernstein:

We will be celebrating that we can come together to sing Boston Strong and to raise money for Spaulding Rehab where so many of the bombing survivors were able to find their strength and put their lives back together.

Terpsichore, BU's premier all female a cappella group will be hosting:

The Dear Abbeys are once again lending their vitality and voices:

Tufts premiere all a cappella group, The Jackson Jills are coming back to BU to sing Boston Strong:

Boston University's In Achord placed 3rd in the 2014 ICCA Quarter Finals:

And when I put out the call for a post collegiate group to round out the program, I was overwhelmed by the response of groups wanting to be a part of the concert. Bostonality was the first to reply and I'm so excited that they will be performing on 4/4. They are not on Youtube - yet but check out their sound on their website.

So three weeks from today we'll do it old school at B.U. for Greg's Boston Marathon run, for Spaulding Rehab, to honor and celebrate all that we have been through this past year and to look forward to Boston Marathon Monday 4/21/14.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

"Easy Out"

On Facebook yesterday, the inspirational John Young posted this:

Thinking back to elementary school I was trying to remember those "playground pick-em" games. Was I usually one of the last people picked? Of course I was. You know what though, I often remember the person who was 2nd last was usually more bummed than I was. Was being picked last a bad thing? Nope!! It taught me, you shouldn't get picked by who your friend is, you get picked on your merit. If speed and skill was important, I was down the list. It was a FACT. If people picked me because they felt sorry for me, what would that teach me? The important thing was to rotate who got to do the picking. And that's what I remember. I got to be the picker lots of times. And you know who I chose first? THE FASTEST KID! Thinking to today though, would I still be picked last where speed was concerned? You bet I would be. Would I be picked last where ENDURANCE is concerned? HECK NO!!

A powerful Facebook discussion followed about how so many of us internalized the experience of being chosen last for team sports. In my memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility," I share the emotional and physical toll that contracting paralytic polio at age 5 had on my life. Those experiences along with 9 years of unrelenting physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of family members could have broken me and it almost did over 7 years ago now.

But something inside of me called me to break out of those beliefs. Training for and running the 2009 Boston Marathon helped me move beyond the taunts and jeers of my youth. It helped me to connect with the Truth of who I am.

From my memoir, the article "Running with God" which appeared in Cape Healing Arts Magazine:

I felt God’s presence as a long forgotten childhood memory surfaced. Cries from my childhood of ‘easy out’, ‘we don’t want her on our
team,’ ‘what’s wrong with her anyway?’ melted away. I remembered the day in gym when we were playing kickball and the entire outfield moved in as they always did when I was up. All of a sudden, I connected with the ball and ended up kicking a home run because there was no one in the outfield! I decided that today was a day for another surprise. I told God I wanted my daughter to be proud of me.

We were in perfect physical and spiritual harmony. Our feet moved in perfect rhythm; we ran hills as we had during hill training sessions and coached each other during down hills. God’s presence was palpable and my Spirit transcended my physical body allowing me to sustain a pace I had never run before. I felt the energy and cheers from the crowd along with the prayers from friends I knew were praying for me that day.

As my daughter and I crossed the finish line, the clock read: 1:29 – but that was gun time…our actual time was 1:26 – four minutes under what we visualized as our goal for that day and a good one minute less per mile than we were hoping for! The magic and miracle of October 13, 2008 shall forever be an imprint on my Spirit!

We can either allow the beliefs instilled in us by others to rule our lives and pummel us until we lose faith and confidence in ourselves. Or we can take a good, hard look at those beliefs in the light of day and pummel them into extinction.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Some Thoughts on Courage

“You have plenty of courage, I am sure," answered Oz. "All you need is confidence in yourself. There is no living thing that is not afraid when it faces danger. The true courage is in facing danger when you are afraid, and that kind of courage you have in plenty.”

― L. Frank Baum, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

The courage definition is traced back to the Latin "coraticum," meaning "heart." The heart is the core of the courage definition because it is the source from which the characteristics of courage emanate. Article Source:

It's been almost 11 months since the Boston Marathon Bombings. The anniversary of 4/15/13 and then the 2014 Boston Marathon are right around the corner. I toyed with the idea of running this year's Boston for Spaulding Rehab for about a minute realizing that it would not be a good choice for me to train for another Boston Marathon but I knew I needed to do something to heal my broken heart from this event that shook us to the core.

I've been a part of support crew for L Street Running Club:

Co hosted Singing Boston Strong: Karis' Karaoke for a Kause:

There's Greg and me dedicating Born to Run to Karis' Boston Marathon run.

And I've helped to organize Greg Gordon's Boston Marathon Fund Raiser: Singing Boston Strong: An Evening of A Cappella to Benefit Spaulding Rehab happening on April 4:

On April 13th, we are volunteering to do packet stuffing for the B.A.A.

I know how blessed I was to not witness the carnage first hand and to be able to safely evacuate from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. My heart is forever filled with gratitude for the courageous staff at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel who calmly led us through an evacuation route to the back of the hotel away from the explosions on Boylston Street.

Still the effects of the bombing are with me especially as we approach the anniversary and I prepare for Marathon Monday. Truth be told, the thought of going back to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel terrifies me. I have offered to help Spaulding Rehab on Marathon Monday because several members of their Development Office are running this year. There are 100 members of the Race for Rehab team and they will need all hands on deck at the reception.

I'm honored that I am a Spaulding Rehab Alum having run the 2009 Boston Marathon for Spaulding:

and that I am healthy and strong and able bodied to be able to volunteer on Marathon Monday.

But I'm still terrified and so I decided that what I need to do is go back to the Mandarin before Marathon Monday. I need to walk up the stairs where I once hobbled after running the 2009 Boston Marathon and where I walked with such excitement and joy for the first time since my Boston Marathon run last 4/15/13.

I need to walk into the suite where time stood still at 2:50pm and look out onto Boylston Street.

And I need to allow all of the emotions and sensations to wash over me as I along with hundreds of thousands of people prepare, with open and full hearts, to join together on 4/21/14 for the 118th running of the Boston Marathon.

Monday, March 10, 2014

The Joy of Running

Three years ago, if you would have told me that I'd be writing a blog today about the joy of running, I would have thought you were crazy! My running career began at the age of 53 and I thought it was a short lived running career because of the late effects of paralytic polio. On my seven year healing odyssey, I realized that it was not just the late effects of paralytic polio that took a toll on me mind, body and spirit, but 9 years of unrelenting trauma.

I moved mountains with a mustard seed of faith and trained for and ran the 2009 Boston Marathon as a mobility impaired runner.

I had a "relapse". I went back into outpatient rehab and returned to the roads with a vengeance in 2010. By 2011, and in the wake of my nephew's suicide on 3/4/11, I crashed again.

On 4/15/13, we had to evacuate from the Mandarin Oriental Hotel where we were watching the 2013 Boston Marathon with Spaulding Rehab's Race for Rehab team and get to our car about 3 miles from the Hotel.

Tom and I went on to do the #onerun on 5/25th and I realized that it was time for me to return to running and the running community. I learned that once you are a member of the running community, you are always a member of the running community even if you are not able to be out there running.

It was hard work to begin again and train for the Brookline Symphony Orchestra 5K on 9/29.

Seven months later, I am feeling the joy of running a 5K distance. I'm planning to run the Tufts 10K in October and 5-7 miles challenges me but doesn't overwhelm me. As I said in "Find Your Distance", find and celebrate your distance.

By not putting any pressure on myself to run beyond a 10K distance, and by signing up for mostly 5K races, I can feel the joy and magic of running. I enjoy being outdoors again and feeling the joy of moving with relative ease in my body yet I can also experience the joy that comes with a challenge like running on Heartbreak Hill, increasing my distance up to a 10K and working on my time. As the days get warmer and the earth comes back to life after a long, brutal New England winter, I feel the joy of Spring returning. I know how blessed I am to once again be able to experience the joy of running!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Paying It Forward - #supportcrew

Someone out on Heartbreak Hill stopped by our L Street Water Stop and asked if he could take a cup of water. We said of course. He looked at the table we had carefully and lovingly prepared and with a sweep of his arms he asked, "What inspires you? Why do you do this?"

Our first answer was - you - you inspire us. He was dripping sweat and had one more hill to run in the series of hills known as the infamous Heartbreak Hill before finishing his long run from Hopkinton to Boston College for a total of 22 miles.

When I got home, I gave some pause to the answer to that question.

We got up early on a Sunday morning and loaded up all of the supplies into our car. We drove over to Heartbreak Hill and set up table, poured water and gatorade and poured skittles, pretzels, cookie thins and swedish fish into bowls. We had ibuprofen, vaseline, tissues - lots of tissues and paper towel and trash bags.

We had a wonderful water stop partnership today with the family of one of L Street's members who did the long run while they did the water stop. We became fast friends. We talked about where were you last year and anticipation of this year's marathon. They embraced me and my story and said they couldn't wait to read my memoir. We laughed together as our water stop partner did running fashion commentary. When one runner who we didn't know asked if he could leave his runner's backpack with us we collectively held our breath. He could see that we didn't want him to drop off his bag with us so instead he took out the water bottles and left them. We talked about how everything has changed since 4/15/13.

We sent them on their way as the numbers dwindled and waited for a total of 3 hours to make sure the very last runner had a water stop available to them.

And I remember when...

When I was training for the 2009 Boston Marathon, there were often times when the water tables were pulled up during training runs because I was a real back of the packer but during my first 5 miler; the Marathon Sports 5 miler, Alison, the then manager of the Brookline Marathon Sports store waited until we went through to make sure we had our hydration.

When we went out and back to Heartbreak Hill for the first time, Alison was there to greet us when we returned to the store letting us know she was worried about us. I knew how she felt because I was waiting for my friend Tina to come through. Once she arrived she said, no worries, I'm slow and steady!

The President of L Street was in the back of the pack and she expressed a heartfelt thank you for us staying out there and for all we did for the Club.

We felt so much joy greeting runners from L Street and runners who were "running alone" as they told us. I told one woman, "You never run alone because #weruntogether." She smiled through the pain of her screaming quads. It was a joy to ask runners what they needed and to have what they needed on hand. Thank you to one of the L Street members who posted the shopping list on the homepage of the website. Ibuprofen was consumed, vaseline used to ease chafing and chapping. As one member said she didn't want to eat anything because her stomach was queasy (a feeling I remember all too well), I suggested pretzels with the salt that might help to settle her stomach.

There was one runner who came up from Atlanta to see what these hills were all about. He was so happy to partake of our offerings.

So while we were paying it forward for all of the love and support we received on our road to the Boston Marathon, we received so much in return. Sure, I could bemoan the fact that I can no longer run more than a 10K but I'd rather celebrate that I am back out on the roads; more importantly I get to pay it forward being a part of support crew.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Magic of Running

Yesterday my daughter and I went for our run twice around Jamaica Pond. I am reading Bill Rodgers book, "Marathon Man" and he talks about how he did his training runs around Jamaica Pond. I could feel the presence of his legacy and felt a connection to something bigger than me.

We have many fond memories of our training runs around Jamaica Pond. Even though the pond was frozen and we had to watch out for slush, ice and mud, there was magic, beauty and majesty in the scene. I remembered how I was inspired to write the poem Courage on one of our training runs. The scene was similar to how it was 5 winters ago as we trained for Boston 2009.

Courage - January 5, 2009
The fear of ice and snow and slush embedded in my soul
a training run in winter - the path to Being whole.
A winter scene - Jamaica Pond - a feast for eyes' delight
to witness nature's splendor and behold this glorious sight.
A leaf - a tiny dancer - skating free without a sound
God's breath directs her movements,as She guides her twirling 'round.
Families of ducks decide to walk or take a dip
a comedy of errors into icy water slip.
The branches now bejeweled with ice bend with loving Grace
sparkling diamonds' anchor water's surface hold in place.
God's hand a glove of glistening snow
hugs rocks along the wall
their heads peek out reminding me I'm answering God's call.
A scene I'd never witness if I let my fear take hold
courage triumphed, steppin' out with footsteps sure and bold.
Knowing that the pain subsides and Spirit can prevail
the Marathon is beckoning - through those miles I shall sail.

We saw families of ducks and the snow covered rocks and we delighted in the scene. We laughed as we reminisced about the day that Tom and I lost each other going around - emphasize around - Jamaica Pond.

From my blog 3/29/09:

And who could EVER forget us losing each other around - emphasize the word a-round Jamaica Pond. Tom had stopped at the car to fill up the water bottles and get some snacks. He had his iPod on really loudly. I was in the zone and ran by him. I saw him looking for me in the opposite direction and yelled to him that I was over here. I felt so great and the weather was wonderful that I did not want to interrupt my rhythm. Finally, my daughter who had been going at her own pace came running up to me - where were you she asked? (well duh, we're going around in a circle) Dad is worried sick about you. He thought that since you had to go to the bathroom (and the bathrooms were not open yet) that you went off the trail and went to pee in the woods). We finally all caught up with one another and laughed so hard.

We are doing support crew tomorrow for L Street so we needed to get in our 5 miler today. The sun was shining and I could just tell it was going to be a great day for a run. I layered because it was chilly and there's still a lot of snow and ice on the ground. Once we got into the sunshine, we began to peel off layers.

And as Tom and I are heading down Beacon Street, I hear someone call my name from behind me. It was none other than David Brown - again! He said "This is my lucky day." Well it was our lucky day for sure. As David ran off to finish his long run I let out a yell for Forsyth Team Miles4Smiles.

Runners were out by the hundreds today many sporting their Boston Strong t shirts. The winter chill is leaving the air. The sun is warmer and the birds are singing strong. There is magic in the air - the magic of running - and the magic of Boston getting ready for the 118th Boston Marathon.