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!