"The guy who stands 5-foot-4 dares to stand apart. he challenges others to do the same in their lives, whatever their dreams may be." Barry Scanlon, the Lowell Sun, March 29, 2000 in "The Last Pick"
The first time I saw you, you seemed larger than life to me. I was seated among the charity runners for the 2009 Boston Marathon. You were telling us everything we needed to know and more about running the Boston Marathon. If only I had read "The Last Pick" before I heard you speak, my anxiety would not have reached an all time high about running Boston. You reassured us that you were the last person to cross the finish line, but all I could focus on was the course closed at 6 hours and a thousand other things we were being told that made me wonder if perhaps I was out of my league. In "Last Pick", I could feel your desire to give others a chance to achieve their goals. Your deep compassion that was borne out of your own experiences as being the last pick and told you can't or you weren't ... over and over again was palpable on the pages of your book.
After that meeting, I told my coach and personal trainer, Domenick D'Amico that I was really anxious about completing the course in 6 hours along with the toll that waiting for the start would take on me since I am a survivor of paralytic polio and live with post polio syndrome, the late effects of paralytic polio. He was surprised that I hadn't registered as a mobility impaired runner with an early start. All it took was a phone call to Barbara Sicuso and a letter from my physician to give me the chance I needed to ensure a memorable Boston Marathon experience.
The next time I saw you was at the mobility impaired start of the 2009 Boston Marathon. You gave us the oral command to begin, "Runners take your mark, get set, go." As I wrote about in my People Who Are Boston Stronger blog featuring you, I was starstruck to be standing next to the race director for the Boston Marathon and having him give us the start of our 2009 Boston Marathon run. It didn't matter that there was an entire race to orchestrate and command. He was totally focused and present in that moment. We were all that mattered to him.
And that's who Dave McGillivray is.
Seven hours and 49 minutes later, Team McManus crossed the finish line of the 113th Boston Marathon and we raised $10,535 for Spaulding Rehab Hospital where I took the first steps on my healing journey. Because of your dedication and commitment to helping others discover what is possible for themselves, I was able to leave behind my identity as "easy out Alper", the last pick; a woman confined, defined and limited by her identity as a survivor of paralytic polio and trauma on the 26.2 mile course of the Boston Marathon. When I crossed the finish line, I was a woman transformed.
I had seen Katie Lynch's Boston Marathon run. As you so eloquently and compassionately explain it, for Katie to run 26.2 feet required the same amount of energy and effort that it takes an able bodied athlete to run 26.2 miles. You arranged for Katie to experience the thrill of a Boston Marathon run complete with a laurel wreath and medal. The love story between the two of you brought me to tears.
Although I certainly don't have anywhere near the level of challenges that Katie had, after reading, "The Last Pick," I am able to fuel compassion for myself for the effort I have to put forth when I run and honor and celebrate myself as an athlete.
I loved how you made sure that the men's marathon Olympian, who struggled through his race, experienced the thrill of breaking the tape as though he were the winner, defying the order to reroute the runners out of the Stadium in order to prepare for the closing ceremonies.
"I just didn't think it was in the true spirit of the Games to redirect this poor guy away from the Olympic Stadium and onto a grass field where about 10 people and 3 pigeons would be waiting for him. He was after all, an Olympian representing his country."
I got on the two way radio and instructed my team to ignore the order from above. We were going to send this guy into the stadium no matter what. I ran down the track and begged the band practicing for closing ceremonies instead to play a tune for this last lonely runner. They were happy to do it. Laborers were covering the track with tarp, and we asked them to rip up a section so the runner could go down one lane. I immediately looked around for a break tape and ripped up some white duct tape that was holding down TV cables. I asked a medical person for a black marker and hurriedly wrote "Atanta '96" on the tape. (Yes I misspelled Atlanta in my rush.) ... Without even the slightest hesitancy, we moved the Olympic road cones and redirected the last runner right past security and into the tunnel. He completed one lap and crossed the finish, breaking the tape I was holding. He collapsed in tears, as did all of us."
That Afghan runner gave all of us an opportunity to experience a true test of courage and athletic spirit. He finished, and I hope he felt a sense of accomplishment, no matter what the time clock said."
I laughed, I cried and was spellbound by your journey in life and on the roads.
There was an eerie foreshadowing about you being physically and mentally prepared for a catastrophic event. You were well prepared to meet the events of 4/15/13 with all of the conditions you created in your life as the book ends and you were looking ahead to the next 50 years of your life.
I had no idea how you felt about autographs until I read your book yet you graciously signed my copy of "The Last Pick" when you spoke at our pre race 2014 Boston Marathon meeting at L Street:
"I ran the 2009 Boston Marathon as a mobility impaired runner," I quietly said to you.
"You did? Good for you," was your reply and then you signed my book, "Set goals, not limits."
Your honesty, integrity, generosity and humility are rare qualities to find in a man who has achieved as much as you have achieved. You talk about the importance of having an ego in the chapter, "Ego Is Not a Four Letter Word". ""Ego" is simply my belief in my own abilities;its my level of confidence," you explain. Yet everything you do is to benefit others. You are deeply committed to offering an experience for everyone to achieve their personal best through DMSE events.
You mentioned how one of your favorite races is the Feaster Five. Mine too! At a 16 minute/mile pace, I was in the middle of the pack.
Out of your childhood angst of being the last pick, you have blessed so many lives through your charitable work and through your philosophy of putting on events.
The Last Pick is a treasure that captures the essence of who you are with all of your strengths and vulnerabilities. Reading about your journey fans the flames of my desire to set goals not limits while honoring and cherishing my own journey paved in part because of who you are and what you do.
I'm really excited to see how the next chapters of your life are written.
As you poignantly say as you end your book,
"If you run a race correctly, then you planned wisely and gave it everything, so that by the time you finish, you've given your all. At the end of my life, I'd like to think I gave everything I had and then some, right up until I simply run out of time."
My memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility" is now available on Amazon.
"Wait, I have one more goal," Mary McManus told her personal trainer in February of 2008 shortly after coming out of her toe up leg brace. "I want to run the Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab Hospital." Mary traded in her polio shoes for running shoes and embarked on the journey of a lifetime. Mary McManus was at the height of her career as a VA social worker when she was told by her team at Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital’s International Rehab Center for Polio in December of 2006 that she needed to quit her job if she had any hope of preventing the progression of post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease. In “Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility” Mary takes you on her seven year healing odyssey as a survivor of paralytic polio and trauma from her diagnosis, to taking a leap of faith to leave her award winning career at the VA to heal her life and follow her passion as a poet and writer. You’ll experience her trials, tribulations and triumphs as she trains for and crosses the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and discovers the opportunity for healing in the wake of new trauma: the suicide of her nephew in 2011, and the aftermath of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. This is Mary's journey of coming home to her human form free from the influences of the ghastly ghostly invaders who had invaded her sacred earthly home. Her memoir includes journals and blog posts from her seven year healing odyssey. This is her journey of transformation and her message of healing, hope and possibility.
I donate 50% of royalty payments through on line sales to The One Fund to help Boston Marathon survivors and their families. Copies are also available at Brookline Marathon Sports. $5 of each book sold at Marathon Sports is donated to The One Fund.