Our run club guru, Spencer Aston, sent out an email saying that The Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon was in need of volunteers and Marathon Sports Run Club Brookline was going to volunteer at the water stops.
I knew that on the day of the half marathon I was running the Father Bullock Charity Road Race so decided to sign up to do Bib Pick Up at the Expo.
As a sidebar, it's a thrill to see what goes on behind the scenes to put together a race. I've done packet stuffing for the Boston Marathon, a water stop for the Run to Remember and at the BAA 10K will be helping with wave starts and distributing finisher medals. I'll be doing t shirt and number pick up for L Street's Jim Kane Sugar Bowl run.
I arrived early to the Conte Forum and while walking around just happened to see my good friend Elizabeth Coumeau who is now the digital editor for Runner's World. When I signed up to volunteer, I had no idea that Runner's World was the organizer of the weekend's festivities nor did I know about the scope of the weekend's activities until I started receiving emails as a volunteer. I was saying yes to represent Run Club in what I believed to be a small race that was in need of volunteers.
Elizabeth took this selfie of our reunion:
We caught up for a few minutes and then in Elizabeth style she took off to work. I found the staff person coordinating volunteers for Bib pick up. There was bib pick up for the 5K, the 10K, the Five and Dime (those running both the 5 and 10K), the half and the Hat Trick (people running the 5, 10 and half marathon).
I chose to do Bib pick up for the Half Marathon.
The first person I met at our table was Alain. We asked each other how we came to volunteer for the event. We chit chatted and two more volunteers joined us. Maggie, the wife of Chris Kraft who is an editor for Runner's World and Suzanne Perreault, managing editor of Runner's World.
At a little after 3 pm on Friday afternoon, the Conte Forum was swelling with runners. We commented to each other how it felt as though it were a holiday in Boston. The energy was electric.
We were busy handing out bibs checking names if the bib had a name on it and double checking runners' numbers.
One runner in particular gave me his number. "Amby?" I said reading the name on his bib. And then I gasped. "As in Amby Burfoot?" I said with school girl giddiness. He smiled ever so warmly and said, "Well yes, I guess that would be me."
I told him how much I enjoyed reading the stories about how he helped to encourage Bill Rodgers natural running ability in Marathon Man and the articles he wrote post 4/15/13 and as we anticipated the running of this year's marathon. He smiled and I said, "Could I get your autograph or could I get a photo? Oh my husband is going to be so jealous because he really wanted to meet you."
His wife graciously took the photo (using Bill Rodgers signature thumbs up)
I told him that now we would have to come to his book signing at the Expo on Saturday afternoon.
As the shift wore on, Alain told me the back story for RaceMenu and RACE, Run Against Cancer Events. His voice was so familiar to me and I couldn't figure out why until he told me that he was the race director for the #onerun. I said, "Oh you're J Alain Ferry right?"
We talked about the #onerun and how important an event it was in our healing after 4/15/13.
From my memoir, "Coming Home:A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility":
“Oh look they are doing a #onerun tomorrow,” Tom said.
“I am terrified to be a part of that,” I answered.
“Then we have to register,” Tom said.
Tonight I realize there is another layer to all of this healing: the Boston Marathon bombings. It still causes the hair on the back of my neck to write those words. Tomorrow morning, Tom and I are going to walk the last mile of the Boston Marathon and to walk the part of Boylston Street that I’ve been afraid to return to....
The moving pre-race ceremony began including 30 seconds of silence for those who lost their lives in the bombings. There was music and inspirational speeches and not a dry eye in the crowd as the church choir from where 8-year-old Martin Richard who was killed in the blast, made his first communion, sang the National Anthem. Tom and I had our arms around each other. Everyone was in a spiritual embrace.
And then we were off crossing the one mile to go marker in Kenmore Square where four years ago, Tom, our daughter
Ruth Anne and I ran toward the finish line. I ran the 2009 Boston Marathon for those who couldn't and for those who were told they shouldn't run or would never be able to run again. Back then I was delivering a message of healing, hope and possibility. Today I was one with the survivors knowing they have a long road ahead for them but knowing that they, like me, would be able to go the distance.
We got to Hereford Street and I took a deep breath, as I knew we were going back to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel and passing The Forum where the second bomb exploded. As we passed in front of the Mandarin, we stopped for a brief moment to give our thanks to the staff who ensured our safety. The two doormen who had been there on Marathon Monday while we watched the race before going upstairs to join the Spaulding Rehab party were there. How healing and wonderful to see them, express our gratitude and be back on a part of Boylston Street I was afraid to visit.
I told Tom I was ready to sprint to the finish line. I said a prayer as we ran by The Forum. I sobbed as the crowds were cheering and we were surrounded by runners with their bib numbers from Marathon Monday and thousands of people who had been touched by the tragic events of April 15. At the finish line we shared stories with one another. We hugged. We cried. We healed...
Despite the cold and the rain, the love and energy of the community kept us warm. The event organizers did an amazing job at honoring the victims of the bombing and the survivors – “You are out there to run for those who can’t.”
That’s why I ran the marathon in ’09 – and here I was running the last mile with a deep connection to the survivors of the bombing knowing in every fiber of my being what it’s like to work to regain mobility and to recover from trauma where you face death. There were so many emotions as we listened to the pre-race ceremony speakers and then as we reclaimed Boylston Street as our own.
It was because of the #onerun that I realized I needed to get back to running and the running community and here I was standing shoulder to shoulder with the race director who organized the event that got me back on my path.
I hadn't planned on running any races between the Father Bullock Charity Race and the Tufts 10K but how can I resist the Bill Rodgers Inaugural 5K at my alma mater Boston College to benefit prostate cancer which Alain is organizing.
When Elizabeth worked at the Boston Globe, she was tweeting about the Boston.com Spectacle Island Run. I wasn't going to run it after she left the Globe but she is planning to come up for the race and well truth be told, Alain is awesome at pitching races. I've added that to my race calendar as Elizabeth had told me that it was a race for all ages and all abilities.
Tom came to join me at the Expo. He could feel how infectious the energy was for the weekend. He signed up for the Five and Dime to get in his long run for the weekend. He took first in his age group for the Five and Dime and placed 3rd in his age group in the 5K.
and on his way home from the race, Tom bumped into our dear friend David Brown who was heading over to pick up his bib:
On Saturday afternoon Team McManus returned to the Conte Forum for the book signing. Amby warmly embraced us and signed, "The Runner's World Big Book of Marathon and Half Marathon Training" which I will be pouring over as I plan for a half in 2015:
To Team McManus: Congratualtions on all your running together Amby Burfoot
and Jen Van Allen who was a co author of the book signed:
Running makes every day better. Enjoy the journey!
It sure does! We are enjoying the journey ... and it's amazing who you meet and what happens when you say yes.
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.