Thursday, June 19, 2014

#tbt The Marathon Sports 5 Miler: Success - It's What You Do With What You've Got

After my first road race, The Corrib Road Race 5K, we signed up for the Marathon Sports 5 Miler in July of 2008. It was hot. It was an evening race. I had just begun my running career.

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

Our first 5 mile race was the Marathon Sports 5 miler. It was a hot, steamy evening in July. We got lost on the way to the race. Tempers were running as hot as the thermometer because I was so anxious about running my first five mile race. My energy tended to wane by the evening as I was continuing to deal with the late effects of paralytic polio. We finally arrived and walked around trying to enjoy the pre race festivities. As everyone took their place at the start, I could see that this was a serious, competitive running crowd; quite a contrast to my first race ever, the Corrib Pub Run 5K in June.

Runners went out fast and Tom, Ruth Anne and I were in the back of the pack with a few other people. Even they took off and I told Ruth Anne to go out ahead of us. I experienced my first (of many) marathon training meltdowns. I cried as I shared with Tom all the memories of having kids take off and leave me behind that were bubbling to the surface. I was sweating and tired and hot. I couldn’t tell where my tears ended and sweat began. I told Tom I had no business training for the Boston Marathon. Tom was wonderful and he told me that I couldn’t quit. We would make it through this race and we would make it through every training run. He believed in me when I did not believe in myself. I did know, however, that if I didn’t finish that race, I would never make it to the starting line of the Boston Marathon. Alison gave me water and a high five out on the course. She was worried about me in the heat and wanted to make sure I was okay.

Despite finishing dead last, members of the Marathon Sports family who knew the story of Team McManus, had air horns and a truck on the field honking and blowing and cheering us on to the finish. Ruth Anne circled back around to bring us into the finish line. She was there at the finish line to give me a hug and celebrate my first 5 mile road race ever. I knew training for Boston was not going to be easy, but I knew I had what it was going to take to make it happen.

Fast forward to today. I am not going to run the Marathon Sports 5 Miler but will experience the joy of watching Tom cross the finish line. We will celebrate this summer classic with our Marathon Sports family.

One might easily ask: It's six years later, wouldn't you have improved in your strength and endurance to be able to run this race again?

Not yet....not this year...maybe not ever or maybe someday ...

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

I am at a place of peaceful acceptance in living with a spinal cord injury: the late effects of paralytic polio and the injuries that resulted from 9 years of violence, but by no means does my condition define or limit me to a life on the sidelines.

After 7+ years on this amazing journey, I realize that regular strength training on land does not work for me. I tried several times over with different trainers and different approaches and I ended up injured and no stronger than when I began.

Fortunately, Spaulding Rehabilitation Network built a new facility in Charlestown complete with an Aquatics Therapy Center. I am able to build strength.

In addition to twice a week Aquatics Therapy classes, one with 5 pound ankle weights and one that focuses on core and cardiovascular conditioning, I run twice a week. In my 3.1 mile runs, I work on speed with fartleks and/or a tempo run. I'm running from the inside out listening to how and when to push myself. I'm training for the Tufts 10K. My second weekly run is to build endurance.

I go for weekly massage therapy sessions at Sollievo Massage and Bodywork that incorporates Zero Balancing into the work. The sessions are a wonderful catalyst for healing trauma and the late effects of paralytic polio. The challenges remain but my attitude has shifted.

When once I felt really frustrated by needing to sit on the sidelines and feeling left out or left behind, I can now smile and feel the joy of supporting Tom in his running career. He supports me in my running career, helping me to train and running races with me at my pace. I choose races that are for all ages and all abilities that I know I will enjoy.

I had always experienced success in my intellectual and professional pursuits. It's awesome to experience success in my running career and on this awesome healing odyssey best defined by Woody Hayes:

Running the Race - February 2007
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.

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.

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