Tuesday, June 10, 2014

#ThankfulTuesday The Courage to Start

It took a lot of courage for me to choose to run the 5K rather than opt for the 2 mile walk at the Father Bullock Charity Run Walk Shuffle. It was an evening race. I was unfamiliar with the course and it was a relatively fast field although the last two runners to cross the finish line in 2013 and 2012 were at a pace well within my reach. They, however, were not part of the field on Sunday evening and Team McManus brought up the rear in style with a motorcycle police escort.

I wrote my race report in yesterday's blog #MondayMotivation.

I was reflecting on where my courage to start comes from. In reading Bill Rodgers, The Marathon Man and Dave McGillivray's The Last Pick, they talk about the people who lit that spark within them helping them to believe in themselves.

When I was 9 and 10 years old, I went to Badger Day Camp in Larchmont, New York.

My physiatrist who was helping me to recover from paralytic polio suggested the camp because of its emphasis on being an all inclusive camp with a low camper to counselor ratio and swimming. I learned how to swim at Badger. I always felt a part of the Camp community and counselors created an atmosphere of acceptance for all abilities. They encouraged me to do what I could do on the athletic field. They helped me to hone my archery and riflery skills where I could easily earn medals. My time at Badger was a healing balm for the violence my body endured every night. It was also a healing balm for the bullying and teasing I endured in school as a survivor of polio.

Joseph Stetz was on his way to becoming an Olympian. Instead, he gave up becoming an Olympian to pursue his career as a doctor. I can only imagine how many lives he blessed in his career as a cardiothoracic surgeon at St. Elizabeth's Hospital. He was my swimming counselor and in my 2nd and what would sadly be my last year at Badger due to health issues related to polio, he asked me to swim the butterfly in the Badger Olympics.

I thought he was crazy. He explained to me that there were only two other campers signed up to compete in the butterfly in my division. He said that it didn't matter what my time was. He wanted me to go out there and swim the best that I could possibly swim. He said that I was guaranteed my place on the medal stand and that I would earn my bronze medal (which as I recall was a plaque) for having the courage to swim in a race that no one would else would sign on for.

How could I refuse him? He was about 6'2" tall and in amazing physical shape. He told me that he would help me train for the event. He coached me on my form and breathing. He helped me with finding the courage to jump off the starting block into the pool and coached me on what form would give me the best start. He "got" me and what I needed in order to succeed mind, body and Spirit.

Badger Olympics Day arrived. He helped to calm my nerves. We both knew that one way or another I was going to finish the race. As I write this I can remember the tremendous effort it took for me to finish that race. But I did it! And I proudly took my place on the medal stand.

Joseph gave me his address on the last day of Camp and encouraged me to stay in touch with him. I wrote to him about the medical challenges I was facing and he wrote back beautiful letters of support. He was in medical school at the time.

We lost contact through the years until one day in December 2004, I was reading the Boston Globe and saw his obituary. I was stunned for so many reasons not the least of which was I worked as a psychiatric social worker at St. Elizabeth's Hospital and he was on staff as a cardiothoracic surgeon. He died at the age of 62 in a single car accident a few months after he retired.

There is a Joseph Stetz Memorial Scholarship which awards $1,000 to one male and one female graduating senior who will be attending college in the fall. Selection criteria include swimming accomplishments, academic achievement, community service, and an essay on how swimming has had a positive impact on your scholastic and personal growth, all as further outlined in the application.

His legacy lives on in so many ways!

I know on some level, I found the courage to start running because of the seeds he planted in my youth. I have been blessed to finish every training run and every race I ever started and I'm sure he's been watching over me.

Never underestimate the impact you have on another person. It's been 50 years since Joseph invited me to swim the butterfly in the Badger Olympics, yet to this day, because of him, I have the courage to start over and over and over again! And what sweet rewards we receive when we have the courage to start!

I saw this photo posted by Mike Robbins on Facebook that seemed a fitting way to end today's post:

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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