Whether in running or in life, I find there are two greatest challenges. One is sticking to the training plan and the other is coming back after a setback. We go along on our path building speed and endurance on the roads and in our lives and then something happens. A layoff, a loss, an illness or for me managing the late effects of paralytic polio and trauma, that causes us to pause, to regroup, to reevaluate and to figure out how to move forward again.
In 2011, after my 26 year old nephew's suicide, I was not sure how I was going to move forward. I took a detour from my healing path. I stopped running and I withdrew from the running community. I found myself among people who would draw me back into the dance of family dynamics and who fueled my struggles as a polio and trauma survivor. Every situation serves a purpose and I am so grateful for the soul lessons I learned while I was on my detour.
After 4/15/13, I had an awakening and realized what was important in my life. The #onerun on 5/25/13 brought me back into the present and in realizing how important running and the running community is in my life.
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's been a slow, long road back but patience, pacing and persistence pave the way.
I started out with a walk/run at a half mile. Little by little I built back up to a 5K distance.
Training for and running The Feaster Five was a wonderful opportunity for me to come back into the running fold and rediscover the joy of running.
I reconnected with my friends from the Merrimack Valley Striders and made new friends when we went to Andover for a pre Feaster Five training run.
I'm so excited that tonight we are going to a Striders meeting where the theme is connecting with friends old and new.
I used my 5K distance to begin to build speed and then began to build distance. I held steady at 5 miles until after I ran a series of 5K races. Two weeks ago, I crossed the threshold to 6.1 miles. I can go the distance for the Tufts 10K.
I challenge myself on my 5K distance runs with tempo runs and fartleks but I am also patient with myself. I am running from the inside out paying attention to how I feel in my body. I know that no two runs are the same and there are so many factors that can contribute to how much I am able to do on any given day as is true for every runner.
I've learned that I can and do recover; chronic fatigue is no longer an issue for me but I do need to give myself time to rest and recover. I create an optimal healing environment for myself. I plan out my activities. On a day that I feel well and energized, I am so tempted to do more than what is scheduled. And then, more often than not, I end up not feeling well for a few days.
In addition to two runs a week, I go to Aquatics Therapy classes at Spaulding Rehab twice a week. One class is for upper and lower body strength training. I am up to 5 pound ankle weights. The other class is to build aquatics strength and work on core and cardio conditioning. Once a week I go for massage therapy at Sollievo Massage and Bodywork where my therapist and I work together to continue to heal mind, body and Spirit.
I'm definitely planning on going the distance. I am working on finding my distance and my pace. I know my distance for now is a 10K. I am grateful for every step I take on this journey on the roads and in my life. I know how blessed I am! And every day, I practice patience, pacing and persistence so I can go the distance and journey well.
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.