Friday, July 18, 2014

A Debt of Gratitude to Marathon Woman K.V. Switzer "A girl can't run the Boston Marathon" - oh yes she can!

I just finished reading Kathrine Switzer's "Marathon Woman", best known as the woman who created quite a stir at the 1967 Boston Marathon wearing bib number 261. Jock Semple, the race director jumped off of the press truck when he realized there was a woman running in 'his race' and tried to physically push her off the course. He ripped off her bib number on her back. Her boyfriend at the time pushed Jock out of the way and she went on to finish the race in 4 hours and 20 minutes.

The moment she crossed the finish line, she knew her life had been changed forever. The experience ignited the fire in her soul. She was only 19 years old and still in college yet she was aware on some level of what she was being called to do.

Today we don't think much about being able to compete in all female races or that there is a women's marathon event in the Olympics. This year marks the 30th year of the inaugural women's marathon event in the Olympics won by New England's very own Joan Benoit Samuelson. It was the tireless efforts of Kathrine Switzer that gives women this opportunity. But for Kathrine, her mission goes beyond women having the right to compete in races. For Kathrine, her mission and passion is all about bringing the transformational power of running to women worldwide. She calls running "The Secret Weapon." She didn't want to keep the secret weapon she discovered while running a mile around her back yard a secret. Here she is describing the life changing moment when her military father responds to her telling him she wanted to be a cheerleader:

Kathrine highlights the culture of what it was like to grow up female in the 1960's. While the women in my family took the cultural stereotypes to the extreme, I realized that their values and myths of what it meant to be female was being reinforced by the sociocultural norms of the time.

Kathrine used her marketing and PR strategies to both work within the framework of the cultural norms to make inroads in the female and societal psyche about women's abilities and to blaze trails through her uncanny ability to build collaborative relationships in the midst of conflict.

Kathrine believes that women have incredible potential if they have the opportunity and belief. Through organizing races on a global scale, she changed women's lives. There is power in crossing a finish line and getting a medal around your neck. You do something you never thought you'd be able to do. For me as a survivor of paralytic polio, and childhood domestic violence and having been diagnosed with post polio syndrome, every training run and every race is a victory for me. Every step empowers me and takes me into the present moment leaving behind all that went before.

Kathrine blazed the trail for all of us to experience the transformational power of running.

My breath catches for a moment when I realize that were it not for Kathrine's courage, passion, ability for community organization and activism on a global scale (often sacrificing her health and her personal life for the cause), that the Boston Marathon would not have been a part of my journey. Nor would I be training for the Tufts 10K in October.

To K.V. Switzer, Marathon Woman and so much more, I owe a debt of gratitude.

"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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