I posted this picture on Facebook yesterday and received many wonderful comments so I decided to use it for today's blog.
We took our place at the mobility impaired start on the morning of 4/20/2009. Dave McGilivray gave us the voice command, runners take your mark, get set, go. I can still remember everything so clearly. I felt as though it was just like a regular training run. Going off at 9 am the crowds were sparse once we left the starting line behind us. I remember feeling there was a certain surreal quality about actually being out on the Boston Marathon course.
We had run every part of the course except the stretch from Hopkinton to Framingham. We passed through Ashland and as we got closer to Framingham, the crowds seemed to appear out of nowhere as if we were on a movie set. The waves of elite runners were passing us. I remember the thrill of seeing the likes of Ryan Hall and the Kenyans pass us. We joked that we were holding back, planning our surge once we got to the Newton Hills.
The Wellesley College scream tunnel can only be experienced not described.
As we ran through Wellesley Center, spectators could see that I was not your average runner. They cheered and screamed for me and Spaulding Rehab. The temperatures climbed to 70 degrees and we stripped off layers. My husband stopped and tossed his running pants. Yes he was wearing shorts underneath them. I was wearing Capris and would need them once the headwind hit us coming off of the Newton Hills.
Friends met us along the way and would run with us. I knew that I needed to keep a slow pace to avoid injury as we went through what seemed to be 3 different weather seasons that day. It was relatively easy for them to keep us with us.
We turned onto Beacon Street. How many times had we run this stretch of the road since our first and last training run and every run in between. I knew we were going to finish. My only hope was that we would finish before the finish line closed.
Kenmore Square. One mile to go.
When we turned onto Hereford Street, the tears began to flow but I knew I had to focus on putting one foot in front of the other. I could feel that I had a mother lode of a blood blister on my foot. My mouth felt as though I had cotton in it.
The turn onto Boylston Street seeing the lights and arc of the finish line in the distance. It's true what they say about the distance from that left onto Boylston Street to the finish line. It seems longer than the entire 26 mile course already run.
And then - the finish line! We crossed over the finish line to the volunteer area to have the chip removed from our shoes and receive our medal. I was, needless to say, very wobbly on my feet. I apologized to the volunteer for having difficulty finding my balance. He said, "You just ran 26.2 miles. There's nothing to apologize for!" He gave me his hand and arm for support as he took the chip off of my shoe and exchanged it with a medal around my neck.
While it was a moment of personal redemption as a survivor of paralytic polio and trauma, it was a moment far greater than myself. They say that the person who starts the race is not the same person who crosses the finish line of a marathon. I knew that my marathon run would be a story to be told and retold to inspire others. It was the beginning of a new starting line in my healing journey; an accomplishment that would stay in my heart, body and soul as I navigate the sometimes turbulent waters of my healing odyssey.
As a trauma survivor, I experienced what I call the energy of helplessness and lived with this uneasy sense of fear and uncertainty in my soul and in my body. During this morning's meditation I realized that I may have experienced a feeling of helplessness and been terrified out of my mind, BUT I never lost my power. It was there all along. To survive, I chose to not act on how strong I was or how powerful I was. It was there all along. Crossing the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon was a moment of redemption and a moment when I reclaimed just how powerful a woman I am; just how powerful any trauma survivor is and just how powerful we all are regardless of external circumstances. It is a power that comes from deep within the very essence of our souls. It is the power that fuels us in the marathon of life.
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.