After having the best time on my training run for the Bill Rodgers 5K Walk/Run for Prostate Cancer, I felt something deep in my soul that told me the next step on my moving forward in my healing journey was to set a goal for a PR for the race.
My husband Tom was totally on board for the goal but told me, and I thoroughly agreed, that I needed to run from the inside out. He made sure that I got lots of rest, hydration and good fueling as the days led up to race day. He stayed with me, checked in with me and made sure that I was running from the inside out especially given how the day was quickly getting hot. He told me that he was glad to hear when I needed to slow down and yet after the race he told me that I didn't really slow down all that much. There were moments during the race when I really wanted to slow down but I told myself, come on you can do this. It's show time. It's race day. Let's see what this body can do. I could feel the presence of my personal trainer, Janine who believed in me before I could believe in myself and my beloved coach Domenick D'Amico who always believed that I could and would go the distance in the Boston Marathon.
Tom told me that if I would have barfed on the course it would have been game over. But I knew just how to take myself to the edge and back down. I left nothing on the roads and nothing in the tank though.
Tom drew an ice bath for me when we got home and made sure that even though my adrenaline was still pumping that I rest. He kept checking in with me to see how I was doing. After all, it had been almost 4 years since I pushed myself to a PR. I did have bronchial spasms but rather than see them as pathology, I used the analogy of blowing out the carburetor on your car with a fast drive on the highway. It felt good to clean out my lungs. And everything was and still is so sore yet nothing really hurt because I know I did right by me with the race I ran. I feel the strength of having worked my body hard.
In the days leading up to the race, I was having a conversation with the Universe, as Tom likes to say, in my blog and on Facebook.
It was "only a 5K" yet so many of my friends understood what a PR meant to me after all of my hard work and dedication to reclaiming my body and my life in this most recent part of my healing journey. I am so grateful for the Facebook posts cheering me on in cyberspace. I carried the energy and intention with me on race day.
I had never met Kathleen Healy Fencil in person. We met through our mutual inspirational friend Randy Pierce on Facebook. She was moved and inspired by my story. I am moved by hers. She started running at 66 years old and 3 years later, at the age of 69 will run her first half marathon at the end of September. When she saw volunteers were needed for the race, she signed up. She found me before the race through my daughter Ruth Anne who was also volunteering. She snapped photos and offered words of encouragement as we came down Chestnut Hill Avenue. Unbeknownst to me at the time, she was snapping photos of Tom and me coming into the finish. She continued to share in the after glow of my PR on facebook and shared my posts with her circle of friends.
The village grows.
The volunteers out on the course were amazing! Kathleen's husband, Tom, was at the timer for the 1 mile marker. My Tom had not realized that we had met before the race. When we saw the time at 14:33 we were both amazed. He told Tom what an incredible time that was for me especially since I am a survivor of polio. Tom gave us the warmest smile telling us he knew and sent us on our way.
So often as a back of the pack runner, volunteers at a water stop are getting ready to pack up by the time we arrive. Not in this race and not these volunteers. The water stop was in high gear; a welcome sight as the day was getting hot. Tom told them that I am a polio survivor. My hands shook as I drank the water; a sign that my system was being challenged - no big deal and they offered me more water and wished me good luck on the rest of my race. I dumped a cup of water over my head and we went on to tackle the hill. They were fully present to support the runners and I thanked them for being there.
I was so blessed to have the love and support of Alain, the Race Director. His cheering me on joined with my energy to dig deep and meet my goal. Yet even if I hadn't reached my goal on Sunday, he expressed deep love and respect for me for even taking on the challenge that does not change with the turnover of the clock. Those moments of when he came out on his bike to find us on the course and cheer me on the finish will forever remain in my heart.
And how amazing to be at the starting line with Bill Rodgers, four time Boston Marathon champion, a survivor of prostate cancer and one who took the road less traveled as a conscientious objector. Because it was a small field, there was no seeding. This was one of the very few races that I was able to be in the front of the pack at the start surrounded by fast runners.
For the past year, I have been so fortunate to participate in Aquatics Therapy at Spaulding Rehab. Under the guidance of wonderful therapists, I build core strength and endurance.
What a blessing to have found my way to a massage therapist at Sollievo Massage and Bodywork who uses the healing power of touch to help me heal mind, body and Spirit. I was able to set the intention for joy and lightness as I ran feeling a sense of freedom and strength that comes to the fore through the mind/body therapy sessions.
Even though it was ultimately just me and the road, and a PR was mine alone to achieve, the collective energy of the village - the helpers seen and unseen took me over the finish line with a miraculous time of 46:53.
My heart is full of gratitude to everyone who put out their energy, their support and the gift of their presence to help me reach my goal and move forward in my healing journey. It takes a loving, caring, supportive village to carry us toward our goals of being the best we can be and to be there when we fall short of our goals; to be there to join in the joyous celebrations and to tend to our wounds when we are hurt. I am so lucky and blessed to have found my way to this village. And one final thank you - to those who provided post race food and water. Thank you for being there with wonderful refreshment and for letting me use your bucket of ice on my legs and dumping it on my head to cool down after my race.
"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.