I was open to whatever it was my body was going to be able to do today. My mantra for today's race was light and joy. I wanted to feel light and joy in my body. I wanted to thoroughly enjoy the day. I was amazed that I slept well and did not have the usual pre race jitters. I had a good breakfast of a bagel, oatmeal, banana and orange juice. What a luxury to be able to get up at 6:45am on a race day and drive 10 minutes to the start of the race.
I had a sense of trust that this was going to be a good day.
I had no idea how good of a day I would have.
When we arrived race director Alain Ferry of RaceMenu greeted us. He had been following my blog posts about my intention to PR for the race. He gave me the warmest hug and asked me to remind him what my goal for today's race was. He joined me in my intention to see the clock at 47:00 or better.
I reconnected with Bill Rodgers who remembered me and my story from Hyannis as well as an email I had sent him after meeting him.
Pre race announcements talked about the importance of supporting research, early detection and treatment for Prostate Cancer. Alain asked for a show of hands of those running affected by cancer. There was an astounding number of hands in the crowd that were raised. Bill Rodgers shared how he is a prostate cancer survivor and it is the #2 leading cause of cancer deaths among American men. We need to pay as much attention to prostate cancer for men as we do for breast cancer for women. In his pre race remarks Bill Rodgers said that running and walking is a simple little sport but we as Americans can use it to change the world. He shared with me before the race as he introduced us to his girlfriend Karen that she is a breast cancer survivor. She won in her age group and after the race she told me that she started running in her 40's after being diagnosed with breast cancer. While waiting for the portapotty, I met a woman whose hair had just grown back after radiation and chemo. She wants to run Boston next year. I shared my story with her. Everyone has a story.
And then it was gun time and time for me to write another chapter in my story.
We started at the front of the pack with Bill Rodgers off to our left. I went out fast running through the Boston College campus where 30 years ago I received my Masters in Social Work. The field took off and I stayed to my race plan. We'd run the downhill and I'd run for as long as I could and then move into race walking. When we got to the rolling hills of Commonwealth Avenue, I race walked. The sun was bright and the day was heating up. Fortunately there was no humidity and we could go on the sidewalk for shade. We brought frozen water bottles with us that I used for hydration and to keep myself cool.
Mile 1 - 14:33 pace. I was blown away by my time but I knew that anything can happen over the next two point one miles.
Tom kept checking in with me. How was I feeling? Did anything hurt? I didn't talk much which is very unusual for me and I was breathing hard. I had a single minded goal but I was running from the inside out.
In my training runs I had been stopping to take a "water break". I slowed my pace at times but kept moving forward. We stopped for about 30 seconds at the water stop and then time to tackle the hill with a 221' elevation.
Mile 2 - time was almost 30 minutes.
Okay I think I can. I think I can. I've got this. I can do this.
Tom said to me "What do we do with hills?"
"We eat them for breakfast," I managed to get out.
To the top of Beacon Street and a right onto College Road.
A right onto Commonwealth Avenue heading toward the finish.
Alain comes out on his bike, "Oh there you are. "Come on you're almost there."
I was hot and the tank was getting empty.
As we headed toward the finish he told me I had less than a minute for my PR.
People gathered and were cheering me on.
Alain was just on the other side of the finish line.
I sprinted to the finish and the finish clock read 46:57 but chip time was 46:53!
I knew in my heart and soul that I crossed more than a finish line today. As I told Alain, I reclaimed my life today. The essence of who I am and what I am all about took center stage.
It's been one hell of a journey back since my nephew's suicide in March of 2011. Thanks to Alain and the #onerun on 5/25/13, I knew I had to come back to running. And then I realized it was more than coming back to running. It was setting a goal and challenging myself again. It was opening up to see what my body could do and leaving nothing on the roads. It was about testing my mettle and letting go of fear.
At the last race I ran before taking a 2 year running hiatus, my time was 46:57. The first race I ever ran, the Corrib Pub Run 5K in 2008 was 51:52. This year I ran a 48:03 at this year's Corrib Pub Run. In other races I was finishing between 48-49 minutes.
Last week, when Tom and I ran the course I ran it in 47:48. I figured why not go for 47:00 on race day? I set the intention in my heart, with my massage therapist, with my husband and then with Alain. I posted on facebook and received a message from Jess Lanzoni right before gun time, "goooooooo Mary go!! that PR is YOURS!". I blared One Moment in Time during breakfast this morning.
Someone posted this video from Billy Mills yesterday:
Alain shared with me that he didn't expect to find us as far up on Comm. Ave as close to the finish line as he did. He was concerned about the heat and he was coming to provide some support. But when he saw how close we were to the finish, he wanted that PR for me as much as I did. I felt as though I were being pulled into the vortex of the finish line by his loving energy and all those cheering me on.
"I saw you start to cry and then I could see a look come across your face and you dug deep during that sprint."
During that final sprint, Tom was letting me set the pace and could tell I was in the zone. Tom wept with me when we crossed the finish line. We both knew that I left a lot of pain, fear and doubt out on the course and in its wake there is a surge of confidence, strength, courage and healing.
Gratitude fills my heart for facebook friends who I met for the first time at today's race who cheered me on and took photos. And to Alain who was there to celebrate and tend to me post race. He ran and got me an ice water and made sure I got in the shade. To Tom who has been there for me on every step and every stride of this incredible journey. Today was one moment in time - many moments in time that will remain imprinted on my heart forever.
Tomorrow's blog will talk about my post race surprise!
"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.