Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Finisher's Clock - Transformation at the Tufts Health Plan 10K for Women

As I came down Charles Street toward the finish I was running on fumes. The tank was empty. I left it all on the roads. The finisher's clock no longer mattered to me. I knew, given my splits, that I had run a fantastic race. I ran from the inside out with strength and fierce determination. Running this race was a victory lap for me after having run 5 previous races since June and training on hills, doing fartleks and tempo runs and cross training with Aquatics Therapy at Spaulding Rehab Hospital. In my weekly mind/body treatments at Sollievo Massage and Bodywork, I healed physical, emotional and Spiritual pain from the past that weighed me down. The most challenging part of training was the 5 days leading up to race day. Taper madness set in and I just wanted to get out there and run my race. I knew how important those days of rest were for me and yesterday, they paid off in dividends. On Sunday, it was Tom's turn to run the third leg of his Distance Medley. I felt frustrated and sad that I couldn't physically be there with him. If I would have been his support crew in person on Sunday, I would not have had enough energy to run my race on Monday. The power of Spirit can be far greater than being physically present with someone as I would learn on Sunday and during my race.

Our bibs side by side:

and my Tufts T Shirt:

Tom had his eye on a PR. As I tracked him and followed the Boston Athletic Association Page on Facebook, I felt as though I were with him at the race. I could feel we had a powerful connection. I knew he was running the race for me and for us. He had a spectacular PR taking 6 minutes and 15 seconds off of his BAA Half Marathon from last year. He finished in the top ten of his age group overall for the Distance Medley. I was his support crew and social media maven on Sunday and then on Monday it was his turn to be my support crew.

Monday morning gave a whole new meaning to pre-race jitters. I felt nauseous and dizzy. It's called taper madness for a reason. Thoughts of I don't have to run this race, I have nothing to prove, I can't do this went head to head with incredible excitement and seeing myself cross that finish line with a PR. Tom was with me, listening to my ramblings and reminding me that I had this. Getting to the starting line was a victory for me and the race was my victory lap. They changed the place of the start of the race and we had to line up at 11:30 seeding ourselves based on our estimated finishing times. Fortunately I was blessed to hear my name called out and there was Ilene Fabisch, a friend of my dear friend Gail Martin who introduced us on Facebook. We met in person at the Spectacle Island Run. We hugged tightly; laughed how today's weather was so much better for running that two weeks ago and grabbed a photo op:

We wished each other a wonderful race. I felt how excited she was for me for this race and the goal I set. Although Gail was not physically present, I could feel her presence with us. Gail had sent me a message on Facebook, "You've got this PR in your pocket." I carried that message with me.

Tom was my rock in the days and moments leading up to gun time. We worked together and as individuals in our meditation time to prepare us for the races we were about to undertake. He could see my nerves kicking in with this new race start and said he wanted to take some photos of me. I decided to leave all those beliefs and let go and enjoy myself. It was time to feel my strength and get some attitude.

The air horn went off. As I turned the corner to the start on Beacon Street I started running. I thought wait don't run until you cross the starting line but the adrenaline had already kicked in. By the time Tom caught up with me as we were getting ready to go over the Mass Ave Bridge, he told me that I was crushing it. I heard this voice in my head that said, "Find your race pace. Find your race pace. And just stay with it."

I wasn't planning to look at the mile split times but something inside of me told me to. I felt Gail pacing me and echoes of "You've got this PR in your pocket" called to me.

Mile 1: 18:21. I knew that was gun time and it must have taken me at least three minutes to cross the starting line. I was on pace for a PR but there were 5.2 miles to go. Tom ran with me over the Mass Ave Bridge and waited on the corner for me to return cheering on other runners with his cowbell. It took 3 1/2 minutes for me to cross the starting line so I was at a sub-15 minute mile for the first mile.

I walked through each water stop but never stopped. I made sure to hydrate with a few sips of each water at each stop and I also had my own hydration as a supplement which served me well when I needed to have a piece of Luna bar during the race.

Mile 2: 33:00 Another sub 15-minute mile. I continued to run from the inside out. I realized that I was no longer running behind the pack but I was running with the pack. The words, "Journey well" that Joseph spoke to me before Boston Marathon Weekend echoed in my ears. I felt the imprints of all the work we have done together and the love from Rose and Laura, owners of Sollievo. We had set the intention for today's race last week and used the imagery of Seabiscuit. Whenever I felt my mind begin to wander, I reminded myself to keep my blinders on. Don't look ahead and don't look back. Don't worry about anyone else's race. Run your own race.

From my poem, 'Running the Race' that I wrote in February of 2007

The chains are gone and possibilities abound
I'm a tree with my roots planted firmly in ground.
I'm now off the sidelines, no need to sit and whine
So much gratitude fills my heart and love and beauty shine.
After all these years I can join the loving human race
I exceed all expectations and now I set the pace.

Mile 3: 48:10 Okay Mary, almost to the halfway mark and you're on pace. I checked in with myself to see how I was feeling. I felt great. Alain Ferry from RaceMenu told me that he would be cheering me on from Memorial Drive. Although I did not see him, his presence was palpable. I drew from all the love and support he has given to me since I first met him at the Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon Expo. I could feel his hug at the Spectacle Island run and him willing me to a PR during the final stretch of the Bill Rodgers 5K Race to Benefit Prostate Cancer. Dr. Moskowitz and Miss Holly, my physiatrist and physical therapist who helped me to learn how to walk after contracting paralytic polio were with me as I began the uphill climb on Memorial Drive before the turnaround point.

Mile 4: 1:05 I didn't calculate the split time because quite frankly I couldn't do the math in my head. Instead I thought ahead to feeling the PR within my grasp with 2.2 miles to go. I wasn't going to change a thing regardless of the time. I was running as fast I could, pacing myself with water stops each mile, until I crossed the finish line.

Seeing Tom cheer on all of the runners in the distance as I approached the Mass Ave Bridge made me smile. He ran back over the bridge with me. I told him that I thought a PR was in my grasp but I was going to continue running from the inside out. I told him I didn't see Alain but I felt his presence especially during that uphill climb after the Hyatt Regency Hotel. I was focused not only on my PR but on the magnificent scene of the Charles River and the skyline of Boston. Fortunately the sun had not come out so there was no sun glistening on the Charles River as I had visualized. The cooler weather made it a perfect day to run. No traffic going over the bridge. The road was mine. This race was mine. This life is mine. Gratitude filled my heart with the opportunity to experience the moment.

As we approached Mile 5, I told Tom my last split was 1:05. He said, "Oh my God Mary. The clock says 1:20. You just ran a 15 minute mile after being out here for 5 miles. How are you doing? Are you okay?" We walked through the famous just after mile 5 water stop with men from the Most Informal Running Club Ever wearing tuxedoes and suits. I could feel my energy beginning to wane and had the second half of my Luna Bar. "Maybe you should take it down a notch until we get to the next corner," Tom lovingly said to me. I slowed down long enough to chew my Luna Bar and wash it down with water and then...

Something happened inside of me and I felt this sense of fierce determination surge through me. We passed a woman who was struggling. I told her she had this. She said she was going to drop out at mile 4 but the song, "Dream On" came on. "I'm a survivor of paralytic polio and I'm going for a PR from my time in 2010," I told her. "God bless you," she said. "So if I can do this...so can you." "You were just the inspiration I needed at this moment. Thank you. And good luck," I heard her say as I surged in front of her.

The volunteers cheered me on letting me know that the finish was on sight. "Just turn the corner and you'll see the finish!."

I was all alone now to finish this race. Tom had taken a shortcut to meet me at the finish.

There was no doubt in my mind that I was going to finish but there was nothing left in the tank - or so I thought.


Jess Lanzoni was about 100 feet in front of the first finisher's mat. Even though I wasn't wearing my glasses, I knew it was her. She snapped this photo of me and posted it to Facebook Mary McManus, Bringing it home strong with a heart.

Another one of my friend's commented on the photo, "Go Mary!"

I felt a little pick up in my energy. Part of me was saying, "You're going to finish Mary and don't worry about the finisher's clock." Another part of me wanted to dig deep and get it done but my legs were really tired. At that moment I hear two screams, "L Streeet!". I looked over and one of the women picked up her pullover and revealed her L Street shirt pointing to it with enthusiasm. The L Street shirt I was wearing had a "We One as Run" and "Boston Strong" ribbon on the back. We sure do and we sure are. I didn't know who they were at the time but thanks to Facebook, the mystery was quickly solved.

Between Jess's loving presence and my L Street ladies screaming at me, I found more in the tank and sprinted to the finish. When I hit the finisher's mat the finisher's clock said 1:39:08. My last 1.2 mile split was a 15:40 pace! I knew I must have PR'ed it and thought I would have to wait to see the results but I received this text shortly after crossing the finish line (my goal time was 1:35:35):

I threw my arms up in triumph, in jubilation

and as a woman transformed after March 4, 2011 and all that followed in the wake of my nephew's suicide. It feels wonderful to be back in my body, to be running - to be racing again and pushing myself to the edge. I transcended all of the pre-race chatter that comes with taper madness, and the challenge to move beyond, having the courage to transform. I may have been alone as I ran the final stretch to the finish line but I had helpers seen and unseen to accompany me on that final leg of my running comeback. It's great to be back and to be able to journey well.

The first 7 years of my healing odyssey are chronicled in Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility available on Amazon. I donate 50% of royalty payments to The One Fund Boston to help survivors and their families who were affected by the tragic events of 4/15/13.

I'm working on my 2nd book, "Journey Well," due out later this year:


  1. Fantastic - we're all so proud of you!

  2. If I could not be there this gave me all the feeling, joy, tension, spirit, and edge of seat cheering of being there. I almost felt like I was. Thank you for sharing the whole of this moment of triumph. Bless all the angels seen and unseen during your race, but bless you most of all for letting us see this, feel this, and almost touch the moment.