Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Magic Moments on Heartbreak Hill - We Run Together - There's Only One Boston

Heartbreak Hill is a special place for me. When we were training for Boston we happened to meet Johnny Kelley's nephew on a flight back from Puerto Rico in January. We needed to get out of the frigid 2009 winter for several days and train in a warmer climate. I have a cherished note from Tommy (his nephew) and wife Dottie along with an autographed photo of Johnny that they sent to us saying that he would be watching over us during our training and on Marathon Monday.

It's hanging above our Blue Diamond Medal Display.

The first time we ran Heartbreak Hill was on January 24, 2009.

From my memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility":

When we arrived, {at Marathon Sports} Domenick {our coach} was there along with some other runners. Team McManus was a wee bit nervous not knowing what to expect or what was going to happen today. Ruth Anne had forgotten her hat in our haste to leave the house, but fortunately there was no shortage of hats at Marathon Sports. Domenick said we could pay when we got back to the store. He was deep in thought about what route we should run today, "Have you run outdoors? Have you done hills" and with a yes answer to both those questions he sent us down Beacon Street to Newton Wellesley Hospital, over to Wellesly, up Concord Rd, over to Route 30 via the Marriott, down Route 30 through Heartbreak Hill, through BC to go around the Reservoir and then back to Marathon Sports for a total of 17.5 miles....

God smiled with sunshine and the wind at our backs when we got to Heartbreak Hill and She told me you are going to run the Marathon and finish the course - you deserve all the joy and triumph and courage and celebration that saying Yes to me is bringing you. And you are going to touch so many people's hearts and lives with this journey - you are blessed and you are going to bless the lives of others.

It was a magical day and I feel so incredibly blessed to be on this wild adventure.

And then on our last long run in early April 2009:
As we were heading out along Beacon Street here in Brookline, Mass., I saw a penny. Those of you who have read my blog know that we have had a lot of signs with finding money while we trained. There were a herd of runners behind us and I knew that if I stopped to pick this penny up, I could get trampled and then where would I be after a year of training and being on the threshold of running the Marathon. So I felt God's Presence and ran on. While on Heartbreak Hill, my daughter stopped in her tracks. Buried in the crack in the sidewalk on Heartbreak Hill, my daughter spotted a quarter - not just any quarter but a quarter dedicated to Helen Keller. Her quotes and life story have always been a major source of inspiration to me and Bernie Siegel, MD (who through the years has been a guiding healing light for me) has quoted her so many times in his talks, books and on his forum. During the last two miles of our training run, we found two more pennies - 27 cents! Not 26 but 27 so God is letting us know that we have what we need to go the distance....

Last March, we decided to return to Heartbreak Hill for a training run.

After the events of 4/15/13, the energy was electric as everyone was training for the 2014 Boston Marathon.
Two young girls ran up to us and said, "Excuse me, can you tell us where Heartbreak Hill is?" We said, "This is it. It began at the corner of Comm. Ave. and Washington St." They giggled with delight that they were on Heartbreak Hill obviously training for their first Boston. "We don't have too far to go do we?" "Where you going?" we asked. They said BC. Our advise was to take it one mile at a time.

I kept saying #weruntogether and giving thumbs up to the runners who passed us. Frowns turned to smiles.

This year's Boston Marathon theme is There's Only One Boston.

And to commemorate April 15, 2013, Mayor Walsh declared that April 15th will be henceforth known as One Boston Day:

Yesterday morning, despite the frigid temps and wind, I knew I had to get my run on and go to Heartbreak Hill. I did my 90 second plank and clam as my chiropractor, Dr. Ryan had suggested, bundled up and drove to Comm. Ave. and Centre Street in Newton. It felt so good to fire up my Nike+ again.

As I am climbing Heartbreak Hill sporting my 2009 Boston Marathon jacket, a runner approaches me from behind.

"Excuse me. Which is Heartbreak Hill?"

I stopped and smiled. "You are on Heartbreak Hill. Technically it's the Newton Hills and Heartbreak Hill is this final hill that goes from Centre St to Hammond Street."

She nodded and I asked her "Where are you from? This is your first Boston I presume."

"I'm here from Tulsa Oklahoma for a conference and decided to run the last 16 miles of the course. Each hill alone doesn't seem too bad but put them all together and this late in the marathon..."

Her voice trailed off.

I felt like an old timer in the best sense of the word knowing that I don't have another marathon in me but can pass on my wisdom and love for Boston and the Boston Marathon.

"The crowds are going to carry you through. It's an amazing experience like nothing else you will ever experience in your life...especially now after 4/15/13. Allow yourself to enjoy every moment of your journey and you've got this."

We smiled and off she went to finish her training run... My face froze into a smile as I finished my two miles on Heartbreak Hill without any knee pain!

While there will always be sadness and a whole host of emotions when I remember 4/15/13, there will also be the joy and the magic that is the Boston Marathon that no one and nothing can take away. Perhaps I cherish and hold my Boston Marathon moments nearer and dearer to my heart because of what happened on 4/15/13 and as long as I am able to run or walk will return to Heartbreak Hill every Spring to experience its magic and majesty.

Journey well!

My latest book, "Journey Well" is now available on Amazon along with all of my inspirational books. 50% of book proceeds are donated to the Massachusetts Resiliency Center, a safe, welcoming space for survivors of the Boston Marathon bombing to heal and stay in touch with one another; a virtual hub for a widely dispersed community whose lives have been impacted by the tragic events of April 15th and the events that followed.

When terror struck the world's oldest and most beloved marathon on April 15, 2013, it was a defining moment in Mary McManus’ life and the lives of all those in Boston and around the world. It was her wake up call to return to the sport and community that have been medicine and a lifeline for her throughout her marathon of healing the late effects of paralytic polio and experiencing 9 years of domestic violence as a child and adolescent. Mary captures the essence of Boston Strong through her experience of the 2014 Boston Marathon and as she profiles the people who are Boston Stronger. Through her blog posts, poems and journal entries woven together with excerpts from her memoir, “Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility,” you will experience, through one woman’s journey of transformation and healing, that no matter what happens to us, we can all learn to journey well.

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