Sunday, May 17, 2015

My Running Chronicles: I am a Competitor

When I was 10 years old, just two years after coming out of a full leg brace after contracting paralytic polio, I met a camp counselor, Joe Stetz, who was on his way to becoming an Olympian. He chose the path of becoming a physician but he had the energy and drive of a competitor that he wanted to instill in me. This is a photo of him with his Olympic training relay swim team - He is on the far left:

At the end of the summer, Badger Day Camp held their annual Olympics. There were only two campers who were competing in the butterfly event in my age group. Joe told me that he wanted me to swim the butterfly in the Olympics. I told him he was crazy. I had just come out of a leg brace and was recovering from paralytic polio. He told me that I was guaranteed a medal, that my time did not matter and I would be showing the other campers a lesson in courage. I told him I was afraid of jumping off the starting block and had no idea how to do a turn. At 21 years old (although in my eyes as a 10 year old he was a god of sorts), he had a very wise and kind soul. He told me to not worry about a thing; that he would coach me one on one in everything I needed to successfully compete in the race. Thus a competitor was born! I came in dead last but I finished and proudly took my place on the medal stand.

In reading, "You Are the Placebo," by Dr. Joe Dispenza, he suggests that we explore our beliefs. We have all been programmed by experience and our beliefs become our biology. Often times we are not aware of our beliefs because they are programmed and hard wired into our brain and Being so it takes work to unravel and understand beliefs that promote health and well being and those that contribute to pain and disease.

After I received the diagnosis of post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease, I realized that many of the messages I received from peers and family members about my body and my Being needed to be challenged. Fortunately, with the help of earth angels who came into my life, I was able to hold onto my sense of goodness, my tender and kind heart and belief that helping others would help me to heal. Working at the VA for almost 20 years was a blessing in my life until I realized I needed to take time and space for me to heal from all that happened to me.

Fortunately I met a physical therapist at Spaulding who would not treat me as a survivor of paralytic polio but believed in the body's ability to heal and get stronger regardless of what it experienced in the past. I needed to build on what she taught me and had to retrain my body and my mind/body to believe in my physical strength. Running the 2009 Boston Marathon was a wonderful way to leave those beliefs out on 26.2 miles from Hopkinton to Boston and have a stunning moment of redemption at the Boston Marathon finish line.

After the marathon, I was told I shouldn't and wouldn't run again. Fortunately I had a wonderful cervical spine doctor who showed me what I needed to heal in my cervical spine and a physical therapist who supported my desire to run again. In July, Team McManus was back on the roads at the Charles River Run:

What followed was a stunning series of races with PR's and feeling at the top of my game ... until 3/4/11 when my nephew suicided.

It's been a long road back from that day and for awhile I lost my edge. Fears and doubts prevailed and I became entangled in many relationships that were recapitulating and reinforcing feelings of unworthiness and guilt.

But I never completely lost my competitive edge and disentangled myself from relationships that were not going to support my health and well being.

And here I am today! Training for the 2016 Newport Marathon!

Yesterday I hit a major milestone - 4 miles with more hills than I could possibly count. I visualized my comeback race, the Harard Pilgrim Finish at the 50 5K on July 3rd. I ran happy and free in the midst of the challenging run singing and feeling my heart filled with gratitude that I am back competing again outrunning fears and doubts and meeting myself on the roads again.

Four miles becomes 6; 6 becomes 12; 12 becomes 18 and then 18 becomes 24 -- and then 26.2 miles in October of 2016!

After a knee injury in December, the physician who means really well and has been there for me when I needed Western medicine, and my previous massage therapist who wasn't a runner and doesn't get what running means to me nor understands the power of the medicine of running, sent me messages of caution and fear. I had to fire them. The Universe first sent me Dr. Ryan of Elevate Health Cambridge who rekindled the flame of the competitor within me and supported my healing with kinesiotaping. He reminded me to set goals not limits.

And then, Jeffrey Spratt, owner and principal of Spratt Muscular Therapies, LLC appeared in my life. When I work with him in weekly 90 minute treatments, I feel the runner within me being reborn. My strength and my confidence return. Not only is he trained in muscular therapy and uses the best that Eastern and Western modalities have to offer, but is also trained in healing trauma through massage therapy. He works with first responders and is a member and a team leader for Emergency Response Massage International- MA. ERMI-MA is a group of specially trained Massage Therapy Professionals that are organized to respond to an emergency/disaster/critical incident and provide stress relief and rejuvenation support to the emergency responders at the scene or recover areas.

When I put out the call to the Universe that I wanted and needed to run happy and free again, everything I need is being set before me. Friends have recommended books and interviews that fill me with positivity, hope and healing and fuel my natural instinct to heal. I am finding affirmations and rekindling writing poetry that transcends everything that went before.

I practice healing through meditation and visualization and commit to only one outcome - total health, wholeness and well being knowing that my body knows what to do to heal. I practice patience knowing that it's all happening! I am persistent working toward my goals every day....I pace myself and gather up all the beliefs that support healing, health, well being and my belief in myself as a competitor able to leave my fears and doubts at the starting line.

Every time I work out, every time I run, every time I do more and am more than I was, I win!

Be blessed! Journey well! To all good things...

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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