Friday, June 5, 2015
My Running Chronicles: Born to Run - Run Free - Wilma Rudolph and Me
From Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility:
"Do you know who Wilma Rudolph is?" my personal trainer asked me as I struggled through an early run training for the 2009 Boston Marathon.
"No," I said. "I never heard of her."
"Well Google her when you get home. I want you to read her story," she told me in no uncertain terms.
"Wilma Glodean Rudolph (June 23, 1940 – November 12, 1994) was an American athlete and an Olympic champion. Rudolph was considered the fastest woman in the world in the 1960s and competed in two Olympic Games, in 1956 and in 1960.
In the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in track and field during a single Olympic Games. A track and field champion, she elevated women's track to a major presence in the United States. As a member of the black community, she is also regarded as a civil rights and women's rights pioneer. Along with other 1960 Olympic athletes such as Cassius Clay, who later became Muhammad Ali, Rudolph became an international star due to the first international
television coverage of the Olympics that year. The powerful sprinter emerged from the 1960 Rome Olympics as "The Tornado, the fastest woman on earth".
Why did my trainer refer me to Wilma Rudolph for inspiration? Because when Wilma was four years old she contracted paralytic polio. Her mother was told she would never walk again. Then she was told she would never walk without a leg brace. With the fierceness of a mother's love and surrounded by a loving, supportive family, Wilma Rudolph came out of her leg brace. She was on the high school basketball team and ran track as something to do in the off-season.
While I did not have the love and support of my mother during my recovery from paralytic polio and had the added challenge of family violence from the age of 8 until the age of 17, I had my Spirit and I had earth angels who would support me throughout my life. Miss Holly, my physical therapist, offered me the tender love and support that a mother would offer to her own child. Miss Dupres was my French Teacher who nourished me in junior high and high school. After graduating high school, and following my father's suicide on August 1, 1971, she invited me into Manhattan to meet her for lunch before I began my freshman year at Boston University. She gave me a sewing kit. She told me that no matter what life may rend apart, I would always be able to put it back together again.
After being diagnosed with post polio syndrome, Allison Lamarre Poole came into my life. She helped me to believe that I could and would get stronger. She had enough faith for both of us until I could believe that I could heal and was not destined for a future in a wheelchair. Then I met Janine. She could have walked away from me when I told her I wanted to run the 2009 Boston Marathon shortly after coming out of my leg brace and never having run a day in my life. But, like Wilma Rudolph's mother, she believed that I could move beyond the late effects of paralytic polio and achieve the dream that was in my heart. It took a village to help me cross the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and it takes a village to support me getting back on the roads.
"No matter what accomplishments you make somebody always helps you." ~Wilma Rudolph
I can feel in every fiber of my Being that I was born to run and to run free. I wasn't afforded the luxury or the opportunity as a child to run free as paralytic polio followed by violence prevented my body from making a full recovery from polio as Wilma Rudolph was able to do ... UNTIL NOW!
There were several factors that prevented my body from complete healing. Until now I did not believe that complete healing was possible for me, but I am reading "You Are The Placebo", watched, "What The Bleep Do We Know..." and "What the Bleep:Down the Rabbit Hole."
I held onto my identity as a survivor of polio and violence but now I see myself as completely healed, healthy, whole. Instead of seeing myself as a mobility impaired runner, I see myself as an endurance runner. I focus on what I DO want rather than focus on what is. I keep a healing journal with affirmations. I meditate and go down the rabbit hole of pure consciousness to allow my body to do whatever it needs to do to heal. Every time I notice a change that's occurred such as steady hands or no head tremors, pain releasing from my leg, I imprint those memories and celebrate the changes.
Did I mention that I BELIEVE?!
Wilma Rudolph experienced complete healing after paralytic polio and went on to become an Olympic Champion with intention and attention and the power of belief along with daily massage and rehab exercises by her mother and family members.
Another factor that prevented my body from completely healing was fear.
One of the things that terrorized and terrified me was that the violence started three years after I'd been paralyzed. I was weak and deconditioned and no matter how wonderful my physical therapist and physiatrist were, we were all swimming upstream against the current of healing because of daily assaults.
But now - there are no assaults and the fear is gone because I realize I can run. I can outrun them just like Forrest Gump did when he outran the bullies.
I was born to run - and I am now able to run free -- just like Wilma Rudolph - and just like me!
Cheers! To Life!
I chronicle the first 7 years of my healing journey after being diagnosed with post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease as a survivor of childhood paralytic polio and 9 years of childhood domestic violence in Coming Home:A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility.
I am working on my new book, Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems which brings together my best poems of the last 8 years and will include my latest poems as I continue to feel the heal and move forward in my life.