From "Journey Well":
“In the world there are believers and then there are non-believers. For all of you non-believers out there, I have something to say to you ... never underestimate the heart of a champion.” ~Rudy Tom Johnavich.
After having the best time on my training run, I felt something deep in my soul that told me the next step on my moving forward in my healing journey was to set a goal for a PR for the race. On Sunday morning I told Tom during my pre-race breakfast, "This is not business. It's personal." I was surprised that I did not have the usual pre-race jitters about what if the water stops were gone by the time I got there or what if the finish line had closed. We knew the course. I had my NikePlus and this was between me, the road, and my heart and soul. I knew that Sunday’s race was a very important part of my healing journey. I'm usually very much out there in social media land and in real life but before the race, I felt that I had a piece of soul work to do. I suddenly felt this intense need for privacy. I thought that this race was something I had to do alone even though of course Tom would be with me stride for stride. I was open to whatever it was my body was going to be able to do. My mantra for the race was light and joy. I wanted to feel light and joy in my body. I didn't post on Facebook before we left for the race. I turned inward.
But the horse was already out of the barn. I knew that Race Director Alain Ferry had read my first blog about the race. He posted a comment on Facebook, “lovely.” But I didn’t know he was following my posts. When we arrived on the Boston College Campus, he came up to me and embraced me with a long, warm, supportive hug. He put his hands on my two arms and looked deeply into my eyes.
“Now tell me what the time is that you are going for today.”
“What have you been running?”
“Well I’ve done 49 ….” and was about to go on to say that I’ve done 48-49 in my recent 5K races…
“And you want to best it by two minutes today?”
“Last week out on the course I did 47 and change. Yes. I want 47:00 minutes today.”
“Well I hope when you get back here the clock reads 47:00 or better. Go get your bib and have a great race. I’ve got about a thousand things to do right now but I’ll see you.” ...
Alain outstretched his hand and asked Tom what his name was again and then gave him a hug. He remembered meeting him at the end of my shift at the Heartbreak Hill Half Marathon Expo when Tom came to meet me. Tom and I took a moment to reflect on the confluence of events that came together for us to be standing on the Boston College campus where, 30 years ago, I received my Masters in Social Work. We picked up our bibs and waited in line to say hi to Bill Rodgers and have my bib signed.
“Hi Bill. We met in Hyannis. My name is Mary McManus. I ran Boston in 2009 as a mobility impaired runner.”
“Oh of course. I remember you. You liked my book didn’t you?”
“I sure did and am so happy to be able to run this race today. I’m hoping for a PR.”
We took a few moments to talk about running, cancer, plans to be in Hyannis and being survivors.
“But let’s not rush it,” he said. “That’s a long way away and we’ve got some nice weather to still enjoy,” Bill reminded us.
Bill said to me, "Life is hard ... life is hard ... that's why we run....When we discover what we can do as runners, we realize we can get through anything in life."
...“Okay Mary. That’s it. The worst is behind us. Let’s bring this home,” Tom said to me.
I was feeling pretty depleted. Tom wanted me to run and pick up the pace. I knew that if I had I would have barfed for sure so regardless of what the time might have been, I knew I had to run a smart race.
A right onto Commonwealth Avenue heading toward the finish. I have to listen to my body but I also know I am not going to leave a thing out on the roads.
"Oh there you are. Come on you're almost there."
Alain seemed to appear out of nowhere on his bike.
I was hot and the tank was getting empty.
He rode ahead of me. I could feel Tom and Alain willing my PR as I dug deep. As we headed toward the finish he told me I had less than a minute for my PR. He got off his bike and stood on the other side of the finish line.
He counted down.
People gathered and were cheering me on.
I sprinted to the finish and the finish clock read 46:57 but chip time was 46:53!
Tom and I wept as Alain hugged me and then Tom. He ran and got us bottles of ice cold water. “Go get something to eat and get in the shade,” he directed us. I was elated, depleted and transformed. 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 was a very special moment for me as a race director to look at you and see you begin to cry as you were coming into the finish. I saw this look come over your face of sheer determination as you dug deep to get that PR.”
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. Regardless of the time on the clock, I could feel his sense of deep respect, love and care for me. When he saw how close we were to the finish, he wanted that PR for me as much as I did. In my pre-race visualization, I imagined Bill Rodgers coming out on the course to run me in and celebrate my PR with me. Instead it was Alain and it was a glorious moment in my life.
In 22 days, 7 hours, 48 minutes and counting, I will toe the starting line at the Finish at the 50 5K at Gillette Stadium.
Once again, something has happened deep inside of me that I know I need to go out and give it everything I've got. I visualize the finish clock at 46:52 or better. I was obsessing about the course and what does it mean to have ramps at a 1/4 mile with a medium grade but I know that given my training and given my fierce determination and ability to run from my soul that I need not focus on that. I only need to continue seeing myself through the window of my soul emerging as the runner I love to be.
I was born to run. I have the soul and mind of a runner and because of that my body is now transforming. Last December's knee injury was a blessing. It enabled me to build in core and strength training, cross training in the pool and to move out of the rehab model and self image as a mobility impaired runner to healing everything and becoming the runner I was always meant to be.
Running free and unencumbered untethered unshackled, transcending all that went before and like the gold in the crucible, emerging transformed a precious treasure.
Cheers! To life! Love yourself well!
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.
In Journey Well, the journey continues in the wake of my nephew's suicide on 3/4/11 and the events of 4/15/13. Through my journey of healing and transformation, we learn that no matter what life circumstances happen to us, we can always find a way to journey well.
50% of book proceeds from all of my books, available on Amazon are donated to the Arredondo Family Foundation whose mission is to provide a helping hand to those experiencing a tragedy and to provide education on matters relating to military, veterans, military families, and the issue of suicide.
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.