“Toni Morrison said, "The function of freedom is to free someone else," and if you are no longer wracked or in bondage to a person or a way of life, tell your story. Risk freeing someone else. Not everyone will be glad that you did. Members of your family and other critics may wish you had kept your secrets. Oh, well, what are you going to do?” ~Anne Lamott
We were both social workers. We were both told we had progressive neuromuscular diseases. We both said "No!" and choose to find paths of healing and freedom. We had not met in person until yesterday before the start of the Finish at the 50 5K, introduced by a mutual runner friend, Ilene on Facebook.
Two weeks ago, I was talking with my amazing muscular therapist Jeff, Principal of Spratt Muscular Therapies about how I had this feeling that our work together went way beyond my healing; that there were things happening beyond us both. It was hard to put words to what I was trying to say so I just said, "You know how important this work is, don't you?" Jeff felt it too and said that he hasn't been able to process it yet but was just letting it all happen. I told him about one of my Facebook friends who is a runner and was in the middle of an MS flare that she couldn't seem to come out of. "I know she sees my Facebook posts and I am inspiring her. We are giving her hope."
I let myself sleep in yesterday morning. Tom and I did a 30 minute meditation in which I realized that my previous default settings were fear, fatigue and tremors. Now I am able to experience the natural ebb and flow of energy throughout the day allowing for times of high energy and down time. I felt in every fiber of my being that I am vibrant, healthy, strong. I no longer look for when my body is able to rest but rest when my body needs it. I am partnering with the Greater Mind as Joe Dispenza calls that wonderful Divine Love within each of us and creating new pathways that are filled with love instead of violence. Everything is healed and everything is healing. I am so in love with this process and the results are happening. I have a new found confidence in myself and in life. I feel empowered and I feel so hopeful on this journey. I am transforming my destiny from who I was filled with fear, fatigue and tremors to a woman who is brilliant and dazzling and fully alive enjoying every moment and savoring every sensation. I'm also feeling such joy and happiness in the process of creating this new body and falling in love with myself, my creation and my life. I then went on to visualize our perfect day ahead.
It set the tone for the day and what wondrous events happened!
Despite feeling pre-race jitters, I kept an even keel and sat outside listening to music while Tom had time to unwind from his work week. As I had predicted, there was no traffic on our way to Patriot Place. We picked up our bibs and walked around the Expo. The Boston Globe was there offering a subscription to the Sunday Globe and as an incentive, two tickets to tomorrow's Red Sox game. Sure why not we decided and will be going to the game tomorrow!
Next up was the Bermuda Marathon Weekend booth.
Now what's pretty amazing here is that I had set my sights on running the Bermuda Marathon for my 60th birthday in 2013. But then life happened. I never thought about it again. Tom and I had stopped by their booth at other Expos and quickly dismissed ever going back to Bermuda never mind running a race there. Never say never! Tom started chatting with Clarence "Stoker" Smith and I joined in the conversation. We both felt a tug at our souls and the more we talked with Clarence and Race Director Anthony, the stronger the tug. We reminisced about when we used to go there with the Sea and Surf Anglers Club who had a tournament with the Bermudian Blue Waters Angler Club. I felt goosebumps and a warm feeling all over. Anthony told me that I'd be better off running the Half Marathon rather than the 10K because of the steep hills on the course. I told them that the last time I was in Bermuda I was in a leg brace and using a wheelchair to travel. Clarence's wife said, "Look at you now girl." We exchanged information and Clarence told us he'd take us out on his boat when we came down for the weekend. I chatted with Anthony about the weather in January. "Look," he said in that delicious Bermuda accent. "I was told you people still have piles of snow near the Seaport Hotel from this past winter. I can guarantee you this. You will have no snow in Bermuda in January."
We sat down in the parking lot with our beach chairs until it was lunch time. Our waiter at CBS Scene was amazing and as it turned out he was a veteran who had been injured in the military but was having trouble filing a claim. I gave him my card and told him what to do to move forward on his claim and why it was important to receive the benefits he is entitled to. I had my pre-race chicken wrap with a salad with honey mustard dressing which had been my pre-race Wednesday evening run meal.
What next? Gun time wasn't until 6:00 pm.
We walked around. I had forgotten to bring a towel for after the race. We went into Eastern Mountain Sports and while we decided we could use paper towel from the rest rooms for apres race refreshment and not pay $26.00 for a towel, we did bump into a woman wearing a Merrimack Valley Strider singlet. We introduced ourselves and said that we have dual citizenship with L Street Running Club and the Striders. After we wished each other a good race, she posted on Facebook that she bumped into a Strider at the Finish at the 50 and we became fast friends.
Time to relax before race time...We took our chairs and sat in the shade in the middle of the plaza. There was a woman on Canadian Crutches dressed in red, white and blue. We made eye contact and then she walked away. I was about to text my friend and fellow L Streeter Michelle to see if she had arrived and wanted to meet up but something stopped me dead in my tracks. A few minutes later I hear, "Mary is that you?" "Yes, I answered". "I'm Sheryl."
I knew immediately who it was and was more than a little shocked to see her standing before me after she had posted on Facebook the severity of her symptoms with the flare. She told me that she had the whole family signed up for the race and didn't want to bail. She told me that she was feeling so self conscious in the ladies room (where she had gone to collect herself and to also check Facebook to see if I was at the Finish at the 50) and felt like she didn't belong there. We had a long talk. She refuses to accept that this is her new baseline and she has to adapt to it. She is exploring all paths for healing and I told her about Dr. Joe and his work and the book, "You Are the Placebo." She told me that she had no idea I was running the race because she wasn't able to stay on Facebook very long during her flair.
She was feeling so anxious about the race. I told her to imagine her best race ever and to feel it in her body and in her Being. We hugged. Said I love you and wished each other a great race.
It was hot out and Tom and I decided to go in the car and put on the air conditioning for our pre-race meditation. Jeff told me in our last treatment that before he became a muscular therapist, he had a degree in aviation and was a pilot. (Coincidentally our waiter told us that he is going to get his commercial pilot license!) He was telling me this in the context of race preparation using the analogy to having an emergency preparedness plan. You don't want anything to go wrong but it's good to have a plan of what you are going to do just in case. Suddenly I found myself doing a pre-flight check of all of my systems from my feet to the crown of my head and smiling, trusting, knowing in every fiber of my being that I was going to soar and have a smooth flight. I was ready for take off by the end of my meditation adding in something that I heard in a Dr. Joe lecture. "You've rehearsed this so much that you just let your body do what it knows to do. You won't even have to think about it."
Pre race fueling with luna bar and orange slices - check. Filled up water bottles - check. Last pee before gun time - check.
Everything was effortless.
We lined up between the 9:00 and 10:00 minute/mile pace. Typically I would go in the back with the walkers but I am not a walker. I am a runner.
The energy was wonderful and I got in the zone telling myself that I wanted to just go out and run and have fun enjoying every minute along the way. Sheryl and her family were cheering us on at the start. I got very emotional saying to Tom, "She knows I've been there..in a leg brace and wheelchair and here she is seeing me at 61 setting my sights on a PR!"
There was an unexpected uphill at the beginning of the course. I found myself in the middle of the pack running swift, running with relative ease although we were all joking about the hill. "Who ordered this hill at the beginning of the race?" one runner quipped. "What the hill?" quipped another. The pack was pretty thick (and I was staying with them!). Tom paced me and we were passing runners. Yes we.were.passing.runners. I remembered though about a training run at Wollaston Beach when it was hot and I had used a lot of energy early in the training run to pass a runner. After Tom paced me to pass several runners, I told him that we needed to settle into our pace. I felt like I was flying an airplane and we had reached our cruising altitude needing to pull back on the throttle.
It was hot and I wanted to run swift but also to run smart. I felt incredibly free in my body. The time on the clock no longer mattered. I was running from the inside out and wanted to enjoy every moment of my first race as a runner - not as a survivor of paralytic polio and violence. My body knew what to do and I was going to leave the time on the clock be whatever it was going to be. Our MVS friend passed us on the ramps. She said she forgot how hard they were. We said we were choosing to focus our perspective of easy rather than hard to get through.
The ramps did bite as my MVS runner friend said on Facebook but I dug deep, was focused and knew that after the uphills there was going to be a sweet very long downhill. There were adequate water stops so I was able to cool off as well as hydrate.
It was amazing to run around the top deck of Gillette Stadium and see the finish line and the jumbotron.
As we came onto the field the announcer said here comes Tom McManus and Mary McManus of Chestnut Hill, Mass. I savored the moment and heard my friends Michelle and Anne cheering for me. I hit the mat at 50:00 knowing that was gun time. It was a matter of how long it took us to hit the start mat but ultimately I didn't care. I had the best time and what a day filled with magic, mysticism and wonder and it wasn't over yet!
Anne gave me a huge hug and what a blessing she snapped this photo as we were crossing the finish line!
Michelle came over and offered congratulations! She had posted a video on Thursday with her doing a dance for exercise and before the race I asked her on Facebook if we could do a celebration dance on the 50 yard line. She said absolutely so here it is:
We were telling her about this amazing woman Sheryl and that we needed to wait for her and the next thing we knew, she was crossing the finish line with her son! She said that she did what I suggested. She imagined her best race ever and her body knew what to do. We were crying and hugging and celebrating. Her daughter had twisted her ankle so she was worried about her with her husband finishing the race. We sent out positive energy and in short order, they too crossed the finish line.
We celebrated with photos:
More hugs. More love. More joy and hope...
Sheryl told me that she had no idea how she was ever going to emerge from this most recent flare which had lasted the longest she could ever remember. She now has hope ... and I would like to add incredible courage to show up and rock the race as she did. She would not accept what the doctors were telling her and despite how she was feeling, she made up her mind that she was going to be able to run the race.
My life is blessed for having shared the day yesterday with Sheryl and her family. It was a day filled with Divine Love and synchronicity. It was a day to celebrate hope and independence. Feeling the heal. Healing the fear and letting Love prevail.
We said our goodbyes and Tom and I had a delicious post race meal at Skipjacks. Salmon. Mashed potatoes and sauteed spinach with sparkling water for me. Of course we had to share a dessert because that's why we run, right?
Before the fireworks we went to our car to get into some dry clothes. We thought the fireworks would be over Gillette but they were over Patriot Place.
That moment that your husband says to you, "Come on let's run up the stairs to see the fireworks," and you just go ... yeah that moment to capture the celebration of freedom with beautiful creations:
Oh and about that PR? Tom and I agreed that the way I was running, I had hit my PR. He was trying to calculate how long it took us to cross the starting line. The excitement mounted as I looked for our results on coolrunning.com that was followed up by an email from the race. My official time was ... wait for it ... 47:19 - 27 seconds off my PR but almost a minute better than my 2014 Corrib Pub 5K time. Besides, I manifested something way more important than a PR!
My friend Susan posted on Facebook: Happy! Happy! Happy! From my own experience it took a bit of speed work and several races before I got back to my racing pace. In fact, I have gotten even faster than I was leading up to my injury, so just be patient. It is amazing that you were only 28 seconds off your PR! That just shows how strong you are.
And then Sheryl posted this:
One of the most amazing days for me on so many levels! I was feeling so inadequate to be there. Post flare, dizzy, wobbling around, bloated, you name it I was feeling it.
But I vow to get up, dress up and show up if able. This was something I continue to need to teach my kiddos! It will get better! This too shall pass and together we can get through anything!
Then I met up with Mary McManus and her husband Tom McManus. An amazing couple so full of love, life and faith!
When I spoke my doubts aloud, Mary said to me,"don't focus on your doubts, instead visualize your last best race."
That's what I did. I got into the zone of my last 10k that I PR'd. I got into a rhythm with the crutches I didn't even think possible. I ran with Aidan and together we took off. Wonder Woman and Superman finished so strong. I reached my runners high, that pain free bliss where I was invincible! I will run another marathon someday! Yesterday reminded my brain of that! The brain fog is clearing and while it still at take a while to get there, I am on the right path. I am not alone on my journey! and then she added: You did amazing!!!! I cannot express how thankful I am to both you and your husband. From each touch giving me positive healing energy, to every sweaty hug! The impact you had on my family was so amazing and incredible! I am sorry you didn't hit your PR but what you accomplished yesterday will forever remain in the memories and hearts of the Morley family. Love and relaxation for a great holiday week to you both!
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.
I am writing "Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems," and "Going the Distance," chronicling my journey on the road to the Newport Marathon 2016.