Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Sweet View From the Back of the Pack: If you run slow, who cares - and what's slow anyway?

This morning on Facebook, a woman I connected with after running the Bermuda Marathon shared a link to this article, "If you run slow, who cares?" What followed was a fabulous Facebook stream of women championing other women for having the courage to be out on the roads whatever the pace, whatever the distance.

As a survivor of paralytic polio, I struggled with trying to keep up with others. As a 5-8 year old lugging a heavy metal brace on my left leg, I could never keep up with my older brother, his friends and my so called friends. Back in the 50's there was little disability awareness and ignorance sadly often breeds contempt.

I refused to participate in athletic endeavors except when I was forced to participate in gym class and it was, needless to say, a very painful experience.

But then after receiving the diagnosis of post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease, a spark was lit within me to get moving and I discovered the wonderful world of running.

I was embraced in the running community regardless of when I finished and more often than not, I finished last.

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

Our first 5 mile race was the Marathon Sports 5 miler. It was a hot, steamy evening in July. We got lost on the way to the race. Tempers were running as hot as the thermometer because I was so anxious about running my first five mile race. My energy tended to wane by the evening as I was continuing to deal with the late effects of paralytic polio. We finally arrived and walked around trying to enjoy the pre race festivities. As everyone took their place at the start, I could see that this was a serious, competitive running crowd; quite a contrast to my first race ever, the Corrib Pub Run 5K in June.

Runners went out fast and Tom and I were in the back of the pack with a few other people. Even they took off and I experienced my first (of many) marathon training meltdowns. I cried as I shared with Tom all the memories of having kids take off and leave me behind that were bubbling to the surface. I was sweating and tired and hot. I couldn’t tell where my tears ended and sweat began. I told Tom I had no business training for the Boston Marathon. Tom was wonderful and he told me that I couldn’t quit. We would make it through this race and we would make it through every training run. He believed in me when I did not believe in myself. I did know, however, that if I didn’t finish that race, I would never make it to the starting line of the Boston Marathon. Alison gave me water and a high five out on the course. She was worried about me in the heat and wanted to make sure I was okay.

Despite finishing dead last, members of the Marathon Sports family who knew the story of Team McManus, had air horns and a truck on the field honking and blowing and cheering us on to the finish. I knew training for Boston was not going to be easy, but I knew I had what it was going to take to make it happen.

It's been a running journey filled with trials, tribulations and most important of all triumphs.

At the Bermuda Half Marathon, I was at the back of the pack. I met some of the most amazing women in the back of the pack. We received support and blessings from the locals despite being in the back of the pack and what a sweet reward to watch the contest between the lead male marathoner with the lead female coming up from behind. We could see that his pace was faltering and she had him in her cross hairs. Were we not at the back of the pack we would have missed seeing this contest that resulted in the female marathoner winning the race.

It took me just under 4 hours to run the Bermuda Half Marathon; a time that it would take many to run a full marathon.

But I'm not your 'average' runner. I run with a body that had been ravaged by paralytic polio and trauma that is now transforming into a body that is new; reconditioning my body to a new mind, as Dr. Joe Dispenza says. It is a miracle that I am back on the roads and despite what a physiatrist, several physical therapists and the massage therapist I was working with at the time were telling me, I decided that I needed to set goals not limits and discard the results of the MRI and all the diagnoses that were in my medical record.

If I run slow, who cares? I am blessed with my running and life partner Tom and a running community that celebrates me as a runner knowing what it takes for me to just get out there and run. And besides, what's slow anyway? Whatever the time may be on the clock, every runner is the same in this as that wonderful article states, "Both worked hard, sacrificed to achieve their goal, and experienced the same challenges."

And let me tell you, the view from the back of the pack is just as sweet as the view from the front of the just may take me a little longer to cross the finish line.

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