Thursday, January 19, 2017

Going the Distance: Bermuda Half Marathon Race Report: Part II - Running with Heart

I posted a picture on Facebook that I was rereading Jacqueline Hansen's book, "A Long Time Coming," to inspire me for race day. "A perfect way to manage taper time... reading about inspirational pioneers in women's running. Poignant since Joan Benoit Samuelson is running this weekend! It's my second reading and must say it's even more enjoyable the second time around!"

Jacqueline, who has been gracious enough to write the Foreword to my soon to be released book, "Going the Distance: The Power of Endurance," posted, "Thank you Mary! I loved that Joanie wrote my foreward, and now I have written yours.❤ Have a good race, stay the course and, as always, run with heart. Love, JQ"

I replied, "Will do."

Little did I know how much I would have to run with all my heart to get me to the finish line after the "wheels came off the wagon," one of my favorite Aaron Sorkinisms.

Shortly after mile 11, we met a volunteer out on the course. He could see that I was struggling and got right in my face and said with his rich Bermudian accent, "The race is not for those who are swift. The race is for those who can endure. You're the winner. You can do this. Now go finish!" He was preaching and infusing me with strength and positive energy. I reassured him that I was going to finish the race set before me.

Last year they did not have a mile 12 mile marker and it didn't matter because I was sailing through the final miles of the race. We knew we were coming close to the finish. This year I was so grateful to see Mile 12. The question was not would I make it to the finish line but how. I had to accept the fact that for whatever reason I could not straighten up and was leaning to my left side. My left arm was in some kind of spasm. I had lost muscle control over my upper body. We stopped and stretched every which way I could think of to get relief and hydrated.

"Are you okay? Do you need water?" a beautiful runner said with a delightful English accent.

"No we have enough water...I'm stretching trying to work out cramps. Thank you."

As we turned the corner I welcomed the downhill heading into Front Street. One foot in front of the other was all I could think about. At the wall in front of the Rosedon Hotel, a spot where I felt incredible triumph last year, I felt that I was losing control over my body and Tom supported me from collapsing. I dumped water on my head, took a big gulp of water and pulled myself together. I had to block out the trigger that was happening inside of me about the day I collapsed in gym class after contracting paralytic polio at age 5. I brought myself back to the present. Tom had the brilliant idea of having me put my arm around his shoulder and he braced my hip to give me support while I powered on.

"Come on. Put your arm around me. I'm going to help you."

It was the angel from mile 12.

She could tell I was stunned. "They did it for me when I cramped up in Chicago and Phila actually. It's okay. Let me know if you want me to go lower or higher."

I powered up Bermudiana Road and then down Bermudiana Road...the final hill!

I just kept saying thank you amidst the conversation we were having to keep me distracted from what was happening in my body and to keep me focused on my single minded goal to cross that finish line.

"I'm going to step aside right before the finisher's chute so I'm not in your finish photo," this angel said to me.

I was never so happy to see a finish chute in my life! As we had planned and visualized so many times, Tom and I held hands high with a huge smile on our faces to celebrate that I ran my second CONSECUTIVE Bermuda Half Marathon. It wasn't pretty but I got it done and only took about 20 minutes more time than my time last year.

As soon as we crossed, I was greeted by medical tent volunteers. "Come in here and let us check you out," they said. Tom insisted! "Wait where are our medals?" Tom said he'd go see about them and came back to tell me that they ran out! My first thought from days gone by was I was too slow and missed out but we found out that a shipment of medals had disappeared and never arrived in Bermuda. I think they must have gotten lost in the Bermuda Triangle.

Tom had forgotten his wallet to pay for brunch back at the hotel so while I was being attended to, he ran back to the Rosedon to get the wallet. He bumped into our friends Diane and John from our running Club and asked where I was. When they heard I was in the medical tent, they asked if they should come see me. Tom said they didn't have to but true to runner's code and running family they came to see me. As soon as I sat down on the cot, I felt everything release. I was amazed at how I was not frightened about what happened and had total confidence in my body's ability to make a rapid and complete recovery.

Vitals were fine including blood sugar and one of the EMT's told me that I had fueled and hydrated well based on how well I was recovering given how I looked coming into the finish.

Diane and John were incredibly supportive and I asked if we could take a finisher's photo and borrow their medals. Without hesitation they said of course!

One of the Bermudians, Natalie, with whom I became good friends on Facebook saw me after I left the medical tent and asked me how I was. Word travels fast on that little island of Bermuda.

Our after the medical tent celebration photos with Natalie and Tim, Team McManus with Team Jannetti, and Team McManus (taken by Diane Jannetti) :

My angel, Jamie-Lee Wright, came back to see us and check in with me. She had a stellar running comeback at the Triangle Half Challenge after 6 months of not running due to an injury and training for 6 weeks prior to race weekend. After she PR'ed her half she went back to her house which is along the race course to cheer on a friend running the full marathon. He was struggling and she ran him to the finish. It was after she helped him to cross the finish line that she came to find us to help me finish!

I can look upon my race experience as something that can happen to all runners; hitting the wall, cramping up and the body just shuts down.

The Bermuda Half Marathon happening as it had became a profound mystical experience for me.

The fear that I could collapse again and have no control over my body happened, and, instead of the experience crushing me, I was able to dig deep and move beyond it as a 63 year old woman. The deep wounds of having been bullied and teased and left behind while I was left to try to catch up with my peers lugging a hip to ankle heavy metal brace was Divinely transformed as Jamie-Lee came to find me, support me, reassure me and care for me as one's dearest loved one would do. I went from being an outcast in gym class known as "Easy out Alper" (my maiden name) to a woman celebrated and honored for being a source of inspiration for so many.

After the race, it was time to celebrate!

To be continued....

To your health and wellness,

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