At the 2016 Hyannis Marathon Weekend, Jacqueline Hansen, trailblazer, pioneer of women's long distance running, educator, coach and a woman who lives with heart, was one of the guest speakers at the pre-race pasta dinner. For me it was enthralled at first sight!
And then on race day (from Going the Distance: The Power of Endurance):
In the distance a figure came toward us. The expanse of ocean was to our left and this beautiful woman came up on our right. She stopped me to give me a hug. She whispered in my ear," Run with all your heart." I felt she was my fairy godmother and I was Cinderella being told, "You will go to the ball." It was Jacqueline! You see growing up as a survivor of paralytic polio I was always the outcast. When it came to gym I was "easy out Alper” and those words were seared into me. I was bullied and teased and struggled with my identity as a runner when I first started running. When Jeffrey spoke that sentence and set the intention that matched mine after my first treatment, "I want you to run unencumbered," as he looked at me with his warm smile and blue eyes I knew I could leave that part of me behind.
After Jaqi's hug I felt something ignite within me. My pace picked up.... Suddenly mile 5 was upon us. I had not stopped for 5 miles. I slowed down to take water and have a half of a Luna bar at mile 2 (when our bodies told us we needed to refuel) but I was running non stop for 5 miles! I knew that I needed to take a brief pause remembering how Jeffrey told me that our bodies can reset in as little as 30 seconds. I hydrated and knew I wanted to run the last 1.2 miles strong.
I had in my head that I wanted to break 1:40 for my 10K. Since my return to the roads I was running about a 16:33 pace on anything above a 5K. When we joined the marathoners and half marathoners on the course, something broke free within me. I was running with the pack! I had a lot left in the tank and I was leaving nothing out on the roads. Usually at this point in a race I have to struggle to push hard. I remembered how I felt going for a PR at the 2014 Tufts 10K.
There was nothing in the tank and it was sheer will power to push for that PR. On Sunday there was pure joy in my running. I felt so different in my body. It was more than just finishing a race; I was racing this race competing against myself seeing just what I could do. I cried as we came toward the finish and there was this huge crowd with cowbells! The course monitors were amazing with cowbells and high fives to cheer us on all along the course and then cheering everyone into the finish. Paul was there calling out my name saying just stay to the left. He was there when I finished my first half marathon in 2009 in Hyannis, for my running comeback at the Charles River Run in June of 2010 and when I PR'ed his Jingle Bell Run in December of 2010. He has always been a cheerleader and champion of my journey.
Tom and I held hands high as we crossed the finish line. I knew it had taken us a good 4 minutes or so to cross the starting line and the finisher's clock said 1:43 but whatever our time would be the 2016 Hyannis 10K was my redemption race and it was, without a doubt my best time ever!"
To be able to run the Bermuda Half Marathon in January 2016 and then go on to run the Hyannis 10K in February was a testament to my own fiery Spirit and grit and determination but it was through partnering with Jeffrey Spratt, MT who pioneered the Spratt Method of Muscular Therapy that I was able to reclaim my advantage and reclaim my life to go the distance; being able to experience being a part of the running world again after being told in December of 2014 that I would not and should not run again and should go back to see the Team at the Post-Polio clinic because there was no way that my progress could continue. It was just a matter of time before the progressive neuromuscular disease symptoms set in!
I obviously had other plans that I share in Going the Distance: The Power of Endurance.
What an honor to have Jacqueline pen the Foreword for my book:
Eleanor Roosevelt once said “Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.”
I have found this to be true throughout my life. I have also found that I am attracted to strong women friends, who are strong willed, strong minded, with lots of endurance. At least once a day I must tell myself, “thank goodness I’m a marathoner.” I am guessing that Mary McManus tells herself the same thing. She is certainly someone who has left indelible footprints in my heart. I have rarely met anyone with so many life-threatening challenges who portrays such an onward thinking attitude.
In fact, another Eleanor Roosevelt quotation reminds me of Mary: “You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’ You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
When you read about Mary’s life experiences you will wonder how does she not only endure, but lives her life with positivity in abundance. My closest friend in life lives by the motto “Be relentlessly positive,” which is written on her office door. Mary exudes this same attitude. You will not encounter a more positive person than Mary, despite all the challenges she has endured in life.
Try to imagine what it must have been like to be diagnosed with paralytic polio as a child. Try to imagine suffering child abuse at the hands of those very family members who are charged with your upbringing. Try to imagine them together. It’s unbearable to think about. Then imagine surviving the unthinkable, and in adulthood being diagnosed with Post-Polio Syndrome. This is a story that needs to be told. This is a story of challenge, of resiliency, and a story of heart, tremendous heart.
I am fond of using the word “heart.” When coaching young athletes, which I have done my entire adult life, I often tell them to “run with heart.” As I explain to them, I can coach them on skills, on running form, on race strategy, on everything to do with their running, except I cannot create “heart.” This is something that only they can produce from within. I go on to say that “you have to want this (running or racing) more than I do – more than I want it for you.” “Always run with heart.” I am here to tell you that Mary McManus always runs with all her heart....
Besides being a former record-holding runner who became a coach, I am also an educator. I teach teachers about health education, so in turn they will teach the youth. One of the most important lessons we impart is how to build resilient young persons. In brief, I can tell you there are no apparent factors in Mary’s childhood that would lead to her developing into a resilient young adult and woman. Yet, nonetheless, she became so. When faced with the prognosis of spending her life in a wheelchair, she did not “settle.” She chose to reclaim her life with fervor.
A musician and poet, Patti Smith, wrote the book, “M Train,” for which she was described as having the rare gift of projecting radiance despite experiencing melancholy and grief in her life. Patti Smith once said “If we walk the victim, we’re perceived as the victim. And if we enter glowing and receptive . . . if we maintain our radiance and enter a situation with radiance, often radiance will come our way.”
In my heart, I believe our author Mary McManus has mastered overcoming challenges, maintaining positivity, possessing resiliency, portraying radiance; and in doing so, she provides great inspiration for others.
Jacqueline Hansen, M.Ed.
University Course Instructor, Health Education for Teachers
Track & Field, Cross Country Coaching Education
It's that time of year when runners are getting ready to start their 26.2 mile journey from Hopkinton to Boston. I took that journey in 2009 and honor every runner who fires up their power of endurance to run the Boston Marathon. I'm getting very excited for all the Boston Marathon weekend festivities this year relishing and savoring my own memories of being able to dig deep and go the distance!
To your health and wellness,