Tuesday, May 2, 2017
Celebrating Ten Years of Healing: The Gift of Running Part II
“The joy I feel when I'm moving my body with my own two feet is so great that the act alone is satisfying enough. I've learned to run like no one is watching.” ~ John “The Penguin” Bingham
I recently discovered #mindovermarathon - a BBC documentary that follows a group of individuals, all of whom have been struggling with their mental health, who go on to train for and run the 2017 London Marathon. I can't wait to see the full documentary.
Prince William is spearheading a campaign, "Heads together," and with Lady Gaga's Born This Way Foundation, #okaytosay.
When I first began my journey to heal my life after the diagnosis Post-Polio Syndrome ten years ago, I did not realize that the majority of my symptoms were a result of unhealed trauma that was stuck in my body. It was such a challenge to break the cycle of being sedentary, depressed and anxious and to begin to connect to my body after years of neglect, dissociation and abuse by not having an exercise program. Once I began working with Dr. Ryan J. Means in March of 2015, I was able to reignite my power of belief in my body's capacity to heal...that I could and would go the distance and reexperience the gift of running in my life.
Even though the team at Spaulding Rehab's International Rehab Center for Polio and Post Polio told me that if I use it I would lose it, I knew I had to get moving. They were using a model that said that polio survivors experience an accelerated aging process because of a neuromuscular system that had been compromised by the initial polio virus. They were not aware of the body's tremendous capacity to regenerate and heal.
Thank God I listened to God and to the promptings of my own body that said I needed to get moving....and moving in a very big way by setting the goal of running the 2009 Boston Marathon shortly after coming out of a leg brace and needing a cane for mobility and having been told I should prepare to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair!
I discovered a whole new world during those months of training for the 2009 Boston Marathon. I developed friendships with people who are now like family. We call them #runnerfamily. Because of all the trauma I lived through beginning with contracting paralytic polio, collapsing to the ground without warning in kindergarten class in 1959 and 3 years later suffering almost unbearable physical, sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of family members, I never had the opportunity to participate in athletics. Gym class was torture and I was given the nickname, "Easy Out Alper." I had no confidence in my body's ability to do anything other than barely get me from point A to point B. But all of that quickly changed when I trained for the Boston Marathon.
To fuel my Boston Marathon journey, I continued to write poems visualizing only positive outcomes for my 26.2 mile journey and to stay positive during the inevitable ups and downs of training to go the marathon distance.
A few of my favs from "Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life":
Pounding pavement, feeling strength the journey now begun
training for the race of my life a 26.2 mile run.
Feeling God in every step in every beat of my heart
I undertake this challenge as a new chapter of my life I start.
I ran around in circles carrying baggage by the ton,
destination was survival hardened shell let in no one.
Fear and worry doubts prevailed, adrenaline in my veins
a headless horseman running wild no one to take the reins.
Stopping in my tracks I froze no longer could I move -
clawing, fighting had to cease there was nothing more to prove.
God's grace touched like a magic wand, a softness and a glow
emerging from a troubled past my blood began to flow.
Loving teachers lit the way their love a healing balm -
focusing on who I am now brings a sense of calm.
Stretching every muscle feeling God in every cell
wholeness now a blessing out of prison - no more hell.
The race is still a year away each day my dream I see
mind, body, spirit tuning turning toward the Voice of Thee.
Flexing what had once been stiff to brace against the pain
old habits die and I'm reborn to write a new refrain.
And when the starting gun goes off poised with strength and grace
the thunder of the running feet will help me set my pace.
But the starting line's the finish my race already won
achieving the impossible preparing for this run.
The healing power of self-love and faith to spark the flame
transformed me from a victim once filled with so much shame.
Unearth my buried treasures my inheritance I find
connected to my Loving God in my heart and mind.
And when I cross the finish line the greatest cheer of all
has been this magnificent journey of answering God's call.
Ode to Marathon Training
Blisters, black toes, aches and pains, a change in my routine
Long training runs, the hills, the sprints running clothes fresh and clean.
Carbo load and plan each meal power gels and gatorade
no matter what the weather no time to be afraid.
Humid - hot or freezing cold snow against the face
wind or sun or raining those running shoes I must lace.
What mile is this how long we been out check heart rate drink H20
meltdowns joys and triumphs only a few more weeks to go.
Heartbreak Hill won't break my heart this year has been the best
found myself and made new friends I feel incredibly blessed.
It's Marathon Monday, it's my day to shine
with husband and daughter poised at starting line.
I know I can do this - there's no way to fail
tethered to God through this race I can sail.
For over a year, we've trained from our heart
mind, body, spirit - we're ready to start.
We know the course and we know the terrain
we're primed for the challenge - we know they'll be pain.
The glory's far greater than what we may face
we're living examples of God's shining Grace.
Shake out all the nerves - there's nothing to fear
let in all the love from the crowds as they cheer.
With prayers and angels our feet feel so light
Joy overflowing the finish in sight.
We conquered the course fueled by love in our heart
the race had been won blessed by God from the start.
Running is redemption, community, therapy, medicine and at 63 years old the greatest gift and treasure in my life....
To be continued....
To going the distance with strength and courage,
My books are available on Amazon.
Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life
Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing Hope and Possibility that chronicles the first 7 years of my healing journey:
And my latest and greatest book - Going the Distance: The Power of Endurance (With a Foreword by Jacqueline Hansen):
Mary McManus, MSW knew challenges since she was five years old beginning with contracting polio followed by enduring nine years of violence at the hands of family members. Those early challenges prepared her for taking on the challenge of the diagnosis of post polio syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease in December 2006 when she was at the height of her award winning career as a social worker at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Asking for Divine Guidance as she had throughout her trials and tribulations, she discovered the gift of poetry in her soul. Her first poem, “Running the Race,” foreshadowed her 2009 Boston Marathon run. “Going the Distance: The Power of Endurance,” chronicles Mary’s journey as a survivor of paralytic polio and trauma, as a runner and a woman who refused to quit. Eight years after her diagnosis, she was finally led to two healers, a chiropractor and a muscular therapist, who helped her reclaim her life and go the distance, a woman transformed who embodies the power of endurance.