Friday, June 23, 2017

Fundraising Friday: Spotlight on Thor Kirleis and the Inaugural Fenway Park Marathon



Thor Kirleis, whose first name means “Thunder,” has been involved in endurance sports for over 30 years. He is now 47 years old. The power of the run was something Thor learned about early on in his career. Competing in endurance events gave Thor the confidence that he could do whatever it was that he set his mind to and he has been living life outside of his comfort zone for over 3 decades.

While Thor’s individual accomplishments are quite impressive, over 100 Marathons, Ironman races, qualified and competed in TEAM USA in the ITU Long Course (Triathlon) World Championships proudly representing the US in international competition, Ultra runs across the Colorado Rockies, the Canadian Rockies, and the Grand Canyon (just to name a few), he is happiest and most proud of when he can use his passion to help others.

In May of 2014, Thor paced and guided Randy Pierce, a blind runner, to a Boston Qualifier at the Cox Providence Marathon. You can read their feel good to the goosebumps inspirational story by following this link. It was through this remarkable story that Randy, Thor and I became friends in social media land.

Instead of tailoring a training season to achieve a personal best by the time on the clock, Thor offered to pace friends in their races to help them achieve their goals.

Doing good, giving back and love of children is an integral part of who Thor is. Since having two children of his own, now 4 and 3 years old, he has made a concerted effort to do more for others, especially children, so that he can teach his children by example that helping others is a part of being human. He is passionate about equality and social justice and wears a rainbow singlet in his important races to support his LGBT friends and the broader community.

Flying kites with his beautiful children:




So one would think that given Thor’s incredible record of endurance events and his desire and passion to do good would make it somewhat easy for him to run the inaugural Fenway Marathon in September raising funds for the Red Sox Foundation. Raising funds was never something Thor has been comfortable doing and he is stepping way outside of his comfort zone to ask for donations.

But there’s a lot more to the story….

In the span of two months beginning in June of 2015, Thor went from finishing 6th place overall in a 55 mile ultra marathon to not being able to run at all. By the end of July, Thor knew something was very wrong with him. He was so fatigued that his body just could not get up and run. He went through a battery of tests and no one could find out what was happening to Thor’s body. He was given a diagnosis by Western Medicine of Sjogrens Syndrome, an autoimmune disease and treated him as though he were terminally ill. Thor had two thoughts as he stared at the tissue box on the table in the doctor’s office, “A syndrome is a collection of symptoms. It doesn’t tell you why and we never fully pursued Lyme. He found an Osteopath who was willing to look into Lyme and the rough road of healing began. Through sheer will and determination, Thor ran the 2017 Boston Marathon.



Here is a photo of Thor at the 2017 Doyles 5 Mile Race:


When the opportunity to run the inaugural Fenway Park Marathon presented itself, Thor decided to see if he would be one of the 50 runners chosen to participate and commit to raising $5,000 for The Red Sox Foundation. Even though he is from New York (so am I) he is a Red Sox convert (just like me) and was excited to embrace the opportunity to run laps inside Fenway Park for 26.2 miles. The Red Sox Foundation has always been a favorite charity of Thor’s because of its affiliation with the Jimmy Fund. The core of their work supports the children in our local community and also benefits The Home Base Foundation caring for our veterans.

He is currently in the throes of a flare of his symptoms. He is getting in miles any way he can feeling inspired by the company of his son Camden. Like me, and that is why we are kindred spirits, Thor refuses to be bound by his limitations of any moment. He wrote this on Facebook yesterday, “Come September 15th, I will have raised, with your help, $5000 for supporting local kids in our community, and I will participate in the Fenway Park Marathon.”

I have every confidence that Thor WILL cross that finish line of 26.2 miles in the inaugural Fenway Park Marathon. He needs your help to exceed his fund raising goal of $5000. Please follow this link and donate whatever you are able to donate for Thor, for the children, for the veterans and for yourself because life isn’t meant to be lived with a catcher’s mitt on both hands. It’s so important to be able to throw something back.

Go the distance with strength and courage!
~Mary

Be sure to visit my website by following this link.

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):






Thursday, June 22, 2017

On Believing, Healing and Crushing Goals!



From January to late June, When I am not building miles for my annual Bermuda Half Marathon, I increase my work in cross training and strength training.

After working out on the Arc Trainer for a year, I decided it was time to set new goals. First, I increased the settings and worked at that level for 20 minutes for awhile. Then I decided I want to set a distance goal based on what/how I was doing and decided I'd go for .9 mile however long it took me. The next goal was to see if I could hit .9 mile within the 20 minute time limit. Oooh I came so close for the past several weeks.

We begin to increase mileage on the road to the Bermuda Half Marathon on Saturday so I knew I had one more opportunity to really open it up and see if I could crush that goal.

As you read this, kindly remember that 10 years ago I was told I 'had' 'Post-Polio Syndrome' - a progressive neuromuscular disease. I should prepare to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair.

In December of 2014, I was told that I should not run, could not run and would not run any distance more than a 5K - well maybe a 5 miler at most and should prepare to have a total knee replacement in a couple of years. That was based on an MRI of my left knee and leg - the leg more severely affected by paralytic polio that revealed a whole host of findings including degenerative joint changes, a fatty lipoma, torn miniscus, atrophied gastroc muscle and the list goes on and on. I started out using Western Medicine to try to get back on the roads but was redirected by the Universe to ditch my entire treatment team including a massage therapist I was working with at the time.

I was blessed to meet Dr. Ryan J. Means - a chiropractor who believed in the body's natural capacity to heal and reminded me about all teachings I had heard about before but somehow forgotten to practice their work. He added in the teachings of Dr. Joe Dispenza and Dr. Candace Pert, both teachers in "What the bleep do we know..."

The Universe then led me to the massage therapy practice of Jeffrey Spratt, MT whose pioneering Spratt Method of Muscular Therapy was just what I needed to rehab my left leg and heal the effects of paralytic polio and trauma. He has partnered with me for 90 minutes every week and, through the power of positive, therapeutic touch I have incredible confidence in my body's abilities to take on and crush new goals!

I did not have the intention to set out and crush that goal on Tuesday. Something fired up within me and I was giving it my all. Sweat poured. Heart rate went way up. Once I set the intention to crush that goal, I had a single minded vision and focus. All that mattered in those moments was to see the distance change over as I increased my pace. My intention was clear and once I knew I was within striking distance, there was more and more momentum in my workout. It took on a life of its own and I hit .9 before the 20 minute mark. I kept going until 20 minutes:




From the beginning of my journey to heal my life 10 years ago, I had faith - I believed that I could and would heal. What a thrill to crush my goal on Tuesday.

I'm ready to take on 5.5 miles on Saturday on the road to my third consecutive Bermuda Half Marathon. It will be a first for me to train for and run a third consecutive half marathon but that's what believing, healing and crushing goals is all about!

Go the distance with strength and courage!
~Mary

Be sure to visit my website by following this link.

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):




Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Who's the runner in this family?



When you walk into our humble home, the first things to catch your eye are our Blue Diamond Athletic Displays. They hold our precious bling that reminds Team McManus of our running adventures through the years.

Yesterday we had a new dishwasher installed. We always trust our plumbing needs to Boston Standard. When the "regulars" come to our house, they ask if we've run any new races or what's next in our training plan. When we get someone who hasn't been to our house before, they will always ask, "Who's the runner in this family?"

Yesterday was no exception. I love having the opportunity to share my journey. It reminds me of the road I have traveled these past 10 years! I love the responses I receive and how I inspire others with my determination and fiery spirit!

Last night I posted a teaser about this blog on Facebook:
Good evening beautiful friends. I'm working on a blog post for tomorrow but thought I'd give you a teaser....."Who is the runner in the family?" our plumber asked as he installed our new dishwasher today as he spied Nell Posmer's Blue Diamond Athletic Displays, INC., medal displays. "We all are," I replied and went on to share with him my inspirational journey! Our Blue Diamond Athletic Displays are a showcase and a conversation piece! To be continued....


It's easy to forget the miracle of my healing and what I have accomplished until a moment like that happens especially when I have my eye on the next prize - my third consecutive Bermuda Half Marathon!

Yet it is so very important to take a pause and appreciate how far I've come!



My Bermudian runner earth angel, Jamie-Lee Wright saw my Facebook post and said, "Wow! Boston!" with an emoji of an arm making a muscle symbolizing strength.

Yes indeed - wow Boston! I came out of a leg brace after being told to prepare to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair and expect to be on a steady decline given the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome. Instead I foreshadowed my Boston Marathon run with the poem, "Running the Race":
Running the Race
Early summer 1959 my kindergarten year
everyone around me filled with nervous fear
despite the Salk vaccine hope polio would disappear
the polio virus crept right up and knocked me in the rear.

Dancing all around the gym feeling free just like a bird
I dropped to the ground just like a stone and no one said a word.
The pain it was so searing-the diagnosis even worse
"It's polio" the doctor said...he was abrupt and terse.

Called one of the 'lucky ones' I had a 'mild case'
but with the other athletes I could never keep their pace.
Miss Holly physical therapist, curly hair and a warm, broad smile
it tempered the pain of being apart - to walk I'd take awhile.

I always wore those 'special' shoes the kids they poked and teased
With no support and much abuse with childhood I wasn't pleased.
But put nose to the grindstone and learned all that I could
I couldn't kick a ball but my grades were always good.

Years went by and no more thought to polio did I give
I accepted the limp and everything else and decided my life I would live.
But symptoms of weakness and muscle pain did grow
I kept a stoic face hoping no one else would know.

Life no longer was my own I struggled through each day
Suffered in silence, isolated from friends- trying to keep depression at bay.
And with the grace of glorious God my world it opened wide
I discovered there was a Post Polio team and they were on my side.

Using wheelchair to travel, set limits on what I could do,
resulted in joy to realize I could live life anew.
Celebrated my body- creaks, groans and need for a brace
While in my mind I focused on winning a 10K race.

Sought out paths for healing and my spirit flew free
for the first time in life, I could truly be me.
The chains are gone and possibilities abound
I'm a tree with my roots planted firmly in ground.

I'm now off the sidelines, no need to sit and whine
So much gratitude fills my heart and love and beauty shine.
After all these years I can join the loving human race
I exceed all expectations and now I set the pace.


Ten years ago as I contemplated an uncertain future having just left my award winning career as a VA social worker to "heal my life" "Who's the runner in this family?" was a most improbable if not impossible question. Now the answer is - we all are. Team McManus on the road to the Bermuda Half Marathon 2018!

To going the distance with strength and courage!
~Mary

Be sure to visit my website by following this link.

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):


Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Meaning of My New Pair of Kicks!



As a survivor of paralytic polio, I always struggled with finding shoes that fit me never mind being able to wear "stylish shoes." This is a stock photo but easily could have been a photo of me after I contracted polio at the age of 5 years old:


Ten years ago, after being diagnosed with Post-Polio Syndrome, "a progressive neuromuscular disease" by Western Medicine standards, I needed to wear these shoes with a toe up leg brace:


But then, just like Cinderella at the ball, I was transformed through the power of running.

I met my "Prince Charming" of running shoes in March of 2008. Spencer Aston at Brookline Marathon Sports was enthralled with my journey and my desire to go the distance at the 2009 Boston Marathon. I had never run a day in my life!

He spent so much time with me fitting me with my first pair of running shoes - ever!

The discomfort and shame I used to feel around trying to buy shoes was magically whisked away by Spencer's care and attention to detail.

The staff at Brookline Marathon Sports has been helpful throughout these past 10 years as I went through different stages of running shoes. I found my way into minimalist shoes and now I'm wearing Altra Intuition.

Every time they changed the model of the shoe it was a wait with baited breath. Would the new style serve my unusual gait pattern and differences in my feet. I am not alone in this hold your breath when our favorite running shoe is upgraded but it does take on special significance for me.

Marathon Sports is no longer carrying Altra Intuition and my 3.0's that had seen me through two Bermuda marathons were about ready to bite the dust. I scoured the internet for any 3.0's or even a 3.5 without success. I went to Altra's on line store and decided to try the Intuition 4.0.

They arrived yesterday and I LOVE THEM!

I realized that I don't have to be concerned anymore about finding the right shoe. The Universe supports me in every imaginable way with everything I need to go the distance.

A man once said to me that there is nothing sexier than a woman in stilettos. He caught himself after he said it and said, "Well of course I wouldn't expect you to be in stilettos."

I smile in response to that comment now. For what could possibly be sexier than a woman sporting a pair of running shoes, fierce and focused, going the distance and giving it her all; pouring sweat - the essence of perfection and poetry in motion.

I LOVE my new kicks! And I plan to conquer the 13.1 distance in Bermuda in January...and the world!

To going the distance with strength and courage!
~Mary

Be sure to visit my website by following this link.

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):











Saturday, June 17, 2017

"This is gonna make a great blog post...Celebrating the miracle of healing!"



The title for this blog was said by our daughter Ruth Anne as we prepared to run 5 miles around Jamaica Pond on our road to the Bermuda Half Marathon.

Torrential downpours were the lullaby we feel asleep to last night. We planned to run our traditional Reservoir route but as Ruth Anne put on her new kicks and I looked at the puddles outside, I knew we needed a plan B! Spirit spoke to me and directed me to suggest we do our training run around Jamaica Pond.

Jamaica Pond holds so many special memories for us. It's where we trained for the 2009 Boston Marathon. At the time I had not realized that Bill Rodgers trained at Jamaica Pond. His runs around Jamaica Pond are well documented in his book, "Marathon Man."

As so often happens during a Team McManus training run, we find something to laugh about and today proved to be the rule rather than the exception. I had trouble getting my arm band on and couldn't decide whether or not to wear my jacket given the "in between" kind of weather. We started our run and then realized we forgot to stretch. We started in one direction but there were throngs of runners going in the opposite direction and decided we'd rather swim with the salmon upstream than try to dodge runners.

We fell into our rhythm and had our best training run to date.

We reminisced about our Boston Marathon training runs around Jamaica Pond which of course included this gem:

From my memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility":
And who could EVER forget us losing each other around - emphasize the word a-round Jamaica Pond. Tom had stopped at the car to fill up the water bottles and get some snacks. He had his iPod on really loud. I was in the zone and ran by him. I saw him looking for me in the opposite direction and yelled to him that I was over here. I felt so great and the weather was wonderful that I did not want to interrupt my rhythm. Finally, my daughter who had been going at her own pace came running up to me - where were you she asked? (well duh, we're going around in a circle) Dad is worried sick about you. He thought that since you had to go to the bathroom (and the bathrooms were not open yet) that you went off the trail and went to pee in the woods). We finally all caught up with one another and laughed so hard.

Today, our daugher observed, "Dad paced us, I'm keeping by your side running stride for stride and, We are celebrating the miracle of healing!"

As we passed by the rocks that formed a wall, we remembered how our runs during the winter of 2009 inspired my poem:

Courage - January 5, 2009
The fear of ice and snow and slush embedded in my soul
a training run in winter - the path to Being whole.
A winter scene - Jamaica Pond - a feast for eyes' delight
to witness nature's splendor and behold this glorious sight.
A leaf - a tiny dancer - skating free without a sound
God's breath directs her movements,as She guides her twirling 'round.
Families of ducks decide to walk or take a dip
a comedy of errors into icy water slip.
The branches now bejeweled with ice bend with loving Grace
sparkling diamonds' anchor water's surface hold in place.
God's hand a glove of glistening snow
hugs rocks along the wall
their heads peek out reminding me I'm answering God's call.
A scene I'd never witness if I let my fear take hold
courage triumphed, steppin' out with footsteps sure and bold.
Knowing that the pain subsides and Spirit can prevail
the Marathon is beckoning - through those miles I shall sail.


We kept an eye on our pace to ensure we did not go too fast given that we were training for distance and we nailed our pace. We improved on our fueling and hydration. We filled our senses with the waves lapping against the shore, the sweet scent of late Spring/early Summer in Boston, the lush green trees and allowing our bodies to train on the trails and terrain. It was our first training run where I felt a surge of optimism that we are and will go the 13.1 distance together.

Today's training run at Jamaica Pond DID make for a great run and a great blog post. Team McManus celebrated the miracle of healing!



To going the distance with strength and courage!
~Mary

Be sure to visit my website by following this link.

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):






Friday, June 16, 2017

Life Outside the Comfort Zone!



My Facebook news feed is filled with my friends' thrilling summer racing adventures. 70.3's, Lake Placid Ironman, training and fund raising for Fall marathons and my contribution to this fabulous feed is Team McManus' training for my third consecutive Bermuda Half Marathon next January.

As I saw my friends' posts and pondered my own undertaking, I began to wonder why do we do this?

We do this because life begins outside of our comfort zone. We affirm, through our epic undertakings, how life is meant to be lived.



We are all creatures of habit. Getting into a rut is incredibly easy as Dr. Joe Dispenza eloquently explains in this video:


Ten years ago I was in a terrible rut; a result of the conditioning from having contracted paralytic polio at the age of 5 followed by years of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse. I was diagnosed with Post-Polio Syndrome, a progressive neuromuscular disease by Western Medicine standards. My body had become what I experienced during a tragic childhood.

What helped me to begin to make a shift in my thinking?

A poem
- yes you read that right ... a poem!
From my memoir, "Coming Home: A Memoir of Healing, Hope and Possibility":

And then I felt a stirring in my second chakra (only then I didn’t know it was my second chakra – I thought it might have been something I ate). I went over to my laptop in the corner of the living room and I wrote this poem foreshadowing my 2009 Boston Marathon run:

Running the Race
Early summer 1959 my kindergarten year
everyone around me filled with nervous fear
despite the Salk vaccine hope polio would disappear
the polio virus crept right up and knocked me in the rear.

Dancing all around the gym feeling free just like a bird
I dropped to the ground just like a stone and no one said a word.
The pain it was so searing-the diagnosis even worse
"It's polio" the doctor said...he was abrupt and terse.

Called one of the 'lucky ones' I had a 'mild case'
but with the other athletes I could never keep their pace.
Miss Holly physical therapist, curly hair and a warm, broad smile
it tempered the pain of being apart - to walk I'd take awhile.

I always wore those 'special' shoes the kids they poked and teased
With no support and much abuse with childhood I wasn't pleased.
But put nose to the grindstone and learned all that I could
I couldn't kick a ball but my grades were always good.

Years went by and no more thought to polio did I give
I accepted the limp and everything else and decided my life I would live.
But symptoms of weakness and muscle pain did grow
I kept a stoic face hoping no one else would know.

Life no longer was my own I struggled through each day
Suffered in silence, isolated from friends- trying to keep depression at bay.
And with the grace of glorious God my world it opened wide
I discovered there was a Post Polio team and they were on my side.

Using wheelchair to travel, set limits on what I could do,
resulted in joy to realize I could live life anew.
Celebrated my body- creaks, groans and need for a brace
While in my mind I focused on winning a 10K race.

Sought out paths for healing and my spirit flew free
for the first time in life, I could truly be me.
The chains are gone and possibilities abound
I'm a tree with my roots planted firmly in ground.

I'm now off the sidelines, no need to sit and whine
So much gratitude fills my heart and love and beauty shine.
After all these years I can join the loving human race
I exceed all expectations and now I set the pace.




I was off and running in my quest to heal my life from the effects of polio and trauma! Poetry flowed out of me at warped speed as I imagined myself in my poems as healthy, whole, running unencumbered and free!

Although I had never run a day in my life and I was in a leg brace, using a cane and at times a wheelchair for mobility AND was told to prepare to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair and expect my body to continue to deteriorate, my Spirit awakened and spoke.

In February of 2008 I declared that I, Mary McManus, who had never run a day in her life, was going to run the 2009 Boston Marathon.

Talk about stepping outside of my comfort zone!

As Dr. Joe explains, there is always a pull to go back to the familiar. We are literally wired that way.


I find that the best way to continue to recondition my body to a new mind as Dr. Joe likes to say, is to set goals that take me outside of my comfort zone. By surrounding myself with friends who take on epic adventures I am inspired to stay outside of my comfort zone!

Team McManus has one more 5 miler this Saturday and then we begin to slowly increase our mileage for the Bermuda Half Marathon.

I've never done a threepeat of any endurance race. I was once and done for the 2009 Boston Marathon. I was going to cap my distance at a 10K. I was scared to go the distance again. However, when I met Anthony Raynor, Race Director for the Bermuda Marathon Weekend at the Finish at the 50 Race Expo in July of 2015, he told me that I would be better off running the Half Marathon because the 10K in Bermuda is all hills. He fired up the endurance runner within me and I knew it was time, once again, to step outside of my comfort zone and go for the Half Marathon distance again.

I wasn't going to run a third consecutive Bermuda Half Marathon, but once again R.D. Raynor was an agent of the Universe. He visited us at the Boston Marathon Expo and extended an invitational entry to Team McManus! To sweeten the deal, he let us know that he had negotiated a wonderful rate with the Race Weekend Host Hotel, The Fairmount Southampton Princess.



It is very enticing to forego the training through every kind of weather and to put my body through the rigors of training for a Half Marathon again and head to Bermuda to lounge on the beach and around the pool.

But what would that possibly serve? Life does indeed begin outside the comfort zone. My heart, my mind, my body and my soul all need the challenge of running a third consecutive Bermuda Half Marathon. I'm so blessed and grateful that I have a lot of crazy friends in my village who feel the same way!

To going the distance with strength and courage!
~Mary

Be sure to visit my website by following this link.

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):