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One week ago, Mary McManus and her husband Tom and daughter Ruth Anne ran the 26.2 mile Boston Marathon. An accomplishment by any standard, but an amazing feat considering that two years ago battling post-polio syndrome, she couldn’t get around unaided. Mary we are so proud of you!
Here is her written account of her adventure last Monday that she so graciously provided for us when we asked her to share her experiences with our readers:
From Post Polio Syndrome to Running the Boston Marathon
On Monday April 20, 2009 I, along with my husband Tom and daughter Ruth Anne proudly took my place alongside visually impaired and mobility impaired runners to begin my 26.2 mile journey from Hopkinton to Boston. We had already banked over $10,000 for Spaulding Rehab Hospital – the facility which helped me to take the first steps on my healing journey. Now it was time to do what I said I would do – run the Boston Marathon.
It was a cool start to the day but when the sun came out and hit my black capris, I could feel God spreading warmth to my legs. Dave McGilvrey, race director gave us an oral command as we watched the clock countdown to 9:00 am.
The start of the race felt like any other training run we had done – there were a few spectators along the way and we wound our way through the streets of Hopkinton. We were accompanied by a double amputee and Jake, who was seated in a bicycle like chair riding backwards.
We made sure we went out slowly because we heard that with the adrenaline pumping and a steep downhill, it would be so easy to just take off. We learned our lesson in the Hyannis Half when we went out at a 13 minute mile pace.
Slowly but surely we ticked off the miles and the crowds began to gather. I had run in several other road races during the past year and this is the first one where the spectators could observe that I had a physical challenge. There were spontaneous chants of “Go Mary, Go Mary” (I had written my name on my singlet and when it was warm enough to take off my jacket, down my arm). There were nursing home residents on the sidewalk in their wheelchairs; there were thousands of children wanting high five’s and there were signs from God along the way – literal signs that spectators held quoting Scripture and one in particular saying “With God, all things are possible.” God bless the spectators who handed us orange slices and bananas which had been lovingly peeled and placed in our hands. They were important supplements to our water and gel.
A friend of mine, Dr. Bernie Siegel, father of mind/body medicine and someone who has coached me through many healings had email’ed me before the race saying, “go mary…look for the penny..it’s a sign from god and i and that all is well and you are going to finish.” I did not see a penny at the start but in Wellesley at the halfway mark. I was able to pick it up and to know that we would finish and that I would somehow make it to the finish before 8 hours.
My initial goal pace was a 15 minute mile but with the headwind and a chill in the air as well as having waves of runners at different times, I knew that if I ran a 15 minute mile, I would risk an injury and risk not finishing. Today was no day to be concerned with speed. We picked up our pace after Wellesley knowing we had enough in the tank to get us home and we had practiced this part of the route on all of our long training runs. Psychologically, we had a great edge; Dom, our team trainer had sent us out to Wellesley from Brookline and then back to Brookline. How wonderful to only run down Grossman’s Hill in Wellesley toward Newton rather than up and back!
A four hour half marathon pace would make most runners cringe – but those who understand the purpose of my mission would know that time does not matter – I was running the Boston Marathon – I who, two years ago was in a leg brace and used a wheelchair at times for mobility; I who, a year ago, could only run for 5-10 minutes without stopping to walk; I who is now ready to put a new face on post polio syndrome and progressive neurological diseases and any physical challenges that people may face to know that it doesn’t matter how ‘slow’ one may run or what their ‘form’ is but what’s important is to participate in the race of life and to know, deep in my soul that I had just as much of a right to be there as did Kara Goucher and Ryan Hall. Running this race was 90% mental and 10% physical telling myself that despite all the damage wrought by the polio virus and then post polio syndrome, that I was fully capable of running 26.2 miles – and except for walking through water stations – I ran the entire route.
At one point, there was a crush of runners who pushed and shoved their way and one in particular said, “Lady, you can’t be walking here” (I was walking through a water station which was crucial to my race strategy to ensure proper hydration). I did not let his comments phase me. Some even jeered at me for running too slowly and pushed me aside but I would move on undeterred knowing that I would reach my goal. The energy of the crowds and seeing some friends and Spaulding teammates who were also running giving us hugs and love as they passed, more than made up for the rudeness of these runners.
And so, at 7 hours and 45 minutes, Team McManus crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon. It was a time that would earn me a number for next year’s Marathon because the qualifying time for a mobility impaired runner is 8:00! Is this something I will do again? No – in truth, at 55 years old my body experienced a lot of wear and tear as a result of the grueling training during one of the harshest Boston winters we have had in a long time. Will I continue to run? Oh yeah – and I’m going to compete again working with my personal trainer to increase speed and shorten distances and know that in truth, with God anything is possible! Below is the link to our marathon photos – I really did cross the finish line!
You have to check out her finish line photo at the link she provides above! See the vitality and power and courage that she exudes at the end of an arduous 7 hour and 45 minute, 26.2 mile run!! This woman is unstoppable!
Did her story impact you the way it has impacted me? Leave your comments below!
How ’bout it?