Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Countdown to the Boston Marathon: Packet Stuffing & Boston Strong


Why would I stand on my feet for 3 hours helping to stuff the packets that 20,000 runners will receive next weekend when they pick up their bibs, packets and shirts before running Monday's Boston Marathon? I know how I felt when we picked up our packets, bibs and shirts before the 2009 Boston Marathon. It's the final moments leading up to crossing the starting line in Hopkinton. There's the program book filled with history and anticipation along with coupons, spectators' guide and memorabilia to cherish. 

For everyone, training for a marathon is a journey of transformation. Mine was a journey of transformation on steroids after having been told to prepare to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair after the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome. Packet stuffing is a wonderful way to give back and celebrate the Boston Marathon.

As one of my friend’s posted Facebook on October 2nd, it’s been 901 days since the last Boston Marathon. We are now 9 days away from when Boston runs again. It is a surreal time as we try to find our bearings as we sort of emerge from the pandemic. Sharing Maureen’s story reminded me of the strength, courage and resilience our city shared in the wake of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings. We are now in the wake of a pandemic that shook our City and the world to its core yet we continue to experience the turbulent currents in our lives. 

When we registered to volunteer, we were overjoyed that with vaccinations, we would experience life as we had before the pandemic. Hugs, no masks, being together side by side and anticipating one of the premier events in Boston. The emails from the BAA arrived in our inbox talking about safety and precautions along with the need to be vaccinated or have a negative COVID test in order to volunteer.


During this time of emerging (sort of) from the pandemic, everyone talks about risk tolerance. I knew everyone would be vaxxed or tested, masked and the packet stuffing takes place in an open air warehouse. I hadn't seen running family in what seemed like forever and knew that any minor risk I was taking with my husband and daughter paled in comparison to the rich rewards of volunteering and seeing friends I had not seen in a very long time.


During my meditation before bed on Saturday night, I remembered how I felt about being a spectator at the BAA 10K in June of 2013. I knew that I could not allow fear to keep me away from my beloved running community - then - or now.


It was quite a different scene at Gentle Giant Warehouse as we stood in line waiting to be checked in with masks up and vaccination cards in hand. The former 'madame President' of L Street Running Club greeted us with both her no-nonsense laser focus on the task at hand and such kindness and love in her voice as she checked us off with hands that had beautiful blue and yellow perfectly manicured nails.


Tom Licciardello who has been the leader of the pack for packet stuffing through the decades greeted me with a warm hug. "How were you able to recognize me with my mask?"


"Oh Mary, I'd recognize you from anywhere!"


His wife Lyn came up and warmly greeted Team McManus.


We reunited with friends from the Merrimack Valley Striders and L Street Running Club. One of our friends from L Street sported a t-shirt that had Resilience on the front with a definition of Resilience on the back. 


The scenes from 2013 and 2021 were quite different. There were many more volunteers to get packets ready for 36,000 runners versus 20,000 runners for 2021. We had more space between volunteers and of course we all had to wear masks throughout the entire shift.


But one thing that doesn't change is the love running family shares no matter how much time may have passed since we see one another and our deep desire to be a part of the Boston Marathon tradition.


From April of 2014:

to October 2021:




Conversations flow with ease among runners and I was blessed to share my table with a Strider who went to Bermuda one of the years we went for Bermuda Marathon Weekend. It was great to reminisce about a time before; when we could travel to destination races needing only our passports and running gear.


Music kept us pumped up while we did the tedious work. We tried our best to keep the conversation light although at times our conversation turned to sharing our experiences during the pandemic. I was blessed to have a few heart to heart moments with Tom with whom I have been friends for 12 years.

We were tired and happy at the end of our shift knowing that we achieved our goal to have the packets ready for the runners this weekend when they arrive at the Expo.


It was glorious to see people in person, sharing the Spirit of the Boston Marathon remembering that we ARE Boston Strong.


From my heart to yours
In health and wellness,

My books to uplift and inspire you are available on Amazon.

Visit my website to learn more about my journey of transformation in the wake of paralytic polio and trauma to the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon and beyond.

Be sure to visit my News and Events tab on my website to hear interviews that will open your heart and mind to a powerful message of healing, hope and possibilities.



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