Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Two Years Later...

 

One of my friends who I met through running posted on her Facebook page, "Today was a day I want to bottle up and save. I had 24 miles in my plan and I planned to run it on the course with friends. The weather was perfect and I was reminded of how great the running community is."

Two years ago, the Newton Hills were silent. The crushing news of the April Boston Marathon's postponement until September sent runners into an extended taper time and training season. The few runners who were out on the course were socially distanced wearing buffs or masks. Little did we know it would be two more years before the hills would once again be alive with runners

 As we often ask each other early on a Saturday morning, we asked, "Where shall we run today?" There was rain in the forecast for the third Saturday in a row. At first we thought we'd go out the door but at the last minute decided to go to Heartbreak Hill. We knew that there would not be the usual throngs of charity runners even though it was the last long run for those training for Boston. The Boston Athletic Association said that they would not allow runners who received bibs through the BAA to run on the course due to public safety out of an abundance of caution. We were, however, surprised to see so many runners out on the course.

The sun shined brightly on Heartbreak Hill. Tom and Ruth Anne left their jackets in the car. As we got to the corner of Commonwealth Avenue and Centre Street, Tom needed to make a pit stop. Ruth Anne and I stayed on the opposite side of the street and saw him hugging someone. He shouted out, "Margo!"

We crossed the street and we hugged with one of our dear friends in the running community who we met when Margo and her sister ran the Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab in honor of their Poppy who lives with Parkinson's Disease. We had been talking about Margo just last week! She was running with someone who is running Boston and we told her about Ruth Anne and Tom being on the road to the Providence Half Marathon. "Yeah definitely..send me the link and I'll donate." 

Tom and Ruth Anne took off at their pace and I was thrilled to smile at so many runners heading down the Newton Hills. I turned around at my hloalfway point delighting in the glorious sunshine and relishing the energy of Heartbreak Hill in April. Everyone says to one another, "You've got this" not being able to distinguish who is training for Boston and who is out for a run to soak up the energy.





 

I was amazed that the sun was still shining despite the weather prediction for rain. I stretched, refueled and took the beach chair out of the car. As Tom and Ruth Anne did their 9 mile training run, I decided to do my spectator training.

Many runners shouted "Hi Mary" as they ran by. 

 

 

 

  My runner friend whose quote I used to begin this blog called out "Hi Mary!!" We hugged and she stopped for a few minutes to chat with me. "Let's take a selfie," she said and included it in her last long run Facebook post:



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The magic of the day was capped off when a woman runner was stretching next to me. "Is this your first Boston?" "It's my first everything!" A friend joined her and they were saying how they didn't know how they were going to run another 6 miles. 

"I think you need to hear my story."

One of the women said that she was moved to tears when I told her how I went from being told to spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair to the finish line of the Boston Marathon. They told me a bit about their Boston Marathon journey and asked me to take a photo. They asked me where I'd be watching on Marathon Monday. "Look for me at the corner of Beacon Street and Dean Road. It's just before mile 23." "Great," they said.  

I had wished we would have exchanged information so I could track them on Marathon Monday.  I gave them my website information and trusted in the Universe that they received the message they needed to get through taper time. 

Yesterday I received a FB message from another runner friend that led to the connection to the two mystery women I met on Heartbreak Hill at the end of their last long run before Boston. 

"I heard you met my friend Carly on the marathon route this weekend. She was so thrilled to meet you and hear your story! She shared in our running group."
 
I asked if she could connect us on FB messenger and we all became friends. I was able to see the photo I had taken of them together and get to know a bit more about them before they toe the starting line on April 18, 2022.
 
Two years later, the magic has returned to Boston. Two years later traditions emerge from the shadow of the pandemic overflowing with light, love and joy. Two years later...we made it through!
 
Two Years Later

A future once imagined now within sight
emerging from pandemic into the light.
Springtime rebirthing sky brilliant blue
vibrant colors the signal that we made it through.
We held onto Hope in midst darkness and fear
Source abiding reminding take heart I’m right here.
Though winter’s grip seemed to have us firm in its hold
we dared dream of a future no more shivering with cold.
Two years what a journey unmasked with hugs now we greet
navigated times of uncertainty excited for a time when we'd meet.
Eyes shimmering with tears grateful hearts overflow
manifesting health and well being in pandemic's wake we now grow.
Times of uncertainty they are all part of life
but we'd never imagined such heartache and strife.
Clouds of despair now dispersing warm sunshine we live life anew
with steadfast faith and each other two years later we made it through. 
 
From my heart to yours,
In health and wellness,

Mary

Be sure to visit my website at https://marymcmanus.com to learn about my journey to health and wellness in the wake of paralytic polio and trauma

Visit the News and Events tab to listen to my inspiring and uplifting interviews

My books to motivate, uplift and inspire you are available on Amazon



Wednesday, March 23, 2022

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...

 


 

 Wait? What did she just write? Christmas? It's March 23rd.

In Boston, we call Boston Marathon weekend Runners Christmas. For the past two years, this annual tradition was cancelled. It's been a part of my life since I ran the 2009 Boston Marathon as a mobility impaired runner defying the diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome. I've been blessed to become a part of the running community that grows exponentially every year as we meet friends of friends. I've often said that running friendships are like instant oatmeal - just add water or in this case - just add running and friendships are forged. 

The hills have been alive with the energy of runners exhilarated that Boston runs again in April. The Facebook feed is filling with bib numbers and statements like "Can't wait to see you in April." I feel goosebumps just typing that phrase. 

One of our dear runner friends shared the photo of one of the banners for the 126th Boston Marathon celebrating 50 years of when women were first 'allowed' to run in the Boston Marathon. 

It is exhilarating to begin planning meet ups with friends coming in from out of town and meet ups with friends from Boston who I haven't seen in what seems like forever. There was a taste of the excitement of the Boston Marathon in October but it did not have the rite of Spring and the feel of Runners Christmas that the running of the Boston Marathon has in April.

Two years ago our City and the world was in a state of shock and fear seeking ways to navigate life turned upside down. While trees were beginning to bloom and flowers poked through the once frozen ground, there was an eerie silence to Springtime in Boston. I began to write poetry again as a way to cope with the all pervasive anxiety set against the backdrop of yellow caution tape on the silenced playgrounds and all but essential businesses closed. My pen became my divining rod for healing once more as it had after the diagnosis of Post Polio Syndrome 15 years ago. I channeled messages of healing, hope, optimism and seeing a future that transcended the current circumstances at the time. Those poems and essays blossomed into Hope is a Garden: Poems and Essays From the 2020 Pandemic.

 Facebook reminded me today of all that I was grateful for a year ago:

I am so grateful and appreciative of:
Toilet paper
Upcoming appointments with my chiropractor after 14 months
A hair stylist appointment after 13 months
Children having fun on the playground
School in session
Hope for ending the pandemic with the vaccines
Economic relief for restaurants and small businesses
So many things we once took for granted that now we can appreciate in deeper ways.
 
The quote I chose to share on this day in 2021 was: "I still remember the days I prayed for the things I have now." ~Anonymous
 
Tom received his first vaccine on March 23rd last year.
 
Restaurants are buzzing with activity again and the whole city is coming alive in anticipation of Spring and the 126th running of the Boston Marathon. Runners have one more long run before they taper and count down to the first Boston Marathon Weekend in April in two years.
 
Boston Marathon weekend is a time when reunions happen and the magic of the Unicorn fills the air. As the daffodils line the Boston Marathon route, the City comes alive with blue and yellow colors. This year those colors take on even more significance as we pray for and support Ukraine. May the Spirit that fills our City during this time of year create ripples of joy, peace, strength, resilience, love, harmony and unity for the rest of our world.

Merry Runners Christmas!
 
From my heart to yours,

In health and wellness,

Mary

Be sure to visit my website at https://marymcmanus.com to learn about my journey to health and wellness in the wake of paralytic polio and trauma

Visit the News and Events tab to listen to my inspiring and uplifting interviews

My books to motivate, uplift and inspire you are available on Amazon



 
 



Sunday, March 13, 2022

Hugs, Hope and Smiles for Miles on Heartbreak Hill

 

"Should we just go out the front door today?" Tom asked as Team McManus prepared to get in their  miles on a soggy Saturday. "I desperately need a change of scenery," I said. "All right then," Tom replied, "Let's do Heartbreak Hill."

I had already prepared everything we'd need to get to Heartbreak for yesterday's miles. As often happens when Team McManus is training for an endurance event, we squabble over the silliest things. As we got into the car, the rain picked up.

"See if we would have gotten out the door sooner," Ruth Anne proclaimed, we would have missed the heaviest rains.

That's true but oh we would have missed out on so much more. 

As also happens with Team McManus, there is magic and synchronicity while training and fundraising.

When I came out of my morning meditation, a little limerick was percolating knowing that the mask mandate ended in Brookline, one of the last cities and towns in Massachusetts to lift the mandate:

Today's the day the masks are gone our faces are happy and free
it's the end of the pandemic everyone's smiles we get to see.
There's now times for hugs galore two years almost to the day....

 Little did I know the hugs galore I was about to experience.

We pulled into our regular spot in the parking lot before Centre Street and Commonwealth Avenue. We were getting our fuel belts together and a runner came toward us. "Well isn't this wonderful? Hello Mary McManus."

When he saw the puzzled look on my face he said, 'It's David O'Leary.' 

"Oh my goodness," I replied. I immediately thought that if we would have gone out earlier we would have missed this opportunity to see him and so many others out on the course.

David is the host of Magic 106.7's Morning Magic radio show here in Boston. We've been friends for years. The first time I met him in person was at the launch of a nonprofit that was established to support military families and to address the mental health needs of veterans who are at risk for suicide. He attended the event as a survivor of someone who ended their own lives and as part of his work at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Being a survivor of my father and nephew's deaths by suicides, we made a powerful connection from Day 1. David had been a tremendous support to me as Ruth Anne went through her health crises which manifested as neuropsychiatric symptoms.

We walked toward each other and he said, "Can I give you a hug?..." and as he said 'I'm fully vaccinated...' we were already hugging each other.

"Is this your beautiful family?"

I introduced him and asked if we could take a selfie together. He was out on his 18 miler running his 2nd Boston Marathon (the first one in October) for AFSP and was gracious enough to take a moment with us:

Follow this link to make a donation and support David's run for this incredible cause.

Tom, Ruth Anne and I set out for our miles. They are training for the Providence Half Marathon and do a 10 minute warm up before they go off at their pace. As we crossed Centre Street, we saw a water stop in the distance wondering whose it was. There was 1976 Boston Marathon Champion Jack Fultz, our friend and coach for the Dana Farber Cancer Boston Marathon team. We hesitated for a moment before giving each other a hug. We chatted for a few minutes with eyes smiling sharing Tom and Ruth Anne's prep for the Providence Half Marathon. Tom and Ruth Anne went on their way.

I am still in recovery mode getting back to running after needing time off as I wrote about in my Rest and Hope blog post. It was a short out and back for two miles. On my way back to our car I hear, 'Hi Mary!' It was Erin, Ruth Anne's Occupational Therapist from Spaulding who is running this year's Boston Marathon as part of the Race for Rehab Team. She was ready to run in 2020 but then COVID. She did run the Virtual Marathon in September. Here is the link to her fundraising page. I asked her if she saw Ruth and she said "Yes back there." "Have a great rest of your run," I said as she sped past me.

One of my favorite questions to hear while on Heartbreak Hill is from out of towners running their first Boston. "Is this Heartbreak Hill?" I heard a woman ask the other members of her group. Someone started to explain it to her so I knew I didn't need to stop to explain it to her. I smiled warmly to myself realizing that after two years, Boston will run again in April.

I passed the Dana Farber Charity Teams water stop. 'Great job,' they said. I smiled saying how I wasn't training for Boston. "That doesn't matter. You're out here and you're doing a great job. Would you like some refreshment?" I thanked them and we shared in the gratitude and joy of feeling a sense of emerging from the pandemic.

As I was nearing the end of my run, I saw Erin again in the distance. She was waiting for the light to change to cross the street to the Heartbreak Hill Running Company. We greeted each other in the pouring rain and hugged with our eyes. She had finished her 20 miles. She told me what a total joy it is to see Ruth and her dad running together. I gave her a brief update and told her how she is with us every day. The seeds that she planted through her sessions with Ruth continue to blossom. I put my hand on my heart and expressed my deepest gratitude to her. She is a gifted professional who continues to provide support through emails.

When I got back to my car I stretched. Amanda McCann, another Charity runner ran by me. I got to know Amanda through the Facebook running community. I loved her posts with her 'memere' who lived with dementia. Amanda shared her weekly visits with her on Facebook. The love they had for each other was palpable despite her memere's advancing dementia. We smiled from our hearts as she said, "I saw them back there. They look great." {referencing Tom and Ruth Anne} I wished her a great rest of her run. When we got home we messaged each other on Facebook and made donations to each other's fundraisers. She is running with Team Camp Shriver. Since 2006, Camp Shriver at the University of Massachusetts Boston has welcomed children, 50% with and 50% without intellectual and developmental disabilities, ages 8-12, from low income families in the Boston area to a free inclusive summer recreational camp. Here is the link to her fundraising page.

The rain and wind intensified but there was a sense of unbridled joy and gratitude in the runners' energy. It's counterinutitive to think that running on the hills would facilitate my healing but there was powerful medicine and magic on the Newton Hills on Saturday. Tom, Ruth Anne and I said it was the best we felt in two years!

Here are Tom and Ruth Anne after their sensational albeit soggy six miles and the link to Ruth Anne's fundraising page:


                 They were literally soaked to the skin with hearts filled with joy and gratitude.

At a time when the world seems to be filled with worry and fear, divisiveness and feelings of lack, there were hugs, hope and smiles for miles on Heartbreak Hill as runners fund raise for important causes and as a community, Boston gets ready to run again!

From my heart to yours,

In health and wellness,

Mary

Be sure to visit my website at https://marymcmanus.com to learn about my journey to health and wellness in the wake of paralytic polio and trauma

Visit the News and Events tab to listen to my inspiring and uplifting interviews

My books to motivate, uplift and inspire you are available on Amazon



Tuesday, March 8, 2022

A Celebration of Life: Sierra Janine Hightower

 
Standing in my living room in October 2007, I asked Janine Hightower if she really thought I could get a little stronger despite not being able to pass the initial fitness assessment she gave me the week before. In a soft yet strong voice with her soulful eyes meeting mine she said the above Henry Ford quote.

She went on to say "Let's see what this body can do." At the age of 29 years old, she was a wise soul.

In February, I passed the fitness assessment and had reached my initial goals, one of which was to get off of a low seat without assistance. She asked me to set new goals. "Well I want to feel free in my body. I want to dance again. {I took ballet before I contracted paralytic polio at age 5.} I want to walk outside without my leg brace. I want to diversify my workouts." Janine wrote down my new fitness goals and after she gathered up her things and had her hand on the door knob I said, "Wait! I have one more goal." "What's that?" she asked. "I want to run the 2009 Boston Marathon for Spaulding Rehab. They have a Race for Rehab Team." I had never run a day in my life but had written a poem about "Running the Race" in February of that year.

To this day I have no idea why she said, totally nonplussed, "Well you're going to need a pair of running shoes aren't you?" 

This is the shoe I was wearing with a toe up leg brace:





The rest as they say is history:

Janine waited patiently for us to get to Heartbreak Hill so she could run into the finish line with us. I kept apologizing to her for having to wait so long for us. I shared with her that I was concerned about not being able to finish if I went any faster given the rapidly changing weather conditions. She told me that the person who won the 2008 marathon had to be taken to the hospital and was a did not finish. She was glad I was pacing myself. As we made our way to the finish line, she reminded us to take it one step at a time. "You've got this!"

When we were about to cross the finish line, she stepped to the side saying, "This is all yours. I can't cross with you." 

Here are moments captured from the day by a BU photojournalism Masters student. His final assignment was to follow a runner on Marathon Monday. When he asked Marathon Sports if they could recommend anyone, they suggested Team McManus!


Coming through Cleveland Circle, Janine is waving to our son Autumn McManus.









Coming down Commonwealth Avenue










Close to taking that right on Hereford and Left on Boylston after coming out of the tunnel on Commonwealth Avenue. Janine suggested we let out a yell while going through the tunnel to hear the echo!











Coming down Boylston Street







That iconic moment when Janine refused to cross the finish line with us!






Love and pride radiated through every fiber of Janine's being at this moment. That's our son Autumn who walked in with us from Cleveland Circle.









Raw emotion expressed after crossing the finish line as Janine smiled and gave thanks to God for what we were able to accomplish defying the diagnosis of a progressive neuromuscular disease and setting a goal that most would say was impossible. From start to finish, Janine supported us, trained us and held faith that we would be able to cross that finish line.

I clearly remember walking back from the finish line to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel for the post-race celebration with Spaulding Rehab. Janine kept checking in with me making sure that I was okay telling me that she never once doubted we would be able to do this. I told her I carried 11 cents that I found on my last training run in the back pocket of my capris and that I found a penny in Wellesley at the halfway mark. I felt God's presence with us throughout the journey.

On February 21, 2022, Janine crossed the finish line of her earthly marathon. I received an email from someone I didn't know on LinkedIn on Sunday night:

I know Janine was fond of you - I have been friends with her for many years, and so I was looking to find you and to tell you that she tragically has passed away.  There is a memorial service by zoom and in-person in Maine this Thursday at 11.  I can send you the details if you would like. There is also memorial fundraising for her family's expenses.  I am so sorry to have to give you this terrible news.  She was a very bright light!

I was shocked and devastated to think that we would never have that reunion to celebrate healing and life. We planned a reunion but then COVID happened. Somehow our schedules never synced up to do a Zoom call.  She was indeed a very bright light. We had lost touch when she moved to Miami but reconnected when she returned to Boston to earn her Masters Degree in Public Health. I've learned that life is never too busy to make time for the people who matter most. My heart and head are buzzing with so many memories with her and trying to process the reality that we will never meet again in this lifetime. 

One day while out on a run she asked me if I ever heard of Wilma Rudolph. When I said I had not she told me to google her as soon as I got home. Wilma Rudolph became a great source of inspiration for me on the road to Boston and beyond.

I cannot imagine what my life would have been like without Janine. There would be no adventures for runnergirl 1953 if she would not have said yes to my crazy dream of running the Boston Marathon. We have been able to inspire so many others with what's possible despite all appearances to the contrary harnessing the powerful mind/body connection and faith in God.

Her Spirit and legacy of love live on through all who were blessed to know Sierra Janine Hightower. Rest in peace my dear friend and fly with the angels. Our journey together is chronicled in my Trilogy of Transformation available on Amazon for all to read and be in awe of how one woman's faith ignited hope, healing and possibilities in another and together they did the impossible.

From my heart to yours,

In health and wellness,

Mary

Be sure to visit my website at https://marymcmanus.com to learn about my journey to health and wellness in the wake of paralytic polio and trauma

Visit the News and Events tab to listen to my inspiring and uplifting interviews

My books to motivate, uplift and inspire you are available on Amazon

 


Wednesday, March 2, 2022

The Release of Read Out for a Cure

 

Before the beginning of the 2020 pandemic, I had completed my Trilogy of Transformation and released "Feel the Heal: An Anthology of Poems to Heal Your Life." I felt my work as an author was complete and focused my goals on expanding my gigs as a motivational speaker sharing my journey to inspire others. When I was out on a run with my daughter in March of 2020, I felt the spigot in my soul open once more. Poems and essays documenting this unparalleled time in our history became "Hope is a Garden: Poems and Essays From the 2020 Pandemic." 

Since there were no in person events, I took to the airways to share my story and to talk about "Hope" on podcasts and radio shows.

Hosts Liz Brunner (Live Your Best Life) and Greg Chastain (The Cardinal Cafe) read my poems during my interviews. Dan Thibeault, podcast producer extraordinaire set them to music in the post-production phase.  

He was inspired to send me an email, "“I think your poetry book would be great as an audio book version with each one read by a different person and music under them. Have you ever considered that?”

I meditated on the idea. I wasn't sure what Dan had in mind. I didn't know Dan well. With Tom being semi-retired and doing contract work, I didn't want to invest in a venture. Dan suggested we set up a Zoom meeting.

Greg Chastain. President and Founder of Voices of Hope Boston said during our conversation at the Cardinal CafĂ© podcast that my poems “hit every note that Voices of Hope puts out there." 

Voices of Hope is a small non-profit north of Boston that raises funds for cancer research through live theater and musical events. 

Since Voices of Hope Boston did not have their performances to generate funds during COVID,  I was inspired to make this project a novel fund raiser for Voices of Hope if that were something Dan would be interested in. Dan made it clear to me from the outset that his intention was not to turn this project into a project that would generate income for him. He was absolutely thrilled to have me present the idea to Voices of Hope Boston's Board of Directors.

They were enamored with the idea.

Dan, Greg and I set out to get readers for the poems I selected from "Hope." I initially chose 50 poems but culled it to Forty Poems and came up with the title: "Read Out for a Cure-Hope is a Garden: Forty Poems From the Pandemic to Uplift and Inspire."

Read Out for a Cure features readings by beloved local and national celebrities as well as members from the Voices of Hope Boston's own community. 

Greg reached out to Sean Allan Krill, Tony nominated actor for Jagged Little Pill. He said that he would be delighted to participate as would his husband, critically acclaimed actor Harry Bouvy. They were one of the first readers to get us their Mp3 last September.

In November, Tom, Ruth Anne and I went with Voices of Hope to New York to support Sean and the reopening of Broadway. Greg presented Sean with a Voices of Hope jacket and Sean presented Greg with an autographed poster of Jagged Little Pill to use for the Virtual Gala of Hope's Silent Auction.






 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As everyone submitted their recordings, Dan worked feverishly behind the scenes to set the tracks to music.  Dan and I worked as a team to track the tracks, reach out for substitute readers when readers had to graciously drop out of the production and, on February 22, we released the production.

Here is the link for a preview of Sean reading "Fear or Faith."  

All proceeds from Read Out for a Cure will be donated by Voices of Hope Boston to the Henri and Belinda Termeer Center for Targeted Therapies. 

In many ways, the Termeer Center represents a paradigm shift from traditional clinical cancer research. For example, in traditional clinical trials, experimental therapies are tested first in patients who have not responded to standard treatments. However, with genotype-based targeted therapies, clinical trials can begin at a much earlier stage of the disease process, when the chances of observing benefits for the patient are far greater. Additionally, since various forms of cancer have been found to share common tumor mutations, researchers are learning to apply targeted drugs across multiple tumor types. With this personalized, genotype-based approach, the Termeer Center can rapidly assign patients to the treatment that fits their cancer’s unique genetic profile.

Casandra McIntyre, Nurse Director at the Termeer Center for Therapies, spoke at the Virtual Gala of Hope. She shared one example of how the Termeer Center was able to use monies raised by Voices of Hope to help with transportation for patients who had difficulty getting access to clinical trials. Traditionally, there has been inequity for minorities to participate in clinical trials and a major barrier to accessing care is transportation. I experienced this when I worked as a social worker at the Department of Veterans Affairs. I know what a difference having easy access to transportation can make for patients.
 
To receive your link to download Read Out for a Cure, send $10 via Paypal to maryamcmanus.com or Venmo @Mary-McManus-21.
 
Be uplifted and inspired by my messages of healing, hope, light, faith, and love set against the backdrop of the seasons and nature.

My words set to music interpreted by this community of voices will soothe, uplift and inspire you while bringing us closer to a cure for cancer.
 
From my heart to yours,

In health and wellness,

Mary

Be sure to visit my website at https://marymcmanus.com to learn about my journey to health and wellness in the wake of paralytic polio and trauma

Visit the News and Events tab to listen to my inspiring and uplifting interviews

My books to motivate, uplift and inspire you are available on Amazon

 
 
 
 


 

Father's Day Reflections

 From the upcoming "Into the Light: Emerging From the 2020 Pandemic":     Father's Day Reflections 2021 ...