Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Every Finish Line is a Starting Line: Reflections on an Epic Race-cation


Whether being a runner or a spectator, the experience of a race weekend is exhilarating. It has been two years since we have been able to feel the energy and sense of community that is part of a race-cation. Last November, while I was writing "Into the Light: Emerging From the 2020 Pandemic," I asked Ruth Anne what she thought the arc of my story should be. Without hesitation she said, "After we cross the finish line of the Providence Marathon next May." Initially, that didn't feel quite right to me but here we are. It feels as though we have crossed the finish line of the pandemic and Ruth Anne has crossed the finish line of a season of healing in her life. 

During the pre-Boston Marathon festivities last October, Ruth Anne planned to run the Boston Marathon in April for Spaulding Rehab. Applications would open in December. Once we had a proper diagnosis and treatment for Ruth Anne and she was on the road to recovery, Ruth Anne fell in love with volunteering at ReVision Urban Farm. She created a birthday fundraiser for me in December of 2020 and continued fund raising for her birthday in August of 2021. Eve Rabinowitz, the Corporate and Community Engagement Manager for Victory Programs reached out to Ruth Anne last November. She noted that she knew Ruth Anne was involved with different causes and might not have the time, but would she consider doing a Friends Feeding Friends fundraiser. Ruth Anne took a pause on running Boston and talked with Eve about running the Providence Marathon to raise money for Victory Programs and the Farm. Eve was ecstatic and set up her fundraising page with an initial goal of $3000.

As serendipity would have it, Brian Simons who I knew through Spaulding Rehab's Race for Rehab Team was launching his Coaching Business, Creaky Bones: Running-Coaching-Performance. He was establishing a new business and Team McManus needed a coach. In early December, we partnered with Brian and Creaky Bones.

After a 15 mile training run which was preceded by Tom shoveling us out from a snowstorm and several weeks after a 9 mile training run on the treadmill, Tom powered through but ended up sideways and in a lot of pain. We decided that a full marathon was not in the stars but a half marathon would become the goal. Coach adjusted the training plan. Victory Programs was all in with the change and our village was incredibly supportive about the change in distance.

They trained with heart, dedication, persistence and determination and race day was epic!

We drove to Providence, went to bib pick up:

 and our room at the Omni Providence was ready for an early check in. We had never been to Providence before and it was challenging to navigate our way around since people encouraged us to use the sky walk from the hotel to the mall. We eventually found our way to Uno Pizzeria (and found a penny along the way)

We were so happy to get off of our feet back in the room. We unpacked and had a long meditation/nap. We went downstairs to get bottles of sparkling water and the once quiet and subdued lobby was bustling with activity. Runners had their gear in tow and we were asking one another, "What are you running tomorrow." We were thrilled with our early check in and a room on the 3rd floor where we could hunker down with room service and relaxation.

The beauty of the setting sun bode well for race day:

Rise and shine at 5:45 to allow for plenty of time for breakfast, pre-race bathroom time (runners will appreciate the importance of that step), and walking to the starting line. Throngs of runners lined the streets on the path to the starting line. We arrived in time to hear the start of the marathon and take pre-race photos.

"Look! There's Brian," Ruth Anne shouted. He came running over to us. I love how we're able to find people in a crowd of over 2000 runners:

Brian's presence helped to calm pre-race jitters especially for me as a spectator. We sent Tom and Ruth Anne off to the back of the pack and Brian and I waited at the start to cheer them on their 13.1 journey:

Brian helped me to get set up at the finish line while he went out to find a spot to cheer them on out on the course:

I sent out lots of great energy for Tom and Ruth Anne while reading the social media messages of cheers and prayers. I was a little unnerved when I received a text saying Ruth Anne crossed the finish at 8:04 with a course time of 2:04:43 and a pace of 9:32. Right after I received the text, Eve (who was coming down with Chief Development Office Deborah Edison to cheer on Tom and Ruth Anne at the finish) texted me asking if that was correct. I told her no worries, they just started, I did not expect to receive a text with an update and knew I just had to trust in their training and of course the Divine. 

What a very pleasant surprise to receive a text with an update at the 10K letting me know that Tom and Ruth Anne were running a 14:46 minute/mile pace. I immediately texted Brian who responded with, "Perfect. I found a great spot at Mile 11."

I was getting a little anxious as I calculated the pace and how far they had to go to Mile 11 (never a good idea) and asked Brian if he saw them. "Not yet," he replied, "Soon." He let me know that they were back on the roads after Mile 11 with smiles and were slowed down by Porta-potty stops but reassured me they were looking strong. "They're walking," he added letting me know that they slowed their pace. They had planned to do a run/walk interval. By mile 11, Tom was feeling the miles.

Brian sent me this photo:

Eve texted me to say they arrived but she couldn't find me. The crowd of spectators had grown thick by then as runners began to cross the finish line. "I'm wearing the red Victory Programs shirt," she texted and within a minute we found each other. I was so grateful that I did not have to wait alone during those last 2.1 miles. Another friend texted that they were on their way but were having trouble parking. "Have they crossed yet?" Karen asked. A moment before I received her text, Ruth Anne texted me with, "One mile to go." The text came sooner than I expected!

We all had our cameras ready to capture the epic moment. Brian was able to capture the announcement:

I wasn't sure if my video even came out because I was so overcome with emotion:

I love how they high-fived and embraced. Tom and Ruth Anne made their way over to us. It was as though the runners and spectators around us faded into the background while Tom, Ruth Anne, Eve, Deborah, Brian, Karen and her husband Chris excitedly talked with each other. Karen said this was such a great opportunity to check off seeing Tom and me. We were about to get together before the pandemic. Karen said she has a list of people on her "we were planning to get together list and then the pandemic happened." We plan to get together this summer in Providence. Deborah and Eve regaled us with gratitude and compliments and yet Ruth Anne thanked them for this amazing opportunity. 

They presented us with these beautiful track jackets embroidered with Victory Programs on them:


Our hearts overflowed with love, gratitude, joy, excitement for the accomplishment of running a half marathon and exhilaration for an incredibly successful fundraising campaign. 

Ruth Anne said that crossing that finish line would be the beginning of a new season in her life. The journey on the Road to Providence for Victory Programs awakened within her a gift, a passion and a purpose that Deborah would like to support and nourish. Ruth Anne scoured the internet for programs to further her education and for career exploration. While she started a program at Boston College for a Masters in Leadership and Administration, it wasn't feeding her heart and soul. Deborah suggested she get a certificate in Professional Fundraising at Boston University. Who knew such a thing existed? 

Every finish line is a starting line! Ruth Anne is so excited to pursue her passion in this next season of her life. Tom feels incredibly vibrant and energized by being able to run a half marathon at 70 and plans a return appearance with Ruth Anne next year. A year ago, Tom felt 'old' but he realized he still had a LOT of life left in him. He left his job where he was under appreciated and experienced age discrimination and is doing contract work. Training for this race gave him that extra boost he needed to feel healthy and younger than his biological age. He enters a new season in his life with great anticipation of perhaps winning his age group (he came in 7/8) and enjoying these later years of his life.

I was transformed through their journey and being a part of the racing scene again. We are emerging from the pandemic into the light stronger and more resilient than before the pandemic began. I am celebrating 15 years of healing this month. On 5/25/2007, I set off on a new season of my life taking a leap of faith leaving behind my award winning social work career to heal my life. 

It's a time of wondrous and wonderful happenings that was reflected in conversations overheard after the race. One marathoner said, "We really needed this!"

On our way back to the hotel, we found another penny:

We enjoyed a post-race celebration meal along with many other runners at The Cheesecake Factory where people congratulated each other and greeted each other with "How did you do?" It's been two years since we've had this kind of experience and my heart and soul overflowed with gratitude that we could have this experience again.

As for Coach Brian, he posted this on Facebook:
I am so inspired by them! It was so awesome to see their hard work and my coaching business notch its first finish!
It took a few days to process how amazing Sunday was as a coach!
I am so proud of my athletes! They did it! My clients crushed their half marathon in Providence this past weekend! A 20 minute PR! Their diligence and dedication paid off! I’m so grateful to have had the the opportunity to create their training plans, adjust them as needed, and help them enjoy the process and progress!
On to the next race and goal!
Indeed -- every finish line is a starting line!
From my heart to yours,
In health and wellness,

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

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