As Mary McManus sat in a leg brace, using a wheelchair at times for mobility, a cane and having been told to prepare for a rapid decline as she aged possibly needing a feeding tube and spending the rest of her life in a wheelchair, she had no idea that on April 20th, 2009 she would cross the finish line of the 2009 Boston Marathon. Yet, as Albert Einstein said “Imagination is everything. It is the preview of life’s coming attractions.”
On a cold dark day in February of 2007, Mary got still and asked for Divine Guidance. The poem, “Running the Race” flowed out of her.
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, 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, alone and afraid tried 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.
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.
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.
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.
Although she had never run a day in her life, in her mind’s eye she was running a race.
Poems poured out of her as though a spigot had been turned on in mind, body and soul.
She imagined herself dancing in the rain without her leg brace and running free.
After intensive outpatient rehab at Spaulding Hospital and partnering with a personal trainer, Mary declared in February 2008, that she wanted to run the 2009 Boston Marathon to raise money for Spaulding. And so she did!