Mary McManus – Stories from the Finish Line

 In 1959, Mary McManus was a kindergartener when a series of challenges began to unravel her young life. She was one of the millions of Americans devastated by the polio epidemic, forcing Mary to wear a leg brace until she was eight.

In addition to paralytic polio, her family life was horrific. Her father and mother were both addicts, and both parents abused Mary and her brother. Her father took his own life when Mary was seventeen years old.

While the pain of her childhood remained, Mary was determined that her circumstances wouldn’t define who she was. She graduated as Valedictorian of her high school class and received a Masters degree from Boston College. Mary became an acclaimed social worker at the VA, where she worked for over twenty-five years, helping others heal.

In 2006 at the age of fifty-three, Mary received the devastating diagnosis of Post-Polio Syndrome - a progressive neuromuscular disease. The doctors said, “Be prepared to spend the rest of your life in a wheelchair.” She was just three years shy of retirement but was again determined to do what needed to be done to ensure she could finish her job.

The following year, Mary met Janine, a personal trainer. Janine believed in Mary, even when Mary couldn’t pass the initial fitness test. Mary’s dogged determination and positive attitude pushed her through the next six months with Janine. She finally (and joyfully) passed the fitness test.

Mary wasn’t done, though. She told Janine, “I have one more goal. I want to run the Boston Marathon,” Mary said. “Well, you’re going to need a pair of running shoes, then.” Janine smiled.

Those words were the sweetest and most reassuring Mary had ever heard.

In 2009 at fifty-five years old, Mary’s running shoes and resolve pushed her through the Boston Marathon finish line, proving once again that she was stronger than her circumstances.

Mary now uses her words to motivate others with beautiful poetry and continues to run, inspiring others to find their finish lines.

Read more about Mary’s powerful message of healing and hope at: