Meet our friend 48 year old Manon O’Connor from Shelburne, VT …..
I began running (really running) at the age of 34. I was inspired to run by my late husband Arthur, who was very blunt in telling me that one of us had to be healthy for our young daughter’s sake…and it had to be me. He was a lifelong athlete having been captain of his baseball and football teams in high school, played a year of football in college and was an avid skier as well as terrible, but dedicated, hockey player. His once sturdy body yielding to the effects of chemotherapy and radiation to treat his cancer, he was pragmatic about his advice to me. What he could not have known then and what I would not have believed is how running pulled me through very difficult days. Slowly, one foot in front of the other, every day, I found that running was a coping mechanism. And so much more. I became stronger physically, and in time emotionally stronger as well. Looking back, this effort (and it was an effort) turned into a love and healthy addiction that also taught my daughter valuable lessons through example. Be strong, take care of yourself so you can take care of others (the old, put your oxygen mask on first advice). I unwittingly demonstrated that we can empower ourselves to overcome so much. Running has been my friend, my companion, my outlet, my redemption in many ways.
Fast forward 14 years and I am now poised to run my 11th KBVCM Marathon and have run the Boston Marathon twice. I have so many stories but I’ll share a few that stand out. Each race has been a precious memory and one remarkable moment was the time I caught my leg on a concrete piling at mile 8 in 2004…I was air born and I heard the gasping crowd as I hit the pavement hard. I got right up and kept going, palms and elbows bleeding almost as quickly as the cheers from the crowd as I refused to let a spectacular spill stop me. That same race I came upon a fellow runner who had run 20 miler but had yet to go the distance. We stayed together until mile 23 when he started to cramp and said ‘go ahead…don’t worry, I’ll finish’. I did but he next day looked up his name and sure enough, 4 minutes behind me “Bill Rogers’ (seriously) finished the race. I was so happy for him!
In Boston 2009, as I was nearing the finish line in the crowd of thousands, my daughter was watching for me knowing I was close and screamed out ‘Mommy!’ and I immediately turned my head to her direction. She knew I heard her because she said I looked right at her in a crowd of hundreds of people. How many times do you hear ‘go mom’ during a race…a lot, and every mother hears the beautiful voice of her child…the one(s) she is setting that incredible example for.
Finally, I am proud these days to run with the UVM College of Medicine signature yellow shirt with the tag line “Run, Sweat , Give’. For several years, first year medical students raise funds and run for a cancer research or program at the Vermont Cancer Center. These students are incredible people and I am proud to run among them in support of their altruism and gifts they will give to this world as physicians.
My journey has come full circle when I think about why and who I run with now…and I plan to go around again. I started running because the viciousness of cancer affected my life in the most devastating way and now, I run to stay healthy and combat cancer with people dedicated to raising funds for research.
On Sunday, May 26th at 8:05 am I will stand in that crowd, shoulder to shoulder with my compatriots and I will cry, as I have at each start of every marathon I have run. Those tears are because of the powerful energy at the VCM and when I think of the answer I give people when they ask ‘why do you run’. My answer: ‘because I can’.