Words by Juliana Cimino
Coming off an impressive high school athletic career, earning a total of 12 varsity letters, Catherine Manning walked onto the Emmanuel College women’s soccer squad. She played in a total of 18 games her rookie year, 15 of which she was in the starting lineup. She played a significant role on defense for the Saints, and her defensive unit gave up an average of 1.42 goals on the year. In an instant, everything changed.
In the last regular season match of her first year, she suffered a broken leg. Manning almost lost her athletic career.
As if a broken leg was not bad enough, Manning suffered complications that caused her to have three surgeries. Recovering from not one, not two, but three surgeries must have been unimaginable, especially for someone as dedicated to athletics as Manning.
When she was finally able to walk and then run again, Manning took to running as a way to overcome her injury. Manning spoke with Juliana Cimino about her journey through the recovery process.
“I never ran track specifically, but I grew up playing sports since I was five years old, and that was taken away from me by the injury,” said Manning. “I wanted to feel like myself again through running. A lot of the time, when I was unable to, I would just think of times when I could run, and that would get me through what I was going through. If it was a bad day, I’d be like, ‘Just think about yourself running. You’ll get there eventually.’ When I could finally run again, it was like a celebration.”
Here we are two years after her injury, and Manning is training to run in the 126th Boston Marathon, a 26.2-mile journey. She realized she wanted to run the marathon after attending the most recent one on October 11, 2021.
Manning said, “I don’t know if you’ve ever been during Marathon Monday, but the energy in the city is amazing. I was emotional watching the marathon and people run, but I was just thinking of how to make what I went through a positive. Seeing everybody run was so inspiring and made me realize that this is what I wanted to do. It was a way of signifying getting over the injury.”
After attending the October Marathon, Manning began researching charity teams she could run the marathon for. Over Christmas break, she got a call that she was accepted to a team. She is running as a member of the Brigham & Women’s Hospital Stepping Strong Marathon Team. She described the organization and its purpose.
“The Stepping Strong Center is a part of the Brigham & Women’s Hospital. It is in honor of Gillian Reny. She was injured in the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013 and went to Brigham. They helped get her healthy again and saved her legs at the hospital. The Stepping Strong Center is dedicated to trauma innovation research,” said Manning. She went on to describe what running on the team means to her. “When I was looking for different charity teams I could run for and I found this one, it just felt like I belonged to it. I really resonated with the team and its overall message. That’s how I feel about me running the marathon, it’s like me stepping strong again. I’m really honored to be a part of this marathon team and to be raising money to help the center, so it’s like a full circle for me, which is really nice.”
Manning has been building her way up to where she needs to be for the marathon. “There’s a strict schedule I’ve been following through a coach for the team I’m on, so I’ve just been encapsulated in the training process. It started off at five miles, then 10, then 20, which I did two weeks ago,” said Manning. “It doesn’t feel real that 26.2 miles is something I’m going to be doing in two weeks. I’m getting nervous, but I’m really excited. I’m really proud of myself. I know it’s going to be a great day, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Manning leaves us with this message that she wants others to take away from her journey to recovery. “Try to find the positive in things, even if you have to make things positive. If you don’t believe everything happens for a reason, make it so there is a reason. It’s hard to not get so caught up in the negatives of things like this, especially injuries in sports, but stay positive and make it so there’s a reason for you to have gone through all of this.”
If you would like to support Manning and all the other talented runners, each running for their own cause, the Boston Marathon is taking place on Monday, April 18. For more information about the marathon, visit https://www.baa.org/races/boston-marathon.