Achilles helping Felicia’s marathon ambitions
Determined to succeed
Felicia Manase may have trouble carrying a cup of tea, but if all goes to plan, she will be carrying herself across the finish line at the New York City Marathon in November.
The 27-year-old was born with mild cerebral palsy. She will be the first Pacific Islander and only person from the Wellington region to participate as an athlete with charity Achilles New Zealand’s team.
Despite her lofty goal, Manase, who is of Samoan and Tokelauan descent, has no history of sportiness.
‘‘In college, I was too afraid to play sports in case I was teased or bullied. It was a barrier I had,’’ she said.
But this year she wanted to do something different. When she saw February’s AMI Round the Bays race mentioned on Facebook, she started training without her family’s knowledge.
Three weeks from race day, she informed them of her intention to participate.
She finished the 10km course despite only having run three kilometres at one time in training.
She was worried she would not make it.
‘‘I knew I had to keep going, but at one point I wanted to give up because my body couldn’t take any more.
‘‘ I was so emotional. Even before I saw the finish line, I started crying. I just dropped to the ground as soon as I finished.’’
With that triumph under her belt, Manase’s colleague at the Ministry of Education alerted her to Achilles International, an organisation that helps people with disabilities participate in mainstream running events.
She contacted Achilles’ New Zealand chairman, Peter Loft, and was signed up for the team that will run the annual New York City marathon on November 2.
She has been training by pounding the streets and hitting the gym, and intends taking up rowing in a few weeks’ time.
She will travel with eight other New Zealanders who have various disabilities, and their five support crew. They must each raise NZ $ 5000 to cover trip costs. Manase’s campaign can be found online at fundraiseonline.co.nz/ FeliciaManase.
She will be guided along the course by Newstalk ZB’s Niva Retimanu, an Achilles ambassador, as well as two local runners to be selected on arrival in New York.
Retimanu met Manase for the first time over Easter and said the two formed an instant bond.
Retimanu, also of Samoan descent, ran the marathon with Achilles for the first time last year.
She is based in Auckland, and has been encouraging Manase from afar by text and email.
Manase said she did not see herself as inspirational.
‘‘I just see myself as normal. But I want to be a role model for people with big dreams. If I can do this, I can do anything I put my mind to.’’
Bound for the Big Apple: Felicia Manase, who has mild cerebral palsy, will run the New York City Marathon in November.