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Article Published September 2, 2020

Loriann Mancuso: On the Run

By Rita Christopher/Zip06.com

Loriann Mancuso is running the Boston Marathon—in Essex and Old Saybrook.

Pandemic precautions originally forced a postponement of the marathon from its traditional April date to October. But that too underwent revision. Not only was the date changed once again, but the way runners participate was reimagined to reflect the realities of COVID-19.

Now participants who have gotten a coveted number to race in the marathon, will do so on their own, running in a place of their own choosing sometime between Sept. 7 and 14. The Boston Athletic Association (BAA) will provide them with an app to validate distance and time.

Lori will run on Saturday, Sept. 12. It will be her fourth marathon and the fourth time her run will raise money for the Michael Carter Lisnow Respite Center in Hopkinton, Massachusetts, the town where traditionally the marathon has started. The respite center provides programs for children and adults with both emotional and physical disabilities as well as their families and caregivers.

It is a triumph for anybody to complete a marathon; for Loriann, it is especially sweet. When she graduated from high school, Loriann weighed 286 pounds, and those pounds were not spread over a big frame. She is 4 feet 11 inches tall. One of her worst moments came in high school when she won the lead part of Wendy in Peter Pan. But the role, despite her singing ability, was not to be hers. She was told she was too fat to be lifted by apparatus that enables the characters to fly.

“I was devastated,” Loriann recalls.

By her early 20s, Loriann had gotten herself down to 200 pounds, but then unexpected disaster struck—twice. Nineteen years ago, she suffered the first of two debilitating strokes, which initially left her with paralysis on her left side. With the help of intensive rehabilitation, she has since recovered.

Loriann marks the turning point of her life as the death of her mother from colon cancer at age 50 in 2005. It made her more conscious of her own health; she looked at what she weighed and what she ate with new seriousness. Still the battle to lose weight was neither easy nor quick.

“It took me 10 years to get my life under control,” she admits.

Her real breakthrough came in 2013 and 2014 with the help of coaching in both nutrition and exercise. In all, at her lightest at 117 pounds, Loriann had lost 169 pounds.

What is more, with her revamped physique Loriann started entering fitness contests. At the same time that she ran her first marathon, she participated in her first fitness competition, winning her class, the transformation category.

Now Loriann lives a different life; she belongs to two gyms, and in addition has a desk-treadmill combination that allows her to walk while she is working. She works at home for a company that provides services to credit unions. On the weekends, she would usually be working at the respite center, but COVID-19 has prevented that. Instead she is volunteering at the Shoreline Soup Kitchen.

“I like to put 36 hours into a 24-hour day; I get as much as I can out of every second,” she says.

Loriann started piano lessons with her mother, a musician, at 2 ½. By the time she was seven, she had added oboe and violin. Her most noted performances, however, have been in something she never formally studied, voice. When she was 12, her father saw there was to be a national anthem signing contest for the New Britain Rock Cats. He suggested Loriann enter. She did and she won; the prize was tickets to a Rock Cats game.

She has continued to sing the national anthem at events, mostly athletics, in Connecticut. If she gets paid, she donates the money to the respite center or asks for tickets so respite center clients can attend games.

Singing the anthem is always a thrill for her.

“I imagine myself next to Francis Scott Key seeing whatever he saw. I put myself there every time,” she says.

As she focuses on her upcoming run, there is an ironic truth about Loriann and the marathon. She doesn’t really enjoy running.

“It’s mind over matter,” she says. “I want to stay focused on the great goal.”

For her that goal is raising money for the Respite Center.

Loriann is looking for a time of 4 ½ hours in the marathon this year; her first marathon took her a half hour longer than that. She plans to start at 6 a.m. in Essex and end at the Monkey Farm restaurant at the junction of Old Saybrook Main Street and the Boston Post Road.

Whe she finishes, one thing remains the same.

“I always cry; I am always surprised,” she says. “I remember my first stroke 19 years ago when I couldn’t have imagined doing this.”

To donate to support Loriann, visit charity.gofundme.com/o/en/campaign/michael-lisnow-respite-center2/loriann5. A map of Loriann’s route is at www.mapmyrun.com/routes/view/3341410048.

For information on the Michael Carter Lisnow Respite Center, visit www.hopkintonrespite.com