It is inevitable. The summer always brings another round of superhero movies, whether it is a reboot of an old franchise or a new vision of an old story. And the formula is as old as mythology itself.
The main character is beset by some tragedy, whether personal or environmental. They develop special powers, overcome extreme odds, defeat their own personal demons, and then go out into the world to help others defeat theirs.
As runners, we all have a superhero within us. We are often motivated by something in our lives to do something, anything, to improve our lives. And some of us even go on to help others improve theirs.
Some of us have been running in organized events since high school. Some of us just ran our first miles this year. Sometimes it’s a struggle of monumental proportions to simply get out and do our midweek training. Sometimes we feel, just like the protagonist in a superhero movie, that no one understands us and we will always be misunderstood as we change into our superhero costumes and wait for the starting gun to fire.
And just like the comic book superheroes, there are always villains waiting to destroy us. The villains may be unique to each of us, but we share the same fears of all super heroes. What if THEY win this time? What if we can’t defeat this villain and make a PR this year?
Who is your villain? When you put on your special compression calf sleeves, your shiny singlet and your magic running shorts, what is your worse fear? As you lace up your super powerful running shoes, what thoughts pass through your mind?
Injuries, work, weather, health, money, family, weight, time. Each villain is unique and each one needs a different method to manage and defeat it. Injuries are the most villainous ones; they plant seeds of doubt that can make us stop running altogether. Some villains, like our families, are not truly villains, but like the citizens of Gotham, they may not understand why you dress in spandex and leave the house at 5 am.
A great superhero understands the difference between their villains. If Injury stops you from running, you respect it and refocus your training until the injury is healed. If your family doesn’t understand your passion, invite them to run with you, or plan your runs in a way that won’t interrupt the regular routine.
Eventually, just like in the movies, those around us will see the profound change being a superhero has had on us. There will be questions. And some might want to join us on our missions.
Some of us may never share our secret identity of “runner” with those around us. We will run under the cover of darkness, off the beaten path or by ourselves, away from the public eye. But the results will still be the same: People will see a change in you. And they will ask what you are doing.
Some of us will reach out into the community and create bonds with other superhero runners and, in turn, work diligently to run in defense of special charities to benefit those less fortunate or to run for causes that need funding to find a cure or to spotlight a social injustice.
So when you put on your running clothes, remember you are a member of an elite force. You will inspire others and you will help others, even if you aren’t aware of these special super powers. Every runner inspires another person in their lives and, in turn, those runners will go on to inspire others. We are a community of super hero mentors. For every Batman, there is a Robin.
We all have a story for why we became runners. Whether we escaped an alien planet or simply got tired of watching our bodies grow weak and tired, there is a reason we strap on our GPS watches and hit the trails. It is to defeat the villains that tell us we can’t and to prove to ourselves that even if we can’t stop a speeding train, no one can stop us if we want to be a successful runner.
Don’t give up and remember that even Superman had a bad day every now and then.
See you on the trails.