Where Did My Heroes Go?

By | Tuesday, May 08, 2012 Leave a Comment
Interesting thing about running a marathon: despite several hours of doing an extremely repetitive motion that leaves your brain open to the possibility of wandering all over, one does very little thinking or daydreaming during a race like that. It's not just me; I've heard from several people who recall only the briefest snippets from running a marathon, even immediately afterwards. It's fascinatingly different, even, from doing training runs.

Training runs, after all, are training runs. You monitor your pace and breathing and whatnot, but if anything starts to go awry, you know you can safely stop and check things out. So your mind wanders around, maybe watching houses go by or listening to some good tunes. In an actual race, I think you register it as a different type of event -- one with consequences if you falter in any way. So there's a lot more internal monitoring going on. "How was that last step? Did I roll my ankle? Am I bending my knees enough? What are my energy levels like? I'm not over-hydrating myself, am I?"

That processing lasts throughout most of the race. It's important, for obvious reasons, but it also crowds out some OTHER important thoughts. Namely: WWBJGD? What would Benjamin J. Grimm do?

Or Green Arrow. Or Luffy. Or whoever your favorite hero is.

I can't speak for everyone who runs, of course, but I can't tell you the number of times during my training that I got sore and tired and thought to myself, "Would Luffy quit just because he was tired? No, he'd keep going until the fight was over. Now keep running!" These heroes from comic books, despite being completely fictional, frequently kept me going.

But they weren't available to me during the marathon. The closest I came to thinking of them was when Mark Snow's theme from Jake Speed came though my headphones somewhere around mile 16, and I had a brief flash of, "I can't stop now! This is hero music!" But I barely heard the song because my focus almost immediately went back to the state of my health.

And, if you've never run a marathon, let me tell you that there is absolutely no way I can explain what your body goes through. You go through your first and second winds, as well as a third wind you never knew about. Then you run out of energy completely and keep going on willpower. Then you run out of willpower and continue on momentum, hoping that you don't actually stop for any reason because you know you'll never be able to start again. If you EVER have an experience where you need a hero to guide you and coax you on, it's that type of situation where you have gone through your internal reserves twice over and have absolutely NOTHING left.

But Ben? Ollie? Luffy? Nowhere to be found. My heroes abandoned me. Right when I needed them the most.

Or did they?

The thing about heroes is: they're our inspiration. We look to heroes as the ideals we want to become. We read about the Fantastic Four or Justice League or Straw Hat Pirates to help us find our own compasses and suggest directions and actions for when we're faced with our own challenges and difficult situations. Because those heroes won't actually be there when your back is against the wall.

But maybe, if you were paying attention, you'll find an inner strength to become those very heroes. Oh, you probably won't be able to punch your fist through a brick wall, but you might find that your heroes have become part of you in a very real sense, allowing you to achieve more than you thought you were capable of.

(Photo of Tabitha Thompson care of alzimmermanoh.)
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