The passing of Stan Lee earlier last week had more of an impact on me than I might have expected. You see, Stan created Spider-man (and many more heroes and villains) – a character we all know and love and who I lived vicariously though during my childhood and teenage years.
He is a nerdy teenage boy lacking self-belief simply trying to find his way in life until a Spider-bite changes his life.
Lately I have learnt that life is just the story we tell ourselves and all too often people pigeon-hole us by telling us who we are, what we should do and what our potential is. Clichéd as it sounds, I’ve always been enamoured with the concept that there is a hero in us all and our true potential is there to be realised when we believe in ourselves.
Sometimes it may take someone else to help us realise that potential, as happened to me recently at my local park run.
A few months ago I turned up to my local park run in Cardiff flustered and a little late. Having been awake since 5am and with the song ‘Do you want to build a snowman?’ literally haunting me I was desperate to escape the toddler chaos building in my living room at home and hurriedly bid my wife and children goodbye.
I was pleasantly surprised on arrival that the run was introduced by the double Olympic champion Dame Kelly Holmes, who while working in Cardiff apparently couldn’t resist an opportunity to enjoy a morning run around Bute Park.
As she took to the tanoy she spoke passionately about the park scheme initiative and the incredible community it now represents – motivating people to enjoy exercise and running.
Feeling inspired by her words I set off around the course along with the 700 other participants to enjoy the fresh summer morning air. As I began to near the end of the course I had started to envisage my morning coffee and breakfast and I was somewhat taken aback and if I’m honest awestruck to be greeted by the Olympic champion herself. At full flight it was difficult to offer any means of polite conversation, however ,within a few metres my feelings of awe were replaced with one thought
‘Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could beat Dame Kelly Holmes – a double Olympic gold medal winner?
‘What a story that would be for my children’, I thought.
Sadly, my thoughts didn’t hold much place in reality as within seconds I was left in her tracks as she took off into the distance.
At the finish line I was lucky enough to meet her in person as I collected my running token and time and she kindly agreed to an obligatory selfie.
Later than day I cheekily tweeted Dame Kelly Holmes asking her to follow me on Twitter as I hopelessly aimed to beat the park run time she had achieved that morning.
Unbelievably, not only did I receive a reply but a challenge that inadvertently led me on a journey of discovery and self belief.
In order to acquire a ‘follow’ I would have to run a sub 19 5km and whereas previously I thought this feat might be as achievable as me waking up with hair like Chesney Hawkes this tweet had now become my metaphorical Spider-bite.
Every run I set out on from this point took on a different meaning. Running offers so much to me already only had now started to believe what was possible. My legs seem to have more spring and my tolerance of pain increased significantly.
Mentally I began to visualise racing and beating all the anxieties holding me back in my life and my Strava times slowly started to improve. I would also add that going for a run at slightly inopportune moments can vastly improve your running times.
For example if I leave the house just as my children begin drawing on the kitchen wall first thing on a Saturday morning I know that I need to be back in a very good time before the house falls down and my wife decides to leave me. I have achieved many a personal best with this technique!
My park run time slowly began to make significant improvements and with it so did my attitude and belief in other areas of my life.
The inspiration and belief I gained from this chance encounter has in turn driven me to inspire others through the inception of Welshrunningdad.
I began telling myself that it really doesn’t matter that other people place limitations on us because ultimately if we really want something and believe in ourselves then our goals are entirely achievable.
I realise that we might not all be fortunate enough to be bitten by a Spider like Peter Parker or bump into an Olympic legend at your local Park Run.
However, I believe that Stan Lee creations and Kelly Holmes personal challenge are examples that with a little self belief anything is possible.
Who knows I might even wake up with a full head of hair in the morning.
As far as the Park Run challenge is concerned I seem to have aquired an extra follower on Twitter.
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