Last weekend I met a group of real heroes and discovered that Aquaman and Superman have nothing on them.
We're home again after our Global Heroes weekend in Minneapolis/St. Paul and I am going to try very very hard to capture in words all of the emotions whirling around in my heart. I will most likely not succeed...but I will try.
Over the next few blogs I will take you through the weekend and the race but today, I want to take you to meet some of my new friends and ask: what makes a hero?
I learned, last weekend, the answer to that question.
First you take a regular human being.
And then you throw a really big challenge their way. Like cerebral palsy. Or a chronic disease. A heart condition that requires a pacemaker or an ICD. A car or a surfing accident that results in a spinal cord injury.
And watch how they react.
If they take it all in stride and stubbornly refuse to let the challenge get in their way, they might be a hero.
If they hear the words "you can't" and turn them into "I can", they might be a hero.
If they take their medical condition and use it as a motivator to do more than they ever would have done without it - they are a hero.
I met 24 people this weekend who put Superman to shame.
I met Lance (left) from Australia who ran a 2:56 marathon on Sunday. He has a pacemaker. Lance brought his finisher t-shirt from the Golden Coast marathon as a gift for Matthew despite having never met Matthew before. I met Matthew (right) from Florida who has cerebral palsy and an implanted drug pump to help manage muscle spasticity. He runs. Fast. He is eloquent, really funny and had us all in the palm of his hand by the end of the weekend.
I met Pat (left) from South Africa who has a deep brain stimulator to manage the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. And Patrick from Florida who resumed running just weeks after having surgery for a serious heart condition. I met Erin who nearly died from sudden cardiac arrest and now has an ICD implanted. And Bob who, like Lance, has a pace maker. Anna (front) who suffered a spinal cord injury from a car accident and competes in races using a hand bike.
And I met people like me. With diabetes. Sporting insulin pumps that all make the same beeping noises. Gabriela and Daniela, twin sisters from Brazil. Dave from Alaska and Torbjørn from Norway. All grinning after having met Katie (in red) from Medtronic who heads up their diabetes research.
When we first arrived in St. Paul, we were 50 strangers. Twenty-five Global Heroes each with their travel/running buddy. I had a hard time finding out which half of each pair was the hero because everyone looked the same. Regular folks wearing regular clothes talking about regular stuff.
But then they handed out the hero jackets. And the hero singlets. And the hero hats. And suddenly we could spot the heroes and seek them out one by one to hear their stories and to share our own.
Every hero has a uniform. Ours is a blue jacket, grey toque and an often invisible medical device. Together they make us powerful, strong and ready to fight. For ourselves, for others, for our health and so others could feel hope when they saw us.
When I first heard about the Global Heroes program, a little part of me thought that the name hero was a little over the top. That is, until I met them. Now I don't think it's big enough to capture the power of these superheroes.