“Super heroes are not only in the comics or movies. True super heroes walk amongst us and can inspire and motivate us to better ourselves.”
It’s fall in Canada; leaves and temperatures are both falling. It is also the time for miniature goblins, witches and super heroes to hit the streets in search of candy. Dentists cringe but I love seeing the costume-clad candy-chasers.
The impending day of Halloween also reminds me of someone I got to know and who dresses up as super hero for a different reason. Lets meet Toronto’s running Batman.
Jean-Paul “Batman” Hernandez
He says his name is Jean-Paul Hernandez. His close friends call him J.P., but many know him as Batman.
J.P. is a 38-year-old divorced father to of two and a grandfather to two. He lives in Toronto and works downtown for a small publishing company and began running in the spring of 2011 to deal with the breakdown of his marriage. He says he was not doing well emotionally and needed an outlet to help him cope.
Having run when he was younger, J.P. signed up for a learn-to-run clinic. He says he fell back in love with the motion of moving forward and wanted to go longer distances. In 2011, he ran his first half-marathon at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. J.P. loved the experience and said he wanted to make it the one for my first marathon one day.
J.P. also said he knew the 2013 STWM would be his first marathon but wanted it to be memorable. This is where the Batman appears.
I asked J.P. about himself and his running loved his answer: “Like Batman, I’m just simply a human being with no powers. However, it is Batman’s will to do what is necessary that makes him the icon he is. And, like Batman, I had to hone my body to that of a marathon, and to sharpen my mental toughness to endure it when it would be painful.”
J.P. changed into Batman when he decided to run his first marathon dressed as the caped crusader.
Tracking down the masked man, I asked Batman some questions.
What drives you to run as Batman?
“When I was seven years old, my appendix ruptured one night suddenly. I was bleeding internally and my father drove me, my mother and younger brother down to the Hospital for Sick Children. They saved my life and, from what I remember, I didn’t really miss home; they made my stay as comfortable as possible, which was amazing considering most kids get home sick.
“I always wanted to give back in my own way; telethons always felt impersonal to me, so when I saw a photo in early-2013 of four window cleaners dressed as Superman, Batman, Captain America and Spider-Man outside a Pittsburgh children’s hospital washing windows, I knew exactly how I was going to do my first marathon.”
What’s it like to run that far dressed as a superhero?
“Running in costume is not all that hard. The costume itself is made up of running compression gear, with a rubber cowl & neck piece. However, it was much tougher when I ran the 2014 STWM. I’ve come to realize something in every race I do when in costume – the kids I run for, who can’t run for themselves, are putting up a much braver fight than me running 21.1K or 42.2K. They fight every second of their lives, some against incurable diseases.”
Any more caped running crusades for the rest of 2014 or into 2015?
“As for the rest of 2014, I will run in the costume one last time at a Kids 3K Monster Dash in High Park in late October. I have plans to reunite with members of the Justice League Runners in April for the Toronto Yonge Street 10k (the JLR are a group of runners dressed as super heroes who also helped to raise funds for SickKids Hospital at TYS10K in 2014). I do have plans to return to STWM in 2015 but I will be looking to greatly improve upon my finishing time of 5:05 from 2014. Furthermore, new and current members of the JLR will be looking to establish a new world record for the fastest marathon done by a group dressed as super heroes.”
Run on, my friend.
Do you have a running story to tell?