How to be an Everyday Superhero

Reading time: 2 minutes and 23 seconds (finishing time 4 hours and 40 minutes)

Imagine being surrounded by 36,000 superheroes….

On Sunday I had the honour of running the London Marathon.  I was humbled by the whole day.  Everywhere I looked I saw ordinary people doing quite extraordinary things.

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Another everyday superhero...

Each and every runner had spent the bitter winter months fitting a gruelling training programme around their busy lives.

These heroes had been pounding the pavement at every hour of  the day and night – building up, preparing for the challenge ahead. Logging those miles and hours, tending those blisters and chafed nipples, stretching those aching limbs one more time.

Every hero  had their own motivation to be there.  The vast majority were raising money for charity – fighting disease, helping vulnerable children, getting clean water to Africa, finding a cure for cancer.

Reading their shirts told a story – “In memory of Lily”, “Running for Mum”, “Doing it for Derrick”.  They felt compelled to make a difference for others, to bring a little light in the darkness, to remember those less fortunate.  Proper heroes.

Some of these everyday heroes had taken it one step further.  The pantomime camel manned by two people, the human caterpillar of 34 people tied together, the two men carrying a small boat, the heroes dragging a brick wall on a sledge.

Everywhere I looked was an endless stream of costumes (countless superheroes, Rocky, endless Elvises, some serious cross-dressing).

This was going above and showing superhuman support for something they believed in.

The spirit of the day was unbelievable.  Huge crowds lined the streets from start to finish.  They offered support to each and every runner.

They banged drums, played music, offered their hands, gave out sweets, drinks, fruit.  They cheered endlessly “Come on Steve”, “Keep going Batman, you can do it”, “Nice work, Jean”. Without this support, I’m sure quite a few runners would never have made it to the end.

For one day, communities came together.  Strangers joined for a common purpose.  The atmosphere was electric and dripping positivity.  In their own way, every supporter is a hero too.  They played their unique part in a day that made a serious difference.

So how did my race go?

I loved each and every of the 30,000 strides.

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Still smiling at 18 miles

I was running for the NSPCC (a charity aiming to stamp out cruelty to children).  I got amazing support from friends and family and have so far managed to raise over £2,000.  I want to publically thank each and every donor for their extraordinary generosity.

I got fantastic support all along the course from the amazing crowds, and particularly from my support crew (thanks Em, Celene and Andy).

I felt well prepared and stuck to my game plan, finishing in 4 hours 40 minutes and 10 seconds. At the end, I felt elated, overwhelmed and a little wobbly.  It was such a buzz to be surrounded by so many Everyday Superheroes.

Being an Everyday Superhero

Reflecting on this experience it made me realize that we all have the potential to be everyday superheroes.

Every day, people go out of their way to help others. They volunteer, spend time with someone lonely, help out with the shopping,  give up their seat on the bus. These acts make a huge difference and make the world a better place for all of us.

We’re surrounded by these wonderful people.  Just walking down the street, you’re in the presence of someone with super powers.

You too have the power at your fingertips – every time you put someone else first you’re an everyday superhero.  You have the power to make the world a little better every day.

Over to you

  • What do you do to be an Everyday Superhero?
  • Who do you admire who puts others first?
  • What will be your next Everyday Superhero act?

Other resources

Arvind Devalia on how to change the world in less than 27 miles

Amit Sodha on how anyone can run the marathon

Photo credit: Julian Mason (Flickr Creative Commons), Celene

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  1. Phil
    April 27, 2010 at 11:40 am | Permalink

    How do you act as an everyday superhero? Who do you know who inspires you to make a difference? Please leave a comment and share some inspiration.

  2. April 27, 2010 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Well done Phil!

    What a superhero YOU are!!!

    As I have learnt it takes so little to make a difference to others – and to become a hero in their eyes.

    I aspire to be an eveyrday superhero by looking out for ways of helping out – which could be giving directions to someone clearly lost, or paying for someone’s parking, buying a magazine from a street person and so on. If nothing else, I just flash my smile:-)
    .-= Arvind Devalia´s last blog ..How to Change the World in Less than 8 Hours and 27 Miles =-.

  3. April 27, 2010 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    That’s quite an achievement, Phil. I’ve been wanting to train for a marathon for years, but I’ve never gone through with it. Well done!

    You are absolutely right, Arvind. It sometimes takes very little effort to make a difference to others. Being kind and respectful or a helping hand is sometimes all it takes to make someone else’s life a little better.
    .-= Bart Jacobs´s last blog ..Do You Claim Your Right To Suffer? =-.

  4. April 27, 2010 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Hi Phil,
    Congratulations on a truly heroic effort!
    .-= Topi´s last blog ..10 moments to savour during the day =-.

  5. April 27, 2010 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    Great post and I love the little mention of what people had written on their t-shirts, their cause, purpose; the thing that drove those crazy sods to run it…now I can\’t wait to run it next year!
    .-= Amit Sodha – The Power Of Choice´s last blog ..Video – Are You Still Doing Things To Make People ‘Like’ You? =-.

  6. April 28, 2010 at 4:12 am | Permalink

    Wonderful post, Phil! I love what you said about people having the potential to be everyday superheroes. I think that in own little way, we can go out of our way to help others.

    I just read news on the homeless man who was left dying in Queens, NY. What’s so tragic about it is that he got stabbed (unfortunately he died) because he was intervening in a fight between a couple. But what so striking about the story is that the guy went out of his way to save the woman even if it cost him his life.
    .-= Dawn @ Self Help Motivation´s last blog ..Got Motivation? The Self Help Tips You Need to Get It and Keep It! =-.

  7. Brett
    April 28, 2010 at 4:18 am | Permalink

    Good writeup. I think people who go to work and take responsibility for providing for their families are the most overlooked superheros. In “Manic” America it’s often hard to balance work, home life, health, etc without having a nervous breakdown. I think people who can do that should pat themselves on the back first before they undertake a more time intensive activity such as preparing for and running marathons. I like your idea of giving too. Except for the person at the freeway exit (too dangerous to hand off money, especially if light turns green in process)I always give money to people who ask for it. I’m not talking huge amounts, but even $5 to someone who seems desperate will actually make you feel as good, if not better than the person receiving the money. I’ve often handed a $20 to these types and love it when their eyes light up with surprise. If someone is that bad off and has lost so much hope that they are begging, then give them some hope! This is a good test about how money affects your life. If you are able to give your money away without reservation you control your money. If you feel guilty or cheated giving money away, then you are controlled by your money. Which person would you rather be? My grandfather died with $5 millon and rarely gave away a dollar and he never seemed happy. I don’t want to be that way. FYI,I didn’t inherit, and won’t inherit any of that money and I am actually a better person as a result. Keep up the good articles Phil. Congrats on your marathon.


  8. April 28, 2010 at 10:29 am | Permalink

    Good stuff Phil,

    Running a marathon is a great accomplishment! I am also training for a marathon that I hope to run next year. Fantastic lessons to be learned in this post. I love the “everyday superheros go out of their way to help others”

    Keep up the good work Phil :)
    .-= Ralph´s last blog ..How to Keep Promises to Yourself =-.

  9. April 28, 2010 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    Phil this is really wonderful event i have ever seen,I salute to you and other thousands of runners, volunteers and every person who gave their contribution for fund raising.

    It is our duty to give our contribution for making this world a better place. When some one get smile because of your help/effort the feeling is really different and i love to make other people happy :)

    “Spread happiness, be happy”
    .-= Jignesh Gohel´s last blog ..Small Misunderstandings May Result in a Lifetime of Regrets =-.

  10. Phil
    April 28, 2010 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    @Arvind – i know you go out of your way to help others everyday. Keep up the good work. It is the small things that sometimes make the largest difference.

    @Bart – training for a marathon teaches you a lot about yourself. I learned the need for discipline, organisation, asking for help, persistence and forgiveness (for some of my failures). I’d recommend it to anyone as a great self-improvement process. Go for it…

    @Topi – Appreciate the kudos. How will you be an everyday superhero?

    @Amit – you will storm it next year. I may be joining you again, or if not I’ll be cheering for sure.

    @Dawn – I guess that there is always a risk in trying to help out others – that they will reject you, or in the case you mentioned much worse. These extreme examples shouldn’t stop us from being an everyday superhero and helping out where we can. I’ll just caveat that and say to everyone, use your judgment and make sure you respect your own personal safety – you can’t help anyone else if you jeopordize yourself.

    @Brett – damn straight – just getting through the day, taking care of ourselves and those close to us is a super heroic effort. Amen to that. I like your thinking about our relationship to money – it is an easy way to see how attached we are to it. Sometimes it helps me to realise that money in the bank is not much more than a number. Thanks for a great comment and sharing your thoughts. Keep up the heroic work.

    @Ralph – congratulations. If you apply yourself and enjoy the training, you’ll storm it. Keep us posted on progress here on Less Ordinary.

    @Jignesh – appreciate your kind words. You are right that even a smile can be a great gift and change someone’s day. That changes the whole world for the better.

  11. April 28, 2010 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Hey Phil,

    A fav topic of mine! Everyday heroes/heroines surround us. Anyone willing to stand up for someone or something else gets my EH vote. They pave the way for changing up the status quo! It can be in your small town or a larger city. It can be for animals or people or the earth or what’s right.

    Great thoughts here. Giulietta
    .-= Giulietta the Muse´s last blog ..What makes you get up in the morning? =-.

  12. April 28, 2010 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Hey Phil,
    Congratulations. We just had marathon here in Boston which I love to go down and watch every year. It is a true celebration of life. I try to be an every day super hero by complimenting a random stranger… something as simple as “what a nice smile you have!” can really make someones day. I encourage anyone to try it. The best part is that it makes ME feel terrific as well.
    .-= rob white´s last blog ..The lesson of New Orleans =-.

  13. April 28, 2010 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    What a touching and inspiring post, Phil. And what a wonderful thing to be able to combine your passion with doing a good thing. Bravo.

  14. April 29, 2010 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Dear SuperHero,

    I am a fan of all those with a cape. It must have felt awesome being in the race last Sunday. Congratulations for making it and sticking to the game plan!!

    Thank you for inspiring me to stand for something. And that I can be a superhero just like you!

    Best regards,
    .-= Evelyn Lim´s last blog ..Draw A Creative Mind Map for Self Analysis =-.

  15. Phil
    April 30, 2010 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    @Giulietta – too true. It is liberating to know that we can wake up and decide to be a hero any day we choose. Just go out and make the world better.

    @Rob – good for you. Compliments, or even a smile can change someone’s day and that can have a big knock on effect on the world. Great stuff.

    @Belinda – thanks for the compliments. Yes I feel lucky that I have this opportunity to do something I enjoy and make it worthwhile

    @Evelyn – Thank you. I challenge you to find something you believe in and be heroic in supporting that cause. Go out there and make it happen.

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  1. [...] One of my friends, Phil Bolton, ran on Sunday and you can read his enthralling account of how to be an everyday superhero. [...]

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