Today was a favorite day among New Yorkers—the NYC Marathon—when our city hosts tens of thousands of runners from around the world to participate in the 26.2 mile run throughout the Five Boroughs. While there is obviously a top tier of elite runners who compete for prizes, most runners participate in this massive undertaking for purely personal reasons.
As I watched the coverage of the race on television this morning (which always provides a generous serving of inspirational stories), I thought about how the marathon is really a beautiful embodiment of the “Hero’s Journey.” As Celebrants, we pay close attention to this concept, put forward by the great Joseph Campbell in his Journey of a thousand faces.
The Hero’s Journey calls us to conquer fears, tapping into wisdom and other worldly faith, strength and resolve to go into the world, meeting some great personal challenge or transformation. Following this personal victory, the warrior returns to his or her community with enhanced understanding, wisdom and a power to lead.
The examples of this journey in today’s race are simply too great to list…..they include the wounded warrior who conquers the marathon using a wheelchair…..a surviving family member of a 9-11 victim…..the cancer survivor who runs to raise awareness (and perhaps funds) for the catastrophic disease…..the formerly obese individual who see this race as the greatest expression of a full and fit life. NBC focused on a number of these inspirational stories including the surviving family members of those lost in flight 93, the famed plane that went down on September 11 in the fields of Shanksville, Pennsylvania. A group of these individuals come together to remember loved ones lost, to support each other in a common goal, and to raise money for the yet-to-be-completed memorial in Pennsylvania. What could be more heroic than that?
I think many New Yorkers, like myself, turn to an event like the marathon to draw strength and inspiration. And, as always, it was in abundance today.