Posted to the Monkey in the Cage Website on July 25th, 2012
How commonplace in our societal lexicon, or rather worldly lexicon, is the story of individuals or peoples overcoming great odds to achieve glory? Probably a rhetorical question because most would state that it is the basis for a vast majority of any past or current tale. I think we as gamers in any sense encounter such stories routinely in our pursuit of entertainment and escapism. Just choose a game that takes a level one character who is allowed to gain a form of experience, improving their abilities, until they can take down the threat that once seemed so high above them and you can see what I reference.
I, like many of our hobby, have always been drawn to these elements in a story. In fact games where you go about gaining new abilities you once didn’t possess might be my favorite form of the medium. I strongly prefer to get better as I go along over starting out with someone fully prepped for the tasks ahead. It isn’t only limited to games either. Japanese Animation holds no end of shows and animated films where the protagonist literally trains for an upcoming altercation, honing their bodies and learning new techniques to take down an enemy who is considered vastly stronger than our hero. Actually, I find that Anime to be even more fitting for my intended topic.
I’ve always enjoyed running. I ran some track and cross country in school but was never what anyone would consider competitive, due mostly to my stocky frame and lamentably short legs (29 inches all told), nevertheless I enjoyed it. Post High School I would run every now and then for fitness but never really stuck with it long. After I married my high school sweetheart in 2008 I took a nose dive into sloth and didn’t really take care of myself for a good year or so. In 2010 I decided to change this. I decided to run a Marathon.
It started out innocently enough, I had begun running toward the end of winter as I usually did just to get in shape. I only really ever ran a few miles at a time so when a buddy of mine asked me to run a 5k with him I actually had to work toward getting myself to 3.1 miles. It was the 5k that turned me on to the idea of doing a bigger race, crazily enough a Full 26.2 mile Marathon. To run something like that though would take training, and here is where my many years of games, comics, and Japanese Animation truly added a flavor to inspiration.
Any who have trained for anything half marathon and up know it to be an undertaking but I found a wonderfully geeky way to keep myself motivated! Mostly on my weekend long runs I found it easier to pass the grueling mileage if I took on the challenge as a role-playing experience. Often times I would envision myself as training to take on some big foe in a race to save my family, or feel that every step was one closer to maximizing my body’s potential for greatness. I wasn’t too far off on the last one, while I can barely remember what it was like to be in the type of shape it takes to run double digit miles now I do remember the rush of achievement. It was not unlike completing a hugely difficult or lengthy video game, only this time it was even more of an accomplishment it was for me. I even had the storybook doubter to entice me to move forward as my brother actually scoffed at the idea of me running a Marathon when I first told him!
Through the sacrifices of my family, mostly because I was spending hours a week running, and their support I eventually gained enough levels to take on the final race. Yes, I actually awarded myself experience points every time I reached a new milestone. It is every so nerdy but hey, that’s how I roll. I don’t want to give the impression that I achieved some record time, or even a good one, but I finished all 26.2 miles that day and the rush was enormous. I only walked mile 24, and forcing the return to a running gait so closely resembled any number of final obstacle plot points it should have been an almost giddy experience. To tell true though, I was pretty out of it at that point. My wife joined me for the last quarter mile when I felt my legs would buckle and I crossed the finish line just over 5 hours into the race.
My take away from this is that I have found a niche way to incorporate my love for gaming, role-playing, and hero pop culture into the things I want to accomplish in life and it has worked to overcome a fairly sizable challenge and maybe it can be one for you too. I hope to utilize this little gem of motivation for other hurdles in my life, and while it may seem I’m using it as an escape mechanism from the actual challenge itself the proof is in the pudding it’s already worked once because that training was Hell. Basically it helped me have a blast with a difficult obstacle and man do I want to do it again, now to actually get in shape again.