Ajax Spider-Man running a marathon a day for Terry Fox Foundation

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Published September 23, 2021 at 1:13 pm

What is a superhero, really? Is it someone who can leap tall buildings in a single bound, or run super-fast, or possess a magic hammer? Or can he or she just be one of us?

Maybe it’s the guy running around in your neighbourhood in a Spider-Man costume bringing smiles to the faces of children and raising money for charity. Who really knows?

The late Stan Lee remembers arguing with his boss some 60 years ago when he was pitching the idea of a new superhero. Stan wanted him to be ordinary, with ordinary problems and his boss thought it was his dumbest idea ever. So the legendary comic creator put his idea into a comic book that was being cancelled and was surprised as anyone when the book – Amazing Fantasy 15 – and the character – Spider-Man – were best-sellers.

(Except his boss, course. “I always knew it was going to be a hit,” he told Stan.)

What Stan got right about the character is that they can be ordinary people. They don’t have to be Gods or be injected with a super-serum or even be bitten by a radioactive spider to do great things.

They just have to be good people who want to help.

Wayne Young, AKA Ajax Spider-Man, was one of those good people and he drew his inspiration from people close to him. First, his best pal in school Greg Kooistra, who was diagnosed with cancer and had to have his leg amputated, and then Wayne’s father, who died of throat cancer a few decades later.

“These people are the true superheroes. I just knew I had to do something to help out in some way.”

So he started running and after a couple of years training he ran his first marathon in 2015 and the next year he ran in his first ‘Dopey Challenge’ at Disney Worrld, running a 5K, 10K, Half Marathon and Full Marathon race in four days.

The Boston Marathon was next, and he made the qualifying time in 2017, 2018 and 209, only to be cut each year. Finally, he made the cut for the prestigious race in 2020 only to have the COVID pandemic cancel all races.

Instead of giving up or feeling sorry for himself (and not wanting to waste all that training) Young simply switched goals and started running for a good cause. And in a Spider-Man costume.

But why Spider-Man?

“First off, I am no stranger to dressing-up in costumes,” said the former mascot for the Belleville Bulls, Toronto Marlies and Tallahassee Tiger Sharks, who also took a turn as Peter Puck for a CBC special event. “And as a kid, I loved comics and Spider-Man always stuck out to me as an interesting hero (who) fought for the little people.”

 

Young first ran in the costume for a local 5K Super Hero race on the Toronto Islands and in last year’s Disney Marathon, “which is where I learned I could wear it in the extreme heat and still run.”

Last March he started wearing the costume on his community runs and that’s when the Ajax Spider-Man was born.

“I began running in a Spider-Man outfit to cheer kids up that were stuck inside doing virtual school,” he explained. “When I first started running in the suit it was to bring some joy to the people stuck at home. That was early in the pandemic, I also thought if I could run 20-plus kilometres in that suit and mask then anyone could wear a mask for a few minutes to shop.”

He quickly became a local celebrity, with parents lined up on his routes with their children to see him.

“With all the support it was getting I decided to focus on helping out a charity I have supported for decades. Knowing the Terry Fox runs were going virtual I knew they would need some extra support. Virtual events don’t draw as well as in-person events,” he said. “So I ran seven marathons in seven days for the Terry Fox Foundation and raised over $5,000.”

Young points out that the inspiration others gain from him running through their streets in a superhero costume is wonderful, but it’s also a two-way street.

“I have met so many inspirational people,” he said. “I had one young adult with autism draw me a picture and wrote a story for me. This hangs in my office as a reminder. He was so excited to meet me that he came out with his mom four times, all in different superhero t-shirts.”

This year Young decided to go bigger and “harness some of that dedication and determination my best friend Greg and my Dad had” by upping both his running and charity game. On August 29 he began a 28-marathons-in-28-days campaign that will see him run 1,200 kilometres – 42 kilometres a day – in 28 days.

All in support of the Terry Fox Foundation, with a goal of raising $20 for each kilometre, or $24,000.

“I know both of them are supporting me from above, and this is my biggest challenge to date. Together we can make a difference.”

His marathon of marathons ends Sunday, but his running days are far from over.

Young still plans to qualify for and run in the Boston Marathon (no masks allowed, unfortunately), as well as the Scotiabank Marathon and the Super Power 5K next month on the Toronto Islands.

“It’s not it is not what you do for yourself, but how you can make your community a better place.”

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