I always loved those superhero movies where the protagonist could defeat an army of super enemies without breaking into a sweat, but has severe trouble fulfilling the ordinary duties of everyday life. After a fight, Spiderman may forget to buy food for dinner; Clark Kent may need to send his spotted pants to the cleaners – only to find they are closed. I loved these stories because they made the hero more like, well, us.
The other day I had the pleasure to spend some time with Miquel Suñer, an athlete whose specialty is “Open-Water Long-Distance Solo Swimming (without a wetsuit)”. You get the idea: the category is for these supermen (and superwomen) that can swim on their very own from, say, Europe to Africa. Or longer. For hours. In cold water. Without a wetsuit.
In particular, Miquel is preparing to assault his only remaining leg of the “triple crown”: to cross the Catalina Channel, in USA. He already made the English Channel (England to France: I did this once, and I got very tired, despite the fact I was on a ferry) and he also swam the 34 miles round Manhattan Island in little more than seven hours.
Very few people have accomplished all of this. Ever. In fact he held the world record for the Menorca Channel after swimming for 12 hours 19 minutes straight. And remember, alone, and without a wetsuit.
And I was happy with my thirty minutes swim at my local gym.
But what really surprised me the most about Miquel is that he is not born in Krypton or something. He is as real as you or me. He works at the local utility company, and strives to find time (and strength) to train after his normal office duties.
He suffers the same problems you and I suffer. He has to endure crises at work. He gets injured. He has trouble finding willpower to train after a long day. He can forget to buy food or cleaning his pants before the shop closes. But despite all that, he can still get ready to go for another amazing swim in summer 2012.
And he, as Jim Collins would love to learn, is extremely humble.
I was honored to know him- and his wise coach, Bernat Serdá, who is difficult to define as he has so many virtues: he can patch an injured ankle as well as a pale soul.
Miquel is the superhero in us all. While he told us his story, I remembered the colossal Andes crossing by Nando Parrado and Roberto Canessa (the rugby players stranded in the mountains after a plane crash in 1972), who did the impossible only because they did not know it was impossible. I met Nando last year and he is also very nice and humble. He, and Miquel, just like you and me, are both superheroes and ordinary people.
I think that we have what it takes to be both. It is for us to decide what we want to be.