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Every town needs a hero
One man tunes into his inner Dark Knight, running to raise funds and hope for kids in need.

Thirty years ago an appendix rupture may have very well ended JP Hernandez’s life. It was the extraordinary work of  the talented doctors and nurses at Toronto SickKids Hospital that brought him back to full health.

To this day Hernandez is driven by a sense of gratitude for the men and woman who dedicate their lives to helping children that have fallen ill. As a testament to the life he’s been given, he has looked for a way to give back, a way to raise money and awareness for those who nurture the most vulnerable people in the city.

“I knew I wanted to one day run for charity, but I still didn’t have it in my mind how to go about it and what to do,” says Hernandez

At the time an experienced half-marathoner, Hernandez stumbled upon the story of heroic window washers in Pennsylvania. Four men dressed as Spider-Man, Superman, Captain America and Batman had taken to donning their capes and spandex before washing the windows at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. It was a way to brighten the day of sick kids, who otherwise may have often simply felt trapped and alone on the other side of the pane.

“It kind of just clicked, I’m a big pop-culture enthusiast, I love aspects of comic book heroes,” says Hernandez, who decided to run his future marathons dressed as the one-and-only Dark Knight in an attempt to spur the same optimism and hope.

“He’s probably the most human of all super heros,” says Hernandez who passed up on the blue and crimson garb of his personal favourite Superman “He could just use his will to do what it is he needed to do.”

Last year, while fund raising for charity, and completing runs alone as Batman, Hernandez raised $1100 dollars for the SickKids Foundation.

His work also inspired a team of like minded marathoners to form. The Justice League Runner’s, made up of such company as Wonder Woman, Flash and Black Widow, would raise another $1500 during the Toronto Young Street 10k last April.

While training to go the full distance in itself is challenging, the added burden of a mask and costume adds a level of difficulty to crossing the finish line. For Hernandez, however, the costume was too important to go without.

“It had to be about the symbol of the hero and the importance of the character,” says Hernandez.

For the upcoming Scotiabank Waterfront Marathon on October 19th, Hernandez has his goal set at $100 for every kilometre he runs as the caped crusader of Gotham, all adding to a grand total of $4220.

“I’m only going to put myself through torture for 42 kilometres, there are kids out there dealing with something every second of their life,” says Hernandez adding the level of perseverance he needs to finish is in no way close to the levels of strength possessed by the kids he runs for. “They only know how to push and persevere through a condition that could take their lives at any moment.”
Dylan Freeman-Grist is a staff writer for Toronto Standard. Follow him on Twitter

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