While “Wreck-it Ralph” may be no Toy Story, it has the imagination, wit, and message that will stick with you. That message has a special place for me as a marathoner.
Ralph is the bad guy in a video game, but gets tired of being villianized, so goes ‘turbo’ and leaves the game to try and forge a new identity. To be recognized and validated by the other characters who habitat his game, he first has to win a medal, any medal. And on his adventure, he meets Vanellope Von Schweetz, the coolest character of the movie voiced by Sarah Silverman in a perfect fit.
Somebody, somewhere watched the move and saw the story of two marathoners. I know I’m not the only one.
First there was Ralph, who, in turning over a new leaf and forging a new identify, first needed to win a medal. How many marathoners haven’t felt a glorious shift in identity, a shedding of their snake skin, when they’ve received the medal around their neck at the end of a marathon or other running event?
And then there’s Vanellope, who’s whole existence is threatened if she’s not allowed to participate in a race. She’s been banned from racing, and to get a chance at winning the race and crossing the finish is not only her dream, but the only way her character can go on since she’s considered a “glitch.” A glitch is like the Leper of the Video Game world. Ralph becomes her mentor, her big brother, and almost a daddy figure as he decides to help her reach her full racing potential (and in doing so becomes the heroic figure the medal would suggest.)
Yep, Vanelllope needs a race just to confirm her existence, which is pretty much what every marathon means to me. Every event I’ve ever run has been me trying to prove my worth, find out what I’m made of, silence the inner voices that says, “you’re less than, you’re unworthy, you’re old and washed up.” It’s the arena I prove myself in, and I couldn’t help but remember my own long journey to qualify for the Boston Marathon as I watched the wit and wisdom of Vanellope and her journey to make it across the finish line. Her battle was to get to the start of a go-cart race in the video game Sugar Rush, mine was to make it to Hopkinton and run to the gold and blue Boston Marathon finish line. But I am Vanellope Von Schweetz. And for many years while I tried to qualify for Boston I felt like a glitch, but ten years later I finally hit my qualifying time and felt like king of the world.
There’s got to be someone thinking like this in a movie theater somewhere. Or perhaps I’m the only one.
If you’re a marathoner and haven’t seen Wreck-It Ralph, I’m thinking this message will be in the back of your mind when you do. And at your next event, you’ll either get your medal like Ralph and come to peace with your place in the universe, or you’ll find out your secret true and glorious identity when you cross the finish line like Vanellope.