Known and loved by many for his Spiderman attire when taking on supernatural feats, we don’t really know whether he’s the real Spiderman or someone in disguise?
Whether he is acing ultramarathons or running behind a wheelchair pushing sick kids to victory, the only thing we can be sure about is that he is definitely superhuman.
Luckily we got to hang out with the man himself to find out more…
Annabelle: Are you the real one?
Abel: Yes, I am the authentic one. SpiderAbel for friends & Abel in the day to day.
Annabelle: But your everyday name is not Peter Parker?
Abel: No. My name is Abel, Abel Fernández.
Annabelle: How did you come up with this beautiful initiative?
Abel: When I had completed 41 marathons…
Annabelle: 41 marathons?
Abel: As of today I’ve done… 67… I tend to forget it. After the 49th my group of friends appealed to me: “On the 50th you have to do something special.” I thought of doing a fundraising raffle. And because I had recently shared with Montes Solidarios (Solidary Mountains), an organisation from Vitoria-Gasteiz, about 24h going up mountain Gorbea with people with functional diversity,
I said: “I’m going to match the 50th to be in Vitoria.” So I did my 50th marathon here in Vitoria. I organised a raffle with products from all the local farmers-ranchers from the area and I divided it by lots in the village in different bars. They had to guessed my finish time. Who got the closest, without exceeding it, grabbed the lot. All the funds were for Montes Solidarios (Solidary Mountains). There the never-stopping wheel started in motion.
Annabelle: How long has it been since this?
Abel: It’s been… well… four years already, yes. Afterwards, by running marathons I meet the AEFAT organisation. They give dissemination to the ataxia–telangiectasia or Louis–Bar syndrome and run certain marathons with the children affected by it. They require people to push the wheelchairs. When I volunteered to join they enthusiastically welcomed me.
As of today, their marathons are priority in my calendar and afterwards I match my schedule of more races, ultras or whatever comes my way.
Furthermore, they must be delighted to see Spiderman, because they are high-spirited people with high energy. What have you learnt from them the most?
In the end it’s the day to day with them and their families. For their relatives it’s also an energy boost because you not only run on Sunday with them.
You go on the weekend to Malaga, for example, and spend with them Friday, Saturday and Sunday. In the end it’s an integration and a stay. What they give you, you receive it and it’s a bidirectional energy that fuels you in your day to day.
Annabelle: When did you start running? What’s required to be a superhero? How much training? How many years? Genetics?
Abel: I reckon it’s genetics. When I went to school my mother always said: “Every day you make your commuting time tighter!” Every day I left home later and in a bigger hurry. Every time she asked me to go buy bread, phew! In five minutes I went and came back. She asked, but this fast!? You are already in line! In the end, I’ve always liked to run, I always like to run without a watch and without a specific goal.
In the end the goal is getting to the finish line but enjoying the route. When you run with people affected by functional diversity, either blind or you having to push their chair or whatever it is, it’s something more fulfilling. As I say, you can reach the podium or win a cup, but it will accumulate dust. These things fill your heart and you carry it for life in your day to day.
Annabelle: It is what motivates you, I suppose, to carry on with these initiatives.
Abel: Yes. In the end I have no limits. If my body respects me and doesn’t give me injuries, here I will be. Apart from the organisations I already collaborate with, I’m open to everyone who want to give visualisation to their illness or what they propose me. I’m always open.
Annabelle: The more you give, the more you receive and it helps you carry on, right?
Abel: Yes, because in the end it’s not something material they give you; it’s something sentimental. We, in reality, are feelings and passion and all those accumulated feelings, when I do mountain ultramarathons, where many low hours come at you… In the end I’ve done very great things. For example running the Zegama with a blind guy, that no one’s done and maybe no one will.
I’ve done the Mont Blanc tour guiding blind people, the Sende de Camille guiding them as well and that in the day to day, and more in mountain ultras where you spend many hours, maybe 2-3 nights facing a challenge, they come to your mind and you say to yourself: “How am I not going to continue, after all I’ve done, the people I’ve helped, the willpower they’ve got, how am I going to go under in these moments?”
Annabelle: The trust people have deposited in you and how they count on you is a strength, like a flame that propels you forward in that type of races?
Abel: Yes! There also come times when you start to feel some kind of major sore, you say: “Bff, I don’t see myself (finishing).” On top of that, dressed up as Spiderman, If I don’t see myself at km 80, or km 5, withdrawing from the race. I’d have to take off my clothes, without anything underneath, and go bare in order no one to get the concept of “Spiderman has walked away, mum, an idol has fallen from grace!”
Annabelle: Furthermore, you don’t want to expose your natural tan either, don’t you? I suppose.
Abel: No, no, no, I am very whitey and have to look after myself. And, even if I do, the rays sneak in.
Annabelle: What’s the feeling after running 200 km without any sleep during 40 h? Whilst in it and afterwards.
Abel: A sensation of satisfaction. You’ve set a goal and you’ve accomplished it. At the end you’re relatively well, you’ve enjoyed it. I believe that’s the difference from running looking at your watch -I respect all those people who look after themselves and prepare a marathon-, but I’m more of the day to day, to run if I can. If I had the money to fund myself, I’d run a marathon everyday!
I don’t know where I’d stop, but I’d do it. But no. We have to ration out. To me doing that is a conquest. Then those who know you go like: “I’ve suffered a lot, overheated and there’s this guy dressed up as Spiderman, with the space suit, only taking it off at the water stations, what am I complaining about?”
Annabelle: What distances do you run to prepare yourself?
Abel: I don’t stop throughout the entire year. If I’m not running a cross country I’m running a marathon, concrete, if not it’s ultramarathons… I believe having in my calendar all these races I’m gonna run supporting these illnesses or with other projects with people who call me regarding different diseases to give visualisation to several illnesses is what provides me with energy to face challenges.
After the marathon, every km on top of it, 90% is maybe mind. Having in your head all those people, with all you know, the impediments they face, to achieve their goal and all, it’s a bonus that I have and not everyone does.
Annabelle: Which present would you give them, in general?
Abel: A cure. Or means for the illness to be more pinpointed and they’d enjoy more. They enjoy, but to the families… What I can, I give. It’s my way of running and giving visualisation to their condition. But there are people of power and money which, in the end, would be little money for. To simply give dissemination to the illness and get money to land the studies to support the sickness and each time it’s studied more in the labs. In the end, that’s what it’s for.
Annabelle: I suppose in order to get all you do to reach someone’s heart who’d be like: “I have the resources and I’m going to support this cause with my financial means.”
Abel: Yes. It’s a matter of wanting to do it. Getting involved. Many people say: “I don’t have money, I can’t help!” But maybe you can spread what I do, so that it reaches more people and one day it reaches the right one, which in their usual environment it wouldn’t. I understand there are a million illnesses. There are some that need more visualisation. In the end everything is supporting. Not (only) economically.
Nowadays via social media you spread what you do and maybe there is a big brand, an enterprise that might tell me: “I’d like to collaborate with you.” Then it would be me who’d say “in this way you could donate or get money,” or I’d do a charity challenge for fundraising. In the end it’s about wanting and we all can, in our small or big power collaborate with a cause. The heart of the spider is also supporting breast cancer.
Annabelle: Spider webs in different directions, with diverse open fronts.
Abel: Indeed. Perhaps I don’t have that many spider webs to catch everyone.
Annabelle: But the ones you have…
Abel: Everyone who gets a hold of me, I try to match my schedule and dedicate them a race or my time. In the end it’s reciprocal. I always say, when I meet the organisations, the families, the people affected: I give less than all I receive.
<em><strong>Watch the full interview above</strong></em>
Annabelle: On a final note: what’s your life philosophy, linking all of this?
Abel: I don’t really know if I have a philosophy as such… in the end this is the way I am, I like to be like this. I give, but not with an agenda to get something back. I give because I feel good. I like it. You don’t have to gift something material.
Maybe many people got it wrong; squeezing your brain about a present. Perhaps on a random day a hug, a kiss, a wink, a phone call, a text, now that we all go about with our phones. On the right day or a day you know someone’s undergoing a rough patch, it’s the greatest present for someone like that and for everybody in general.
Annabelle: Your secret to fuel you with strength in your races is wearing the Athletic Club Bilbao’s flag?
Abel: Yes, of course! It is what pushes at the rear. I carry the flag and the captain pennant. It is to establish identity, make known he has arrived and that he is the true Spiderman. Because there can be imposters, like everywhere!
Annabelle: Then the real Spiderman supports Athletic Club Bilbao, doesn’t he?
Abel: Till death!
Check out more of Annabelle’s work here