A couple years ago, I found myself lost in a place ultra runners affectionately refer to as 'the pain cave' while attempting to run 50 miles.
The pain cave is a dark, foreboding place. Hope is hard to come by. Your vision is blurry and unreliable. The cave makes 'the wall' look like a feeble headwind.
Getting my feet to land where I wanted them to land became a challenging and onerous task and I still had ten plus miles to go. The battery on my Garmin died leaving me wondering how much time I had left.
Running became nearly impossible when simply moving forward was a sluggish, glacial, ponderous task. I wasn't at a point where I had lost all hope, but I was close.
As I waded through the dark, shadowy recesses of the pain cave, I found myself reflecting on my past. Had I been somewhere as dark and as challenging as this before?
Six years prior, I had been in a place that bore a striking resemblance to the pain cave. I was hobbled by an injury that required surgery. I was drowning in debt. My girlfriend had left me.
I remember feeling a darkness encompass me. I struggled to find any vestiges of hope. Every move, every step, and every action felt labored and exhausting.
It seemed as though I couldn't possibly go any further. I was drained in so many ways. How did I get out of the pain cave last time? How did I move forward?
I did the only thing I knew how to do. I simply kept putting one foot in front of the other. I slogged forward. I tried to let go of my glacial rate of progress and simply kept moving.
Slowly, almost imperceptibly, things began to change. My strides became a bit more confident. The fatigue waned a bit. Glimmers of hope manifested.
I pulled into the final aid station with five miles left and the realization that I had survived my last encounter with the cave and I might do it again if I just kept finding a way to move forward...even if it was on my hands and knees.
Whether it was this epiphany, the Mountain Dew I downed, or divine intervention, I managed to run most of those last five miles and emerged from the cave.
So, I run, walk, or crawl because there is always a way out of the cave....