Your Hero’s Journey: The Road of Trials
Have you ever gone gung ho into something, only to hit an obstacle (or several) when the rubber meets the road?
I ran my first ever marathon October 1, 2016.
I was super excited. I had trained for months. I had bought a new sports bra. I had fancy energy gel packs. I was READY.
And then the rubber hit the road. Or whatever material my New Balance minimalist shoes were made out of.
At mile 0.1, I encountered my first challenge. My running belt was bouncing around, since I wasn’t running with the water bottles I had been during my months of training. “This is gonna get old over 26 miles, but it’s really just annoying, nothing more,” I thought. “Just get in the zone and remember for next time,” I told myself. I trotted along with a great pace, according to my Nike+ Run app.
At mile 2, it started to downpour. Like not just a little sprinkle. A heavy torrent of rain that made me wish that I was wearing goggles with little windshield wipers. Every inch of me was soaked. On the plus side, it made everything stick to me, including the dang running belt, so it was suctioned in place. OK, it’s fine, I’ll dry out.
At mile 4, the possibility of dry seems like a distant memory. We were entering the section of the race that spans the historic C&O canal trail. And rain means, puddles. Lots of them. Funny enough, we were all trying to “avoid” them. I hear someone behind me say “This is going to be a long 11 miles.” That’s when I was like “Fuck it, I’m just gonna run down the middle of every single one.”
At mile 7 my left hip was starting to bother me again. Despite a regular regimen of chiropractic and massage appointments, the week before it had started to feel inflamed. I was hoping that resting would allow it to be back in tiptop shape, but I could feel that aching coming into my gait. “I can keep going though. It’s quite flat on the trail. And by the time I get to the hilly section, I’ll be totally in my groove,” I reassured myself.
Then, I devised a great plan! Normally, I run with music. Music seems to anchor me to really positive states and heightens my running experience. So I decided I would take a break from the music and listen to the rain and the forest for a bit, and at mile 13, the half way point, I would turn my music back on and Presto! It’d be like starting the race all over again. A perfect reset button for my energy.
Except the Universe had other plans for me.
My phone died.
Yep, the piece of equipment that I had been using to pace myself, keep me energized, and know how far I had come up and went kaput on me in the eleventh hour. Or mile 7.5.
OK, now I’ve had it.
This isn’t the fun time I thought it was going to be.
My inner privileged-white girl just wanted to go drink a pumpkin spice latte and be done with this.
Because of the rain, a lot of the mile markers hadn’t been put out. And because this was a grassroots, local race, there were water stations every three miles or so. And there ain’t a whole lot of smart people who decide they want to run a 26 mile race in West-by-God Virginia in an October rainstorm. So there weren’t many people around.
It was just me… and me.
The ultimate test. I knew this was more than just physical endurance. It was even more than mental endurance.
I had to remember and connect with WHY the flip I decided to do this...
The "Road of Trials" is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals, that the hero must undergo to begin the transformation. Often the hero fails one or more of these tests, which often occur in threes.
Think of the stories A Christmas Carol and the visits to Past, Present, and Future. The Triwizard Cup in Harry Potter. Aladdin’s three wishes.
The Road of Trials can feel like you are undergoing torture…I mean, transformation. It’s where you have to rely on your inner strength to keep you going, because all outer reserves have failed. It’s where you have to pick yourself up out of the dirt, again and again.
The good thing about being face down in the dirt is you don’t have anywhere further to fall.
Falling isn’t failing. Not getting back up is.
So when you find yourself hoofing it on the Road of Trials, take a deep breath. You are exactly where you need to be. You are strong enough.