When your running Mojo goes missing in action

Layout 1Dude, Where’s my Mojo?

The fear of any runner is that of the missing Mojo. Put bluntly, it’s when you seriously can’t be arsed to get your runners on and get out there to pound the pavements. The errant Mojo is even more worrying when it decides to up and leave, slap bang in the middle of Marathon training.

That was me, at the start of this month, three quarters of the way into a training plan for the TCS Amsterdam Marathon. So close to quitting, I had to really dig deep to get those miles in and slowly the Mojo returned…

I thought I’d share a few tips in case your running Mojo has decided to hibernate along with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s…

Mojo Motivator 1: Ditch the plan (well temporarily at least).

If you have been slave to a training plan for a forth coming event and are simply not feeling it anymore, then have a little plan break.

If the plan says hills, but you don’t fancy running hill sprints? Then don’t do it. Take yourself off for a gentle run with no gadgets – just run for running’s sake. Try a new route and take the pressure off yourself by not timing your pace or distance. You’ll feel free and less stressed about your running performance.

windsor2Run with friends. Take Selfies!

Mojo Motivator 2: Safety in numbers.

Over the summer holidays it was really hard to co-ordinate diaries with friends to be able to buddy up for a run. This left me feeling really down as motivating myself four times a week to run solo felt like a massive chore. Forward wind a few weeks, the kids now back in school, I was able to pick up again with running friends so we could motivate each other and push ourselves much harder than we had been doing on solo runs.

Luckily I work from home, so I am able to be flexible with my running times, but if not, perhaps start a social lunchtime running group or after work session with colleagues. Or get online – Twitter is a great place to chat to other like-minded runners. Try #UKRUNCHAT – a brilliant support group for runners of all abilities. Follow me on Twitter @mumonrunz

FullSizeRenderRunners are like magpies – we like a bit of bling. Ooh shiny!

Mojo Motivator 3: Race.

On my training plan for Amsterdam, there was a huge absence of ‘racing’ factored in, as my running leader feels strongly that this can compromise performance at the main event. The theory being that you can over-work yourself and not give yourself enough time to rest between interim races (and even Park Runs – free times 5k events) and therefore you will not be as fresh at the event you are ultimately training for, (plus youalso risk injuries from over racing). I get the logic, but it’s not really that much fun to deny yourself a Park Run or little bit of mid-training ‘bling’.

I found not doing Park Run and running events as often really anti-social, plus I also believe it made me feel much more mojo-less about my running. Training over the summer in hot temperatures had me doubting my fitness levels (as my pace seemed much slower), so I decided to enter the Maidenhead Half Marathon at the start of September and it really gave me a boost. It was the first event I had done for a few months and I loved it.

On the day it wasn’t a PB for me, but I was really happy with 2:08 as I felt that my pace was really consistent throughout the 13.1 miles – and there was even enough left in the tank for a sprint finish. Most importantly I got that buzz again – plus the desire to run and challenge myself returned. Seeing others out there on the course who were slower, faster, older and younger really motivated me and I felt part of the running community that I had been missing through my solo efforts.

So if your training has taken a blip, pop along to Park Run or enter an event and get that feel good factor again. Just don’t over-do it and remember to focus on the fun-factor and the ultimate ‘goal’ event you entered in the first place, and not attempt to PB at every event.

Mojo Motivator 4: Buy new kit.

Ok so this is a bit of a daft one. There is actually no scientific reason why buying new kit increases Mojo-powers. But it works for me! New, shiny running tops and trainers seem to scream ‘take me for a run now’ as soon as I leave the shop. I’m always itching to try it out and give new running togs an outing. Call it a novelty, but a new piece of kit always has me planning a training route!

 Amsterdam-Marathon-2010-005_0.jpgThis will be a sight for sore eyes – and legs! The FINISH LINE!!!

Mojo Motivator 5: Remember why you are doing this.

You might be a seasoned runner after a PB or a novice running for a charity – we all have our own reasons for embarking on a training plan. Just remember we will all have days when we want to give up and throw our trainers in the wheelie bin! However, these are the days to look back on how far you have come as a runner and give yourself a high-five for the effort you have already put in. Fortunately, my running Mojo reappeared in the nick of time and I have been able to put in some solid training before the marathon taper period (which I am just starting).

Who knows what will happen out in Amsterdam. I might not get the PB I want, but I will be really proud of myself for getting as far as I have this time around. I’ll be proud of all the early mornings I have dragged myself out of bed on weekends for gruesome 20 milers, all the glasses of wine I have turned down and the aches and pains I have endured in the name of running. I really underestimated the difference of marathon training over the Summer compared to Winter training and have felt it much more of a slog.

I keep saying this is my last full marathon, (it’s my third in total, but second this year), but who knows…. Hopefully my Mojo is here to stay!

Happy running.

 

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Windsor HM River Trail – the good, the bad and the thirsty.

This blog could go two ways. I could adopt my ‘bad cop’ review hat and give the event a bit of a hard time for the now well documented problems people encountered on the day, (just look up the event on Runners World reviews), or I could focus on the positives. Since I’ve just come back from a blissful 40-minute swim in a very empty public pool, (empty of people, not of water I might add), I’m inclined to don my ‘good cop’ hat and focus on the positives.

So here goes…

Windsor Half Marathon River Trail was simply beautiful in terms of scenery. The course was a flat route, starting from Alexandra Gardens, Windsor,  with views of Windsor Castle, then meandered along the Thames public footpath, through Bray – before looping back over the other side of the river to finish at the park. We passed what we dubbed the ‘Billionaire’s Row’ of waterfront homes, the stunning ‘Waterside Inn’ (the Roux Brothers’ Michelin Star restaurant), Danesfield House Hotel (the setting of George and Amal Clooney’s UK wedding celebrations) and many locks, barges and day cruiser boats. Not to mention being able to glimpse the Olympic Eton Dorney Rowing lake through the bushes! (Which I have in fact run around 4 or so times in a previous Half Marathon).

For a change, I was not worried about my time or breaking any PBs. I have got a bit hung up lately on breaking a sub-2 which makes Half Marathons a bit stressful for me (current PB is 2:02). Instead, my role on the day was really one of moral support – to get a friend through her first Half Marathon in her goal time of around 2 hrs 30 minutes. Due to events beyond our control, (lots of queues and issues with bag dropping), we actually started the run really late – at about 9.10am. This actually worked to our advantage as there were no crowds of runners on the tow paths from the mass start and we felt almost ‘on our own’ – a very different experience to many of the running events I have entered before. We enjoyed the peace and tranquillity around us and relaxed in the sunshine, keeping to a steady pace.

windsor2Having fun before the ‘dog attack ;)’

Five miles in, we had a little bit of a glitch. As I was running along, I felt what I thought were paws on my back and the yelp of what I believed to be a large dog. I shrieked, turned around and saw that it was not actually an errant hound, but my friend falling to the ground behind me, having tripped on a branch! It is very funny now that we look back on it, but my friend was pretty cut up and bleeding and we couldn’t see any first aiders nearby, so we pressed on and managed to wash the cuts up as best we could.

We carried on up the river and were delighted to see our support crew – a friend and his two daughters who ran alongside us with a Go Pro in their fairy dresses! It was very cute to see and gave us a lift (as we were flagging a bit with dehydration – ok here comes the negative…) The event had run out of water at the 8 KM water stop. As it was a hot day we were really disappointed –  we’d decided not to carry our own water as runners had been promised regular water stops along the route. We were given a High 5 gel though by a very apologetic Marshal, which at least was something, but our mouths were as dry as the Sahara!

thirsty

Thirsty much? (pic credit: animalpics1.com)

However, the lovely residents of Windsor had obviously heard that there was a shortage of water along the route and a kind man came to our rescue and offered us a few cups of water which was perfect and couldn’t have come at a better time. By now, we were over half way and feeling strong and ready to go again. After a quick calculation on my Garmin, I was able to tell my friend that we were well head of her target time. This had her so excited, she started talking about running a marathon next time (since revoked).

As the miles ticked by, my friend was starting to drop pace a bit as her earlier fall was causing her hip to play up a bit. I kept up with my motivational chat and promised her glasses of red wine, chocolates or bubble baths at the finish if she just carried on a bit longer. If I could have mustered up George Clooney to meet her I would have done! Finally, I was able to announce that we only had a Park Run to go (5K) which lifted her a bit and meant that the end was in sight.

At nearly 13 miles I told her to dig deep and just think of the word FINISH: “We’re so close now, think of that medal,” I said. As we turned the corner, we saw the finish line and I grabbed her hand and pulled her the last few metres!  We’d done it: 2 hrs and 22 minutes and 15 seconds. We’d taken 8 minutes off her target time and I’d had one of my best half marathon experiences – just chatting, being relaxed and just having a good time.

windsor1My friend, Petra, (left) and me (right)

I might have a go at it next year again for myself to see what ‘my’ time would be – however despite the great day we had, I am not sure I’d enter again. I think the organisers have some way to go to improve the race experience for everyone. It’s potentially a great event and I think it could be fantastic – certainly one of the prettiest courses in this area. But as I am in a positive mood, maybe I’ll give them a second chance to put right a few of the  issues (and I’d  make sure I wore a Camelbak next time).

Race in a nutshell: Flat, pretty, friendly participants, all abilities welcome. Decent bling.

The good: Route, medal, parking in local school, chip timed – with instant time print out at the finish.

The bad: Late start, baggage drop queue (and £5 payment), long toilet queues, inadequate amount of water for the number of runners, no goody bag. Lack of first aid on the route.

 

A Bit About Me

 

Marathons are often added to a ‘bucket list’ along with sky dives, marrying George Clooney and swimming with dolphins. Since I’m scared of heights, he’s already taken and I’ve been there done that, the London Marathon 2015 reached the top of my list…which I completed in a respectable 4:46. Not bad for a 40 something mum of 3.

I wasn’t entirely new to running having notched up a few 10ks and half marathons (Royal Parks Half being the first in 2011), so I knew what to expect from the training. Although what I  didn’t expect was a huge passion for running and a desire to keep going after my first, and supposedly only, Marathon.

I’ve since run 5 more Half Marathons (PB 2:02, at Surrey Half 2016) and another full marathon in Brighton 2016 (4:48) and yet I still don’t feel ‘done’, so I’m back for more with the TCS Amsterdam Marathon in the Autumn.