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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Marathon Number 1 – The ‘Big’One

Race report: Virgin London Marathon 2015

So this time last year I was literally in knots. I was so incredibly nervous as I was about to embark on my first EVER marathon – the big one – the Virgin London Marathon 2015. I’d had a lot of positive encouragement from family and friends and the brilliant people on @ukrunchat, but I also had a few ‘Negative Nora’s’ around me. With questions like: “What if you don’t finish?”, “You might Hit the Wall” “Your knees will never be the same“.  Great just what I needed, more seeds of doubt.

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Winter training at its best!

 

Training had gone well -I had reached a target of 22 miles in my final long run, averaging 10.30 minute miles – which I hoped would be enough to bring me in around 4hrs 30 minutes. I hadn’t picked up any injuries, had loaded up on the carbs and felt in good shape as I made my way to Greenwich Park on Sunday 26 April 2015.

What they don’t tell you is the walk to the start is a warm up in itself – approximately 30 minutes walk from the train station, through the town and up a hill to the park. However when we got to start area the excitement was audible with the big screen showing the elites already in action, pacing through the course.

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Ready for the off with a couple of training buddies.

The Virgin London Marathon is a very slick operation. Bag drops, loos and starting pens are all well organised and effortless. I was able to meet with some friends for a quick photo, before we headed into our starting pens. As I was running for Tommy’s, I had quite a few chats with fellow ‘team mates’ in the starting area and ended up running with a girl called Laurel for three-quarters of the run, which was great as it calmed both of our nerves.

So how was it? The London Marathon is everything you could expect from the most famous marathon in the world. The route was busy, colourful and full of support all the way around. The charity runners in costumes really made the event – from a running Mona Lisa painting to Superman. There certainly were a lot of people with imagination and guts taking part. It made me wonder what I was worrying about in my tried and tested, moisture-wicking, kit! Must have been a doddle by comparison.

The biggest highlight for me was running over Tower Bridge. This marks the half way mark of the race and is such a breath-taking sight seeing thousands of runners bobbing along. It’s also one of the most iconic landmarks on the route and a welcome sight after passing through many unfamiliar London towns like Bermondsey and Rotherhithe.

 

I received a real hero’s cheer from the Tommy’s cheer squad just after the bridge. Their support throughout had been phenomenal. I was very proud to have run for them and  raised in excess of £3,000 through donations and little events in the lead up to the marathon.

By mile 17 I had lost Laurel, her knee had given up, so we said our good lucks and good byes and I headed off running for the first time ‘by myself’. I saw my Mum and Dad shortly after, which was amazing. Although I could see my Dad was really confused and was looking in the wrong direction (senior moment), so was not convinced he had seen me at all! I next saw one of my best friends and seasoned marathon runner, Kirstie (PB 3.15 ish) who gave me such an almighty cheer that I leapt out of my skin!

The rest of the run was a blur of the Embankment – where the crowd was literally roaring – up to Birdcage Walk and finally the sight of Buckingham Palace in full view. The Union Jacks flying and the finish line now in sight. I knew my husband and boys were in the VIP finish area cheering me on, (the charity had been really kind and offered me these tickets as a thank you). It was simply amazing seeing their proud faces smiling and shouting ‘Go Mummy’ as I crossed the line.

I had done it! I had finished  my first marathon in a time of 4hrs 46mins. All that hard work had paid off. However, as I collected my medal I couldn’t help but feel a bit flat – not the rush of euphoria that I had expected. It was all over, but I had ‘failed’ in my eyes to get the time I had wanted.  Talk about ridiculous.

I’ve since made peace with my time and actually for someone who had never run a marathon before and juggled childcare, fund raising, work and training I am actually pretty bloody happy. My body held out, I didn’t walk, I didn’t hit the wall and  I had ticked off a big ambition from my bucket list – something I am now very proud of.

The race in a nutshell: Flat, congested, colourful and amazing views of London’s iconic landmarks. Fantastic Expo, well organised event and an opportunity for celebrity spotting- I came in just ahead of Radio DJ and TV  Presenter, Chris Evans.

Race Tips: Ensure you have liaised with your cheer team/supporters before hand so you know where to spot them. Otherwise you spend half the race searching for your family in the very busy crowds. Get a charity place if you are new to marathon running – you get excellent support, advice and a fab after-party and massage just after the event. Watch out for the empty water bottles on the ground – these are everywhere and very hazardous.

Would I recommend it? 110% Yes. For any Marathon Newbies this is the one to do!

Good luck to anyone taking on the Virgin London Marathon this weekend!

 

 

Marathon Number 2 – the one with the beach!

Race report: Brighton Marathon Sunday 17th April 2016

I have really fond memories of Brighton. It was the backdrop for my first ‘out of London’ date with hubby in our early stages of dating. The location for my hilarious hen do, dressed as gangsters for a two day bender. We’ve visited the pier with our boys over the years –  first they braved the Noddy Car ride, progressing to the roller coaster over looking the sea. Plus I’ve spend numerous birthdays day-tripping around the Laines buying jewellery and arty bits and enjoying lunch in a sunny café. So when I entered the Brighton Marathon I was really looking forward to being able to run the 26.2 mile course through one of my favoutire places.

December Brighton 030
We do like to  be beside the seaside!

 

Having done the Virgin London Marathon the previous year, I knew what I had to do in terms of winter training and began planning a diary of events to keep me motivated leading up to the Brighton Marathon. I enjoyed long training runs with the brilliant Gade Valley Harriers, who lay on special Marathon training runs open to anyone for just £5 – complete with jelly baby stops! I also completed the London Winter 10K (PB 54 mins), Watford and Surrey Half Marathons (PB 2:04) in the run up (no pun intended). By April 17th I felt ready to go.

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Training Run –  London Winter Run 10K

 

 

Over the weekend we were staying with relatives right on the marathon route in Hove, which was excellent as my family were able to spot me twice, literally from the drive way. It did mean I was woken up to the thud of portaloo deliveries outside the house at 4am – which didn’t help my already tattered sleep.

The morning was glorious and everything I had expected from a marathon by the sea-side. A clear sun-shiny day  with seagulls flying over head. I was dropped off just outside Preston Park, and was thankful for my sports sunglasses as there was already quite a glare.

Bag drop and loos went as well as can be expected – there are always queues at these things, but at least the portaloos were still in good shape and didn’t have my gag reflex working over time. I lined up in the Yellow Corral and was lucky to bump into a friendly face from @ukrunchat (Lee Kemp) – so we chatted and joined in with the warm up karaoke singing along to The Proclaimers ‘500 Miles’. Soon it was time to filter down to the start, with Radio DJ and TV Presenter, DJ Zoe Ball officially starting the race. With a high-5 from Zoe herself, I was off and bobbed along in the throng of runners towards the coast.

I tucked in behind a Shark and Fred Flintstone and was bang on target for my 4.30 marathon time, until about 16 miles. A hot, out and back, section earlier towards Rottingdean –  a very quiet section of the course with a couple of inclines – mentally zapped me. However I pressed on and caught up with my family waving banners and running along side me, around mile 17 which gave me a boost; as did some cheery waves from The Queen and Prince Phillip. Okay, not the actual Royals, but some very good look a likes supporting the passing runners.

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‘The Queen’ was seen cheering on the crowd in Hove

 

The atmosphere amongst the runners was great – a nice camaraderie, which was much needed as we headed out towards the power station. A notoriously tough part of the course – known for its fish smell and lack of entertainment. Crowds are sparse here, with just a handful of supporters, so for me it was plug in the iPod and  let Calvin Harris, How Deep is your Love? push me on this three mile section.

As we left the fishy hell, I spotted Brighton resident and DJ Fat Boy Slim cheering  on the runners.  I shouted ‘Fat Boy’ – but was mortified to see a slightly tubby runner in front of me turn around and hoped he didn’t think I was mocking his physique.

The end was in sight! I could see the Pier, smell the sea, hear the crowds roaring on each side and the word ‘Finish’ was getting bigger and bigger. My legs had gone, by brain was willing me on with promises of water, ice cream and a little sit down as rewards. With a final bleep of my chip as it hit the finish line, I had done it. 4hrs 48 minutes and 45 seconds. I was over the moon, as  it had been tougher than I had anticipated and  I felt proud of my achievement – regardless of my time. The sunshine, the people of Brighton, the frequent jelly babies and smiling marshals made it a superb event – and something I will hold fond memories of forever.

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Marathon Medal Number 3 – Beautiful Brighton and my beautiful cheer squad

 

The race in a nutshell: Largely flat course, with a few undulations. Minimal congestion. Well organised, nice medal and technical t-shirt. End of race goodies were pretty good – although could have done with some more water or Lucozade.

Race Tips: Try and get to the Expo Friday or Saturday AM – queues in the afternoon were over 1 hour long. Be prepared for loo queues, but also note there are a couple of loos just before you cross the start, which had only 3/4 people queuing. Gels/energy drink were well timed and plentiful throughout the race, so if you have trialled the brand before it would save you carrying your own. Residents also have LOTS of jelly babies to hand out.

Would I recommend it? 100% yes. Just be prepared for the quieter sections with a decent play list!

To register for Brighton Marathon 2017 click here

If you have done Brighton Marathon, or are planning to do it in future, drop me a comment and tell me what you think.

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.