For runners of all ages and experience, there'll come a time when you just don't quite have the same enthusiasm for running as you once did. It might be after you've achieved a particularly important running goal - your first marathon for example - or as a result of injury or illness. The onset of winter can also be a factor... running on a wet, cold, dark evening in November can be so much less appealing than a sunny afternoon in July. Losing your mojo can make you feel like you've failed - running used to be fun, a brilliant stress reliever and a time to catch up with friends but right now it feels like your least favourite household chore (for me, that's ironing).
What to do? Does this really mean the end of your association with running?
From a personal point of view, it's happened twice in my nearly four years as a runner. The first time was after my first marathon... I forgot to rest, took part in lots more races (on a wave of euphoria), got injured and hit a wall. It took a break from racing to get my running mojo back. The second time, well that's now. I've had some amazing running moments this year - my highlight was a 24 hour relay race called the Spitfire Scramble - and a few running lows as well - being overtaken by a man dribbling a football towards the end of the London Marathon wasn't a great feeling! But for the last few weeks, I've been very busy at work (making it difficult for me to get to Potters Trotters) and struck down by a hacking cough and the snuffles. I used to really enjoy nipping out for a daytime run along the canal but I just haven't got much enthusiasm for it right now - it's possible I'm more likely to choose to do the ironing than go for a run!
So I've been on the hunt for advice... and here's what I've found:
- Running Fitness: try something different, don’t place any pressure on yourself, relax and be patient. That mojo will return!
- Breaking Muscle: lose the Garmin, run with a friend, forget about training and racing and see running as a privilege, something you get to do rather than something you've got to do: be grateful instead that you have legs that are mobile, lungs that are strong, and a body that is healthy - all of these things mean that you "get" to run today.
- Active.com: change your scenery, try a different time of day, mix it up and if you need to, just take a break!
- The Runner Beans (a running blog): start out short (particularly if you're last run was a marathon), sign up for races, reach for another goal, run with friends, try a different kind of run and don't stress about it!
- The Running Bug: pure habit will get you through - if you quit every time you hit a rough patch, then you won't develop the habit to keep running, to just do it every day.
- Start Fitness: rest, become a spectator, run at a slower speed, avoid setting short term goals, build in enough rest when you start running again, recover properly, enjoy yourself!
- iRun: remember the joy of running just for the sake of running. A great quote from Karen Karnis about wha running provides for her: "the ability to carve out pieces of time that are just for me, without the need to have something to show for it".
All good stuff, all useful advice, but all a bit confusing: make a change, do something different, gain encouragement from friends, run on your own, run with new people, have a break, keep running, stick with it, change your habits. I especially liked the post which told me to reward myself for every small success (see point 15 in this onefoot2foot post) - this could lead to a lot of cake!
Hidden amongst all that advice was one constant which has struck a chord with me... remember why you started to run: "try to concentrate on the one reason that brought you to running in the first place. A clear focus can work magic on your motivation".
I started running in Spring 2011. I was trying to get fitter, lose weight and feel more at home in my new home. I went out on my own and followed the Couch to 5k programme. After a few weeks, I spotted a group of women running along the canal every Tuesday and Thursday. They looked like they were having fun and I didn't think I would look out of place amongst them - a slightly overweight, not very tall woman closing in on 40! And so I joined them - the Potters Trotters - and I found new friends, new challenges and lots of inspiration.
I found out that running was enjoyable and took me to lots of amazing places - I may not look like an Olympic Athlete but I've raced on the track at the Olympic Stadium in London. I'm lucky that I've kept a blog to record my running adventures - looking back through old posts gives me lots of reminders of why I started running and what kept me going: change, challenge, competition, fundraising for Cancer Research, parkrun, opportunities and community were just some of the things I identified.
I'm not sure I've quite found the answer yet for getting my mojo back. Shaking off my cold will no doubt help. But I'm sure that it will come back and I'm hoping it will be in the company of the pink ladies from Potters Trotters. That was where I learnt to enjoy running in the first place.
(More running adventures on my blog: http://www.rosedawndesigns.blogspot.co.uk/).