My Mojo is Out There. Somewhere.
Reflecting on my fitness (which hasn’t been great these last few months), I started to wonder where and when I had lost my mojo. Every workout has become a chore – something to avoid wherever possible. I have all sorts of new anxieties over the gym and my body and my health. It seems to make no sense.
And then I went on to Instagram. Picture after picture, video after video, my feed was filled with people running. It was a bright and sunny morning at the weekend – of course everyone was out running. Some were training for races, others were just running for the sheer hell of running. And I realised – and no, it really hadn’t occurred to me before – that I lost my mojo when I stopped running properly.
In truth, after the marathon 18 months ago, I stopped running. I blamed it on rest-and-recuperation, and then I had “no time”, and then even just said I wasn’t fit enough anymore. That’s not true – although I can’t run as far or as fast as I was running before the marathon, I am still fit enough to put one foot in front of the other and make it around a 5km route.
Running became just another chore in the repertoire of fitness I was following, and that wasn’t fun. It became irregular, and in fact in 2017 I’ve perhaps gone on four or five runs in total. Where did that enjoyment go? I still say marathon runner on my bio, don’t I? So why am I avoiding running? Have I fallen out of love with it?
When I first started running, it was to lose weight. I puffed and panted around 5km, walking more than running, and arriving back bright red in the face and miserable. I hated it. I was living at home with my parents at the time, so it was my dad who was the one to make me go. There were no excuses – he would nag me out the door – and he was the one to run (very patiently) with me.
But after a few weeks, something changed. I actually enjoyed running. I stopped trying to negotiate my way out of it (most of the time), and started to push myself faster and further. That continued, for the most part, right up until the marathon. It wasn’t pretty, and not all of it was fun (a particularly memorable experience was lying on the kitchen floor in the foetal position and crying because it hurt so much), but it was empowering. I would even go as far to say as spiritual – it might be corny, and you might laugh, but there is a moment on every run where you connect with yourself all of a sudden, and the simple movement of running is somehow cathartic and enriching and beautiful. I have crystal clear memories of certain moments on a run when something happens, or something doesn’t happen, or I simply think of something I hadn’t thought of before, and all that is there is the sound of my feet on the tarmac and the simple motion forward and a huge feeling of connection – with myself, with everything around me, with Real Life.
I miss that. I don’t miss those first few weeks where every step hurt and my lungs felt like they would burst from my chest. I don’t miss the difficulties of running in London. But I miss the act of running itself. I miss the strength it affords me, the time I get in my own head. I miss the feeling of power in my legs, the way your skin tingles when you go out at 6am and it’s still cool. I even miss those crazy hot runs in the middle of summer – because there’s always a moment when you step in to the shade and it’s almost like you can instantly feel yourself cooling down.
Not everyone loves running. There are a lot of jokes about runners being a certain kind of bonkers. But I think that running isn’t about the physical activity. It might be, at first, but it isn’t always. I need to remember that. And I need to hold on to that when I start running again this week, and have to push through all of those miserable, difficult and downright awful runs that happen for the first few weeks. Somehow, I get the feeling that my mojo is hiding out there somewhere in the middle of a 5km run. It’s in the intake of breath as you take that first step into a run, or the pause between steps. It’s in the moment when you hear birdcall in the trees above you, and you’re just starting to go down a hill, and you’re already imagining the cold nectarine waiting in the fridge when you get home because your tongue is stuck to the roof of your mouth and you’re-on-your-way-home, you’re-on-your-way-home, you’re-on-your-way-home.
My mojo is out there. But it’s going to take putting on my running shoes to find it again.