Every now and then I see on my various social media feeds cries for a lost mojo. Now I am not sure exactly what a mojo is, but the loss of it can turn the most dedicated athlete into a couch potato quicker than you can say ‘Lard Sandwich’. As far as I can work out it probably has something to do with motivation and enthusiasm. I don’t know whether I have actually had ‘mojo’ at any point, but there have been moments where I have been less than enthusiastic, and far from motivated. Losing your mojo must be a bit like having a psychogenic injury. It can put you out of the game for a while. If I am going to give sage words of advice about mojo and where to find it, I guess it is these mental elements of running I need to address.
When I first started running it wasn’t any mojo that kept me going, it was more the fear of failure, and a bloody minded desire to actually finish what I had started, even if I did an appalling job. It took one trip out to let me know that I couldn’t run, and from then on it was just a case of going out regularly and trying to get slowly better, I treated the whole exercise like a slightly unpleasant job. Twenty minutes seemed to stretch out like an eternity before me, and the whole thing was a chore. Thinking back that probably helped, as it became easier I actually started to enjoy the fact that it felt less like self inflicted torture. The difficulty was that the prospect of going out and putting my body through some degree of hardship was not appealing. As with most humans avoiding pain is a highly motivating factor, going out and doing something which will actually hurt does not seem like a good idea. Two things happened which helped me get over this.
The first was that I discovered that people who did not run were easily impressed by running achievements. Simply getting out of a chair during time off left many at work dumbfounded, it was as if they couldn’t conceive that it was possible. What amused me most was that there were young fit guys who felt obliged to make up some kind of excuse as to why they were doing nothing. I soon discovered this jaw dropping smugness escalated when I started my morning runs. I would get into work and say ‘Oh I ran 2 miles before work today’ all casual like and watch with a secret delight as colleagues explained how impressed they were and how they wished they could do that. At the time it was only 3 months previously that I would have been exactly the same, and I understood now that it was not as hard to do as it seemed. You simply had to steel yourself to get out the door. Once that was done the really tricky bit was over, then it was just a question of turning your brain off and putting one foot in front of the other until you had got down the road and back in a reasonable time.
The second thing that helped keep me going back for more was that I actually started to enjoy it sometimes. Of course there was still days when my legs would ache and every fibre of my being would want to stop, the first time I ran 10 miles I ended at about 12 min miles and hated every step of the last 2. Work on Monday was a buzz though, ‘you ran 10 miles?’ However with the shorter runs I would get back slightly breathless and sweaty feeling like superman, I would recover quickly and seemed to permanently have more energy. It actually got to the point where I would crave that aching leg feeling because then I would know that I was going to get a good time, or at least feel smug from having worked hard. Those days when it all went well compensated for the sheer horror of the long hard days where I felt like crap.
So to get back to the point, when ever I hear the cry of “I’ve lost my mojo”, after I have finished looking around for Fat Bastard
the mojo thief, I always give the same advice. What got you started in the first place? It’s that combination of motivation and enthusiasm that you need to find. I nearly always have a race coming up, and that is a good motivating factor. If I have lost my enthusiasm then bollocks to the mojo, I can’t call myself a runner without doing some running, even if I hate it and am rubbish. At some point I will mention my running to someone who looks impressed, I shall feel smug, my enthusiasm will return, and then I guess that misplaced mojo will be back.