Friday, August 19, 2011

Wanted: Running Mojo

Recently, I've been lamenting the fact that I’d really slacked on my running this summer.

I’d love to report to you that I’ve turned the tide and that I am back to my usual miles on the pavement. But I’m not. I’ve just plain lost my running mojo.

I’m not the only one. In recent weeks, I’ve had several friends declare that they’ve lost the passion for running - that they’ve forgotten how to run just for the pure enjoyment of running. It’s become a job, another thing to put on the to-do list, another thing to track.

The way we are all connected through online training tools doesn’t help. There’s pressure, albeit unspoken, to run more often, to run farther or faster. Everything is calculated and totaled. You can’t help but compare yourself to others.

Some of those friends are quitting cold turkey. Not quitting running, mind you. They’re just disappearing from the online radar in an attempt to find their running mojo.

Me? I’m not taking that step yet, but I am trying to find my motivation.

I embarked on what I called my Remember Running Mission last week, setting the alarm early to get in a few before-work miles. Normally, early morning runs are peaceful and relaxing. The world is quieter and I can take the time to listen to the birds and enjoy the morning sun. I can get so wrapped up in the moment that I can almost forget I’m running.

Not last week. There was not a chance that I would have forgotten that I was running.

I knew my recent lack of running was going to be painfully obvious, so I purposefully set the bar pretty low. I planned to do only two miles, run a mile in one direction then turn around and head for home. It’s only two miles, I told myself.

To be honest, I can’t remember the last time I ran “only two miles.” For the past several years, my shortest runs have been 4-5 miles with a double-digit jaunt tossed in on the weekends.

I started out relatively quickly, as recorded on my GPS watch I wore to help me track the turn-around spot. I was pleased that my time off hadn’t killed my pace. What it had affected, dramatically, was my stamina.

I huffed and puffed more than usual. I resisted the urge to walk. Even though I know a big chunk of running is getting into the right mental state, I couldn’t help but concentrate on just how plain difficult running was,

For the first time in years, I realized why people try it and stop. More than once, a seemingly obvious statement went through my head: “Running is hard, really hard.”

My body seemed to pound against the pavement harder than I can ever remember. The wind got sucked out of me faster than it should have. I asked myself why I liked running, and for the first time ever, questioned whether I actually like it at all.

Of course, I know I like running. At least I think I do. At least I like everything it’s done for me, like help me gain confidence, make new friends, achieve goals.

Are those things solely tied to running? Can I achieve them in other ways? Do I want to? I’m not sure.

I made it through those two miles that morning. I got up to do it again the next day, then a couple days after that, with an extra mile added onto the route. I was on a mission to remember why I like running.

I’m still working on it, but it’s getting easier with every run.

In a strange twist of fate – or slap in the face – I also received a package from the Boston Marathon last week, complete with my official finisher’s certificate. I stared at it in disbelief. How could I possibly have run a marathon so recently that I am just now getting the certificate?

Did I really just struggle through what should have been some easy running miles just because I’d lost the consistency in my running schedule? The answer, I knew, was a resounding yes.

It really makes me realize the power of the human body, not only how you can push yourself beyond what you think you’re capable of, but also how quickly you can lose all of your hard work.