Thirsk 10 miles: Mojo is real
A week before our race season took its unscheduled sabbatical, I managed to squeeze in one of the last events to take place in the picturesque North Yorkshire town of Thirsk.
With no marathon on the cards, and with a distinct lack of motivation for a good few months, my mileage, and subsequent form, had dropped considerably. A couple of weeks previously, I’d managed to get around Snake Lane in a respectable time, thanks to my brand new extra pink cheat shoes with added carbon and the free packet of EPO that comes in every box. That, and the fact that I hid behind the pacer for 8 miles before kicking in for the last two.
Even so, I was still feeling far from ‘up for it’ for Thirsk, but with half an eye on the fact that most large sporting events were dropping like flies, I had my totally normal breakfast of toast and bull hormone jam, washed down with apple juice laced with an appropriate and not illegal splash of L-Carnitine, and hit the road.
As the UK was still in ‘let’s wash our hands more’ stage of its all-out assault on a global super-duper virus for which there is no known cure or vaccine, the field remained fairly large, which was definitely felt in the narrow start line down the lane behind the famous racecourse. Social distancing was a good 1.99m shy of the Government recommendations, but as we were going to spend the next ten miles getting as far away from the people behind us as we could, it all balanced itself out.
Off we went. The course was pitched as ‘flat and fast’. To a degree that was true, although it certainly had it’s share of long, shallow inclines that take the edge off your pace. However, as flat or fast as the course was, the considerable wind was in that sadistic sweet spot of never actually being behind you – only ever in your face or blowing you sideways. People pay good money for that type of thing in Amsterdam, but already being in a stinking frame of mind, this only served to give me an even better view of my backside. Again, something you’d pay good money for in other circumstances.
Around the half way point we took a detour ‘out and back’ off the main loop. Had it not been for the other runners around me, I wouldn’t have been overly surprised had I happened upon some duelling banjos and/or the Blair Witch. The smooth tarmac had given way to a potholed waterlogged concrete maze, which required lightening reactions and snake-hips to avoid going ankle deep in brown water.
I have neither of those things.
Lucky for me, my outrageously expensive cheat shoes that my wife totally knows about are completely water-absorbent. As we neared the road to resume our final approach back in to Thirsk, I was ecstatic to find an uphill climb in to the wind with two soaking wet feet.
Feeling on top of the world, I spied some targets ahead of me and tried to pick them off. As it happened, I’d left my rifle at home. Undeterred, I settled for chasing some of the runners instead. I managed to grit my teeth, catch a few and get the race over and done with.
Time wise, I was a few seconds off Snake Lane. All things considered, not a bad outcome, but my main reason for running is to enjoy it. Whether it was the inevitability of what was to come in the next week or so, or it genuinely was the conditions, there was no point in the race that I felt good or in ‘the zone’ – like Austin Powers, I’d lost my ‘Mojo’, and convinced myself I hadn’t had it since Manchester the previous year. I drove home grumpy that I’d not been faster, grumpy that I wasn’t running enough miles, grumpy that I hadn’t seen any miraculous pace improvements after a month’s worth of speedwork.
In the cold light of day, all totally irrational! The mileage was all my own doing; significant pace improvements don’t happen after 4 weeks, especially when I’d spent the previous months living on pie and IPA; and you can’t expect to race every race in perfect conditions. More-so, there are plenty of people who’d kill to be able to run ten miles, regardless of the time they’d do it in.
As many a wise runner (and Rob Weekes) has told me, consistency is the key. My mileage and the effort I’d put in during the run up to the races didn’t warrant exceptional times. I concluded that all ‘Mojo’ is, is an acceptance of your fitness level. If you’ve had a long spell off, don’t expect to be able to run a long way. If you’ve not done a load of speedwork, don’t expect to be able to go fast. Once you crack that bit, you start to enjoy yourself again, feel more motivated to get out more often, and give yourself a better chance of hitting your personal goals.
So, since then, I’ve not bothered looking at my watch. I’ve gone out and tried to find new routes through the miles of fields that are on my back doorstep, and I’ve committed the previously-considered cardinal sin of stopping, having a look around, even taking a picture or two, and that ‘mojo’, whatever it is, is starting to come back.
Whilst we’re all wondering just when we’ll all be able to get together again, whether it’s at club or at the start line of a race, it’s worth remembering that, especially now, running is far more than just PB’s, RunBritain rankings and medals.