To be more truthful: it’s pouring, and I am sort of jogging.
Actually let’s be honest. The rain is of epic, Biblical proportion and I am managing a staggering trot at best.
Bowed but not yet beaten by the joys of a British summer, I have laced my anorak hood so tightly that all I can see are the tops of my trainers as I shuffle along, head down. Even then they are a watery blur amid the precipitation driving into my face.
The last time I ran seriously was three months ago, when I completed the London Marathon. After some time off, I am now starting my training programme for the Royal Parks Half-Marathon in October – a beautiful 13.1-mile course through London’s glorious public greenery.
I run for many reasons, all of which can be summed up by the love of my daughter, who has Asperger Syndrome. I run to raise awareness of autism and to raise funds for the UK’s National Autistic Society. I run to keep strong and patient and free of stress in order to help my girl as best I can. I run to run away from the bad when I need to, and to cry in private through the woods and under big skies. And I run to remember the good stuff: the adrenalin highs of pure physical exercise and the feeling that I can conquer anything that’s put in front of me.
Today, though, there appears to be a bit of a problem.
I can’t seem to find my running mojo.
My three months off have been lovely. I’ve lazed, and lolled, and laughed. There has been no penciled plan on the side of the fridge, no early morning and late night sessions. There’s been wine in place of sports drinks; cream cakes instead of bananas and energy bars. It’s the longest I’ve ever gone without exercise and I’ve reveled in it, while allowing my body time to fix all my post-marathon aches and pains (and to grow that toe-nail back.)
But gradually, my inactivity started to tell. My stress levels started to rise. My sleep patterns fragmented. As a family, we faced the next hurdle for my daughter, the next bureaucratic battle to get her the support she needs. It was time to get back on it, in all senses.
So here I am. But instead of striding out I am shuffling. My shorts feel uncomfortably tight. There are wobbles in places there didn’t used to be. I’m red-faced and weary too soon.
To urge myself on I engage in a mental scolding. That wobble there, I tell myself, was all that cheesecake. That wobble there? Peanut-butter sandwiches. The heaviness in my thighs? The Game of Thrones box set and the bumper pack of popcorn that accompanied it. That niggle? The tightness down that calf? All that sofa time. Tsk.
I drive myself up the next hill on sheer disgust, even as I weave and lurch.
But it’s not working. Sergeant Major Walker is only making Private Walker resentful and rebellious and crosser than ever at how horrible this run is. And my mojo is still missing in action.
Next I try distracting myself. Veering away from the path, I head for the river bank to look for wildlife. On many summer evenings frogs, squirrels, butterflies and voles have accompanied me, beneath cherry-blossom and the lacy buds of flowering chestnut trees.
Today however the trees are stooped and soggy and my only companions are slugs. There are hundreds and hundreds of them, in all shades of brown and ick-yellow.
And yet – what’s this? — there is some ease to be had. The rain has let up and I have come to the brow of the hill. I don’t dare check my watch for pace, but I know at this point that the downward slope in front of me means I am not far from home.
I turn up my music and push back my hood and run, fast, taking huge gulping breaths and blinking away the rain on my eyelashes and feeling the hammering of my heart.
Then, through the weariness and the wobble, I feel it. Something is there. A fizz, a zip, a jolt of joy. I remember why I’m doing this, and it’s all I need to get me to the end of this run and out again next time.
By the time I get home, I’m smiling.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog by Sophie Walker of the United Kingdom. Sophie blogs about her life as a mother and a runner here: www.courage-is.blogspot.com. She is raising money for the National Autistic Society here: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/fundraiser-web/fundraiser/showFundraiserProfilePage.action?userUrl=SophieWalker
Her book, Grace Under Pressure: Going the Distance as an Asperger’s Mum, is published by Piatkus Books in October.
Photo credit to the author.