Here I Go Again: Complicated Feelings About Training For A Half Marathons

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©adrianvidal via Canva.com
©adrianvidal via Canva.com

I just signed up for the 2024 Indy OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon in May, and based on past experiences, I know my half-marathon training will be filled with lots of complicated feelings. 

To be clear, this isn’t my first time. I ran my first half, which happened to be the Mini, in May 2009. I was in my 20s, single, and had loads of free time, so training went well. I crossed the finish line with nothing but exhilaration. The entire experience was amazing, and I knew I wanted to do another immediately. I was a woman obsessed with half marathons for the next couple of years.  

Since then, my interest in running has ebbed and flowed, and I’ve lost count of how many half-marathons I’ve completed. But one thing definitely not lost on me is how complicated my feelings about half-marathon training have become. 

My hope …

Each time I click “sign up” on a half marathon website, I am confident this will be the year I fully commit to training again. I meticulously schedule a 16-week training program that slowly builds my mileage and includes days of cross-training. I often invest in new running shoes, making sure to get fitted by experts at my local running store. And since most of the training for the Indy Mini takes place in the cold Indiana winter, I treat myself to some new warm-weather running gear. I always start optimistically and committedly, ready to do it right, as I did when I first started running.  

And this hope remains for the initial weeks of training. I actually enjoy being out in the cool weather and the energy I get from the brisk air. It also feels good to get back into a consistent workout routine after the overindulgence and overscheduling of the holidays. And every time I think that, if I can just keep this up, I’ll be able to prove to myself and those around me that I still have a college athlete somewhere deep inside. Maybe, just maybe, I’ll find the elusive runner’s high I had in my 20s and lost somewhere along the way. 

My disappointment …

Spoiler alert: It never turns out like I planned. Last year, I ended up walking more than I ran after a random medical issue put me in the ER two weeks before the event. In previous years, I had to drop to 5K at the last minute because my training wheels fell off due to busy work and family commitments. In short, my recent experiences with half marathons have left me disappointed and discouraged in both my training and my finish.

In fairness to me, a lot has happened since those early half-marathon days. My body has grown, both in years and size. I met a boy who took my attention, and we ended up getting married. I spent 2015 through 2017 battling breast cancer and dealing with all the treatments and surgeries that come with it. In 2019, I defied the odds by getting pregnant and having a miracle baby. I’ve progressed in my career, gaining more responsibility and hours. I’m certainly not the same person – mentally or physically – I was back then, so why should my half-marathon training be? 

Also, guilt is a new wrench in my half-marathon training compared to years prior. When I first started running, I had few responsibilities as a single woman in my 20s. Now, training takes away time I could be spending with my husband, daughter, family, friends, and work responsibilities. And, as all moms know, our time is finite, and there is an infinite list of things to get done in the little time we have for ourselves. 

But even though my rational mind understands all of this, I still feel defeated each time I have to drop down to a 5K or finish a half marathon slower than I wanted. For some reason, I can’t stop beating up my 40-something mom self when comparing her to my 20-something single self. I also end up comparing my experience to others, such as, “She’s a mom with a demanding job. Why can she do it and not me?” Comparison certainly is the thief of joy when it comes to half marathons. Yet, every tired step and aching muscle reminds me I’m not the athlete or person I once was. And that can be a devastating realization.  

My why …

So why do I do it? It’s a fair question and one my husband asks me every year. I totally get it. It seems crazy to sign up for something that will just make you feel mentally and physically bad. 

At a surface level, I signed up partly because I love the excitement of Indianapolis in May, and there’s no better display of that than the Indy Mini. But, going deeper, mixed in with the feelings of failure, is also an underlying sense of pride. I mean, a lot of people wouldn’t even sign up if they knew there was a good chance they could – and likely would – fail. And, in doing so, I hope I’m teaching my daughter that just because you’re not good at something, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it a try – a lesson I’m still getting comfortable with as an adult. 

And speaking of my daughter, last year, she came to watch me hobble across the finish line for the first time. You know what she didn’t care about? My finish time. Or how much I walked. Or even how far I went. She was excited to be at “mommy’s race” and proudly wore my medal around the house for weeks after.    

So, I signed up again in 2024. I’m again feeling the excited optimism of another fresh start in half marathon training. Will this be the year I fully train? Maybe. Will I be disappointed come May 8? Probably. But I’m also going to do my best to remember during my training runs and those 13.1 miles what an honor it is to move my body despite all the obstacles and how proud I am to show my daughter that trying and failing is better than not trying at all. 

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Brynna
Originally from central Illinois, Brynna moved to Indy in 2008 to take a job with the NCAA. Since then, she’s added wife, breast cancer survivor and mom to her resume. She married her husband Case in September 2015, was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2015, and gave birth to their miracle baby girl Siena in 2019. Her family is rounded out by two loveable but mischievous dogs, Wrigley and Ivy. In her free time, Brynna loves to host parties for family and friends, travel the world, drink fountain diet soda, run 5Ks with girlfriends, cook/bake, read and volunteer with the local non-profit Noble.

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