Last year, I tried training for a half-marathon and ended up injured and unable (or afraid) to run for six months. Last year, when I would return from my long runs, I would be exhausted and sleepy. Sometimes I would end up gobbling down whatever I could eat and would either feel nauseated or (occasionally) threw up. My long runs left me wiped for the day.
This year, everything is different.
I'm sure part of the difference is that I've been training consistently since August, whereas last year I was inconsistent and lazy about running. I'm smarter about my runs, more experienced, and in much better shape this time. And I can really feel the difference.
For example, the last two weeks we've had 10 mile runs. Last year after an 8-10 mile run, I felt horrible. Exhausted, nauseated, and I just wanted to sit in the bath tub or take a nap. This year, I feel energized. I come home and eat something non-sugary (part of my problem last time was that I consumed a lot of sugar--now I make sure to eat something with protein and complex carbs), stretch, take a hot shower, and maybe take a nap. I think my sleepiness has more to do with the 6am alarm rather than feeling completely beaten down.
The runs themselves also feel completely different. I feel strong and maintain a good pace. Last year, I was bringing up the back of the pack, this year I'm in the middle-front. That feels nice. My body hurts a little toward the end, but it's a discomfort that fades quickly after resting and stretching.
My motivation is definitely higher. I know that if I don't run consistently, I'll get hurt. So I go run even when I don't want to, which makes me feel great in the end.
I only have six more weeks until the half-marathon, and I'm starting to realize that I'm going to do it this year. And my next challenge? An actual marathon this fall. The rest of the spring and summer will be spent strengthening my body and building up my mileage so that I can tackle marathon training with the same dedication and vigor that I have had for the half-marathon.