Amy Yoder Begley has been here before: without a sponsor, coached by husband Andy and not exactly sure how much longer her professional running career will last.
The last time the Kendallville native was at such a crossroads was 2006. Begley was running the 10,000 at the 2008 Olympic Games.
So you might understand why Begley is in a nostalgic mood despite having her Nike contract unrenewed. Does she think another major turnaround is in the works?
“Change is the name of the game, I guess,” Begley said Monday from her home in Oregon. “Just like (in 2006), I'm going to give it six more months.”
Begley has battled Achilles and ankle injuries since the summer of 2010. At that point, she was at the top of her game, winning the U.S. championships in the 10,000 and breaking the 15-minute barrier for the 5,000. She hasn't been competitive since, and Nike recently pulled its support.
It's hard to tell from talking to her whether she learned more from her experiences from 2006 to 2008 or from her experiences these past two years.
“All the injuries, surgeries, time off from running, pressure to come back early and fulfill (contractual requirements) has been a struggle,” Begley said. “Finally I had to let my body heal. But I have no hard feelings against Nike. It was a great opportunity and I learned a lot.”
Begley says that in her pre-Nike professional years leading up to 2006, she only thought she was working hard. But after moving to Oregon in 2006 and training with established stars such as Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher, the lights came on for Begley.
“I learned a lot and matured a lot,” Begley said. “I learned what it takes to train and compete at the highest level. You don't really know or appreciate what is required until you are around it every day.”
Loaded with this knowledge and experience, Begley begins her “final comeback.” She estimates that her training is currently at 40 percent of max and plans to move slowly from there over the next three months.
“If I can get through January and still be healthy, then in February and March I can work on getting in race shape,” Begley said. “And if all goes well, maybe run a road race in April.”
Begley plans to race exclusively on the roads in 2013, and if her body is willing, she'll make the natural progression to the marathon.
“My body has never been able to handle long stretches of 70-mile weeks,” Begley said. “But we're going to take a long, slow approach to this and maybe my body will make it.”
And if not? What if Begley doesn't make it through the next six months, let alone a marathon in 2014?
“Andrew and I have talked about that,” Begley said. “I'd like to coach, either at the high school or college level. I'd also like to start doing (youth) running camps again or race-weekend getaways for women.”