As I often do, I signed up for a race at the last minute, two days prior to the event, this time Augusta University Half Marathon in Augusta, Georgia, on February 22, 2020. In a transition period in the state capital approximately 150 miles northwest, I wanted to make the most of the relatively free time I do not know I would have again once I land a new job. Following my recent 74.2-miler, I could not tell how much my body and speed had recovered, not to mention my left pinky toenail recently finally broke off; nevertheless, my latest casual run on rolling hills gave me confidence a large portion of my fitness had returned and prompted me to register.
At the Expo, a veteran suggested I tag the name of a fallen soldier on my back during the half marathon. I have a tremendous amount of respect for all active and former service members, but I wanted what I did to be intentional and not for show and apologized for not taking up on this. I decided to participate in this race for my enjoyment and was not willing to pretend I did so for a cause, which would appear admirable but be disingenuous.
The half marathoners toed the line in 28 degrees, and a lady wearing a jacket running her first 13.1 was perplexed I would dress so lightly, after which I warned her she may not enjoy the extra layer soon. No one knew the details of the course, as the organizers did not share an elevation chart. Some runners from the area said there should only be one minor hill, so I anticipated mostly flat and took off at a swift pace only to discover a one-mile climb on the fly beginning near mile 7, followed by a brief flat break and another steep climb. Just for that mile my pace slowed down drastically, but what goes up must come down and an equally lengthy downhill awaited. I let gravity take over and carry me down and went all out to compensate for the slow mile. My second half resulted in a major negative split, with my final full mile and the rest at a seven-minute-mile pace. Just past 11 miles lined up photos of fallen soldiers, United States flags, and volunteers, to whom I repeated, “Thank you.” The last person in the section seemed to remember me from the previous day as he pointed at me speaking to a veteran who had asked me to carry a name.
With so much of the unknown in terms of my recovery and the course, I had set low expectations; thus, I was elated to cross the finish line in 1:50:20 in my first race that started in 2020 (my recent ultra went into the New Year). Thank You, Jesus!