To celebrate my 31st birthday on March 14, 2020, I registered for the Montgomery Half Marathon, taking place in the eponymous city of Alabama. Two days later, participants received an ominous announcement email that the city mayor will determine whether or not the race will carry on the following morning at 9:30 AM CST, which he postponed another hour and a half just to announce his decision to cancel the event due to COVID-19. I became infuriated that he would halt an event of this magnitude that clearly involves numerous individuals booking hotels and traveling from afar on less than 20 hours’ notice instead of several days sooner, in which case I would not have signed up at the peak of registration price or booked a hotel.

Acknowledging asking for a refund to be an uphill battle, I became so upset I skipped lunch. A virtual race, which I do not enjoy, would have been the only sensible mitigation, but the event continued to ask entrants in a friendly humorous tone to simply “pinky promise” to run a 5K or half marathon in the next 30 days for the finisher’s medal, which did not sound legitimate. I emailed the race director directly, asking if he would allow me to run on Friday, March 13, 2020, from Atlanta, Georgia, after which I would send him photos of my Garmin statistics, selfie from the run, and registration information along with my mailing address for the company to mail my finisher’s medal and “SWAG.” I added I want to feel that I earned my finisher’s medal and this more formally sounding virtual race would help me more easily justify the hardware.

Once I had the race director’s approval, I immediately took off without much food or fluid in my system, not realizing the sudden spike of outdoor temperature into the 70s and my neighborhood’s abundance of rolling and extreme hills that normally exhaust me within four miles; I encountered hardly any flat part throughout the virtual race, and my pace predictably took a hit from the beginning. I even had to walk several times towards the end mainly going uphill, and I felt like I was mountain running. Because I did not presume such a drastic increase in temperature, I did not prepare sufficient water and ran out of hydration with five miles to go. (I initially thought about running without my hydration pack. Thank goodness I did not.) For a 1:47 half marathoner to take 2:27:31.8 to cover 13.46 miles, even with the elevation gain of 840 feet, I was both disappointed and humbled. (I always run farther in virtual races because I only have my Garmin, not as accurate as actual measuring, to confirm my distance.) Hopefully I will never have to run another virtual race.