My racing performances since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have been less than ideal, understandable considering I have not been running as frequently due to being overly cautious of my less-than-100% right foot, Georgia comprises far more hills than where I used to train and race in the Midwest, and I appear to have packed a few unnecessary pounds. When I read the Harmony Half Marathon, taking place in Monroe, Georgia, on December 5, 2020, would be “mostly flat and fast” and the temperature forecast in the 30s and 40s, I registered and set out to redeem myself, even when knowing I would be substantially slower than last year and the year before.

The course, although not overly technical, consisted of constant rolling hills, far from “mostly flat” in my opinion. Still, having run this distance 35 other times in various conditions and temperatures, I felt confident whatever pace at which I begin I would be able to maintain until the end. I had been struggling with pain on the left side of my lower back for the past several days to the point even coughing aggravated the pain, which worried me, but thankfully this did not play a factor. My pace remained consistent, mainly mid-eight-minute-mile, for the first nine miles, so I was caught off guard in the tenth mile when my pace plummeted, as I did not feel any fatigue or my legs slowing down. My speed recovered sufficiently the following mile, but the slowing returned for the next couple of miles, likely attributable to the hills. Furthermore, one man who had been far ahead of me but in sight for most of the race I caught up to with more than two miles to go executed a strategy unknown to me previously, running for a couple of minutes and walking for half a minute. He repeated this, which led many times to my passing him while he walked and his passing me back running. This irritated me, as seeing someone in front walking so much still beating you can be demoralizing. He finished slightly before I and later apologized, suspecting I could have been annoyed. I shot for around 1:52:00, so my official finish time of 1:57:56.2 almost felt like a failure. I just missed out on a podium finish for my age group of 30-34, placing 4th, but one of the workers gave me the award (coaster) anyway and told me to write “4th place” on the back because she had many left. I initially replied, “It’s okay,” but the second time she told me to take it I did with a thank-you. Sweet lady.