Not confident the Tuscaloosa Tourism & Sports Half Marathon, scheduled for March 27, 2021, in the titular city of Alabama, would actually take place due to a thunderstorm warning, I had trouble pulling the trigger on registering until the event’s official Facebook page informed me its intent on not canceling. Familiar territory, I signed up, booked a motel, and drove nearly four hours to the vicinity all the afternoon before.

My body does not react to the heat as efficiently as the cold; thus, I was concerned my having become accustomed to racing in the 20s, 30s, and 40s would make my half marathon #40 extra challenging. As I predicted, the feels-like temperature of the mid to upper 70s and intense humidity that had me desperately longing for the supposedly projected rain overwhelmed me from the start, and with a couple of steep climbs early on and consistent rolling hills throughout, by 4 or 5 miles in I already accepted this inevitably less-than-ideal performance no matter how much harder I pushed and decided to carry on at a casual pace with the only goal of running the entire way without a walking break, which I managed. My 2:05:30 finish ranks among my worst finish times in recent memory, but I remained grateful I could squeeze in a race before March passed, as I try to participate in at least one every month and had not done so yet this month.

Speaking to and befriending countless runners, spectators, families, and volunteers marks the highlight of my experience here. I finally felt a sense of normalcy that has been frustratingly elusive since the COVID-19 outbreak. An uncontrollable extrovert, I need to be in the presence of people, so this alone made this spontaneous trip worth it.