Walking in bizarre humidity to the start of the Ashland Half Marathon, branded as “summer’s hottest half marathon” and taking place in the titular city in Virginia, supposedly the “Center of the Universe,” on August 28, 2021, and already sweating and feeling uncomfortable breathing in addition to this being my first-ever race without music, I thought it wise to take my run conservatively and forget about pace. The official website explicitly stated music would be prohibited, and albeit a member of the team via Messenger told me nobody would enforce that and nearly half the field wore earphones, I still wanted to follow the rules to a tee, thanks to my OCD. To my pleasant surprise, I actually enjoyed running without music because this allowed me to absorb the beauty and sound of nature more deeply while chatting with fellow runners for half the race.

Knowing my body detests heat, I maintained a steady slow pace and resisted speeding up for the first half and planned to push more following if I still felt fresh. Slightly past halfway, the family of a high-school girl who had been running in proximity with me started filming her and cheering her on, and I, right behind her, jokingly joined in, shouting her name. After that, she stuck with me and we conversed until about a mile to go, when she took off and/or I slowed down due to the hill that carried on for about a mile and a half. I had told her around 8 miles in, “We will run together until 12 miles, and you will beat me after, okay?” to which she said yes. I crossed the finish line in 2:04:24, but this did not bother me much considering I bore 13.25 miles, according to my new Garmin Instinct Solar, in this roughly 90-degree heat and suffocating humidity that would have made simply standing painful. Nevertheless, I feel peculiar in that my legs do not feel like they ran at all, making me wonder if I should have run harder. I really only signed up for this event because I wanted to squeeze in a race in August, as much as I dislike running 13.1 miles in the summer due to the inevitable slower running that would demoralize me, and I found no other option relatively nearby. As always, I loved meeting and sharing stories with new humble and inspiring people.