Saturday, March 5, 2016

Back in the saddle--State #28 Little Rock Marathon, AR, Part One

I can't believe it is March and my next run is here already! Where did February go, and more importantly, why didn't I get more blogging done? Life is busy, that's for sure, and I'm happy to say my mileage for February climbed closer to where I like it. 

Gorgeous views of the sunset while in flight on March 4, 2016.
I arrived in Little Rock, AR late last night after a flight delay at my layover in Dallas. I was so completely exhausted by the time I landed. After a free cab ride to my hotel (I shared a cab with a ex-military general who was anxious to get home and offered to pay for my fare...thanks!), I collapsed in my room and slept in until 9 am Little Rock time. 
I made my way down to the hotel lobby for a light breakfast and coffee at the hotel Starbucks where I met an amazing woman named Millicent. She was from Jackson, Mississippi and was here in Little Rock to run her 8th full marathon. She has competed in over 45 races so far in her recent life of running, and we had a lovely chat about our running goals and life in general. Millicent told me she used to be very overweight and suffered from depression. Tired of taking medication that didn't do anything but mask the issues, she started running and hasn't looked back. She is a person with such a positive outlook, I couldn't help but be inspired by her. She came to Little Rock to run this marathon for the 4th time because it takes place on her birthday (tomorrow). She wanted to have a t-shirt and medal with her birthday on it! So cute.
Race shirt and bib number.
After our chat, I made my way to the race expo which was located in the convention center connected to the hotel. I picked up my number along with a whole bunch of race advertisements/discounts for races in states I still have to run. I picked up a few other goodies for the kids, too. 
Banner at riverfront park.
Then I was off to explore downtown Little Rock. A beautiful riverfront park extends along the Arkansas River right behind my hotel, so I decided to follow that route. There was a big banner near the main entrance to the park welcoming runners. 
One of the sculptures in the park photobombing my selfie.
The park was filled with all kinds of sculptures as well as a pavilion amphitheater and the Junction Bridge, a pedestrian footbridge that spans the river. It was a gorgeous warm springlike day with sunshine and temps in the 70's, so I soaked up the sun as I enjoyed the sights. The view from atop the bridge provided a nice perspective of the city skyline as well as the river and surrounding area. 
Bridge information plaque.
Up on the bridge. 
Cityscape view from the bridge.
I stopped in to the River Market where I thought I'd be able to buy my water, blueberries and other pre-race necessities, but it was actually an eatery filled with various food stations. I asked some really nice ladies there if there was a nearby grocery store, and after a discussion and directions to the local bus station, I planned to hop the bus to shop. 
Once at the bus station, I changed my mind, as the wait for the bus was about 30 minutes, and the bus was in a rather seedy area, and I didn't think it would be very smart of me to hang out there by myself. Plus, I wanted to see some other things in the city, not just spend my time getting out to the grocery store and back! I ended up walking back to the market where I bought a veggie wrap for lunch and stocked up on bottled water. It was delightful to sit at a picnic table outside near the river and have lunch.
Photo I took of the bridge as viewed through a billboard postcard frame.
Next, I was off to the Clinton Presidential Museum & Library. The museum is located along the riverwalk and is impressive upon approach. The exhibits ranged from Clinton's early life being raised by his grandparents as a boy to his governorship in Arkansas and to his election as President. It is an impressive collection of Clinton's tenure in office, highlighting many of the positive contributions he made in the areas of peace negotiations, education, health care reform, and humanitarian efforts. 
Walking up the street leading to the Clinton Library. 
Front facade of the Clinton Library.
The museum included replicas of the Cabinet Room and Oval Office during Clinton's time and collections of letters and all kinds of memorabilia from the White House (like some of his saxophones). It was a terrific stop while here in the city, and I couldn't help but feel the uplifting spirit that permeated his Presidency while touring the beautiful archive. 
Dinner table set with White House china. 
Chihuly white and gold glass Christmas Tree.
View of gardens from the library upper floor window.
I also would have liked to have visited the Central High School historical site while here, but I just didn't have enough time today. The Clinton Museum offered a very moving tribute to the Little Rock Nine, as they showed true bravery in a time of such division and hatred. It was mind-boggling to see footage of President Eisenhower ordering the local government to allow for desegregation of schools. And the fact that the local governor issued the military to keep the students out is utterly disgusting. Thank goodness Eisenhower countered that action with his own. 
After the museum, I walked to the closest Starbucks which was probably a good 20 blocks or so away to stock up on my morning java. The weather was amazing so I didn't mind the extra walk, plus it is not such a bad thing to keep the legs moving after sitting on an airplane so long yesterday.
Gorgeous day!
Dinner was at a local pizza/pasta restaurant called Damgoode Pies where I ordered up my usual plate of spaghetti and meatballs, angel hair variety this time. I reconnected with Craig and the girls via text and talk while there. We traded stories of our days, mine exploring Little Rock and theirs skiing at Mt. Southington.
The vibe in the city was terrific today. The people here are super friendly, and the Little Rock Marathon race organizers had lots of fun events going on. Today was a 5K, 10K and kids' last mile marathon race. There were runners everywhere enjoying the sunshine and their success. I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow. It will be great to explore more of this city on foot. 
Spied the city library in my travels today. Note the carved names of authors around the top .
Quick snapshot of the historical area preserved downtown.

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