STATE 1: GALVESTON, TEXAS
My first half marathon was run in Galveston, Texas. Galveston is a coastal city and barrier island so it is always filled with the excitement and activity of tourists. Galveston is also a historic city filled with many 19th century buildings like Ashton Villa shown below.
Ashton Villa was once a headquarter for the Confederate army. But today it is more often associated with the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery, Juneteenth. On June 19th in 1865, two and half years after President Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, Major General Gordon Granger arrived at Ashton Villa with the news that the war had ended and that slaves were free. A 9 foot tall bronze statue was erected in the yard memorializing the reading of the Emancipation Proclamation at Ashton Villa.
Another historic location in Galveston is Avenue L Baptist Church, the oldest African-American church in Texas. The church grew from the slave membership of the First Baptist Church of Galveston. The slaves were organized under the name Colored Baptist Church in 1840. By the early 1850s they had left First Baptist to worship in a separate building, known as the Africa Baptist Church. In 1855 First Baptist trustees purchased land from the Galveston City Company for use by the congregation. After the Civil War the property was formally deeded to the members, who were reorganized as the First Regular Missionary Baptist Church in 1867. The present name was adopted during the pastorate of Rev. P. A. Shelton around 1903.
In addition to being rich in history, Galveston County is the place where I spent my formative years. So I was thrilled to return home to run the Divas Half Marathon in April 2013. I ran with the excitement of a first time marathoner. I also made some of the mistakes of a new runner. I ran too fast during the initial miles of the race. I underestimated the toll of running in high humidity. I eventually ran out of energy at mile 11. I completed the race but missed my target time.
I was very disappointed with my performance in my first half marathon until I crossed the finished line and observed a woman collapsed and in a life threatening situation. Her struggle (and subsequent death) gave me a different perspective about my experience. Now instead of being disappointed, I give thanks for finishing the race in my time and manner.
STATE 2: SANTA FE, NEW MEXICO
My second half marathon was run in Santa Fe, New Mexico. The first thing I learned about Santa Fe is that it is the oldest and most elevated state capitol in the country. During the next few days I would learn the area is home to national historic landmarks, scenic national forests and cultural and religious icons.
One of my first stops was El Santuario de Chimayó, a Roman Catholic church in Chimayó, New Mexico. According to wikipedia, the church receives almost 300,000 visitors per year and has been called “no doubt the most important Catholic pilgrimage center in the United States.” I took a small amount of the holy dirt from El Pocito room. I also visited San Francisco de Asis Mission Church (shown below) near Taos which was built starting in 1772. According to wikipedia, Georgia O’Keeffe described it as, “one of the most beautiful buildings left in the United States by the early Spaniards.” I agree.
Visiting New Mexico also gave me the opportunity to observe very scenic forests. Carson National Forest is 1.5 million acres of beautiful mountain and forest scenery. Below is just one of the beautiful pics that I captured during my time there.
The culture of Native Americans is always present in New Mexico. So I spent some of my time there visiting a reservation. Taos pueblo, a registered national landmark, is 1000 years old! That was reason enough to visit. I also enjoyed chatting with some of the residents and getting a glimpse of their history, culture, food and way of life.
There were several kivas (shown below) in the pueblo. A kiva is an underground square-walled room used by Puebloans for religious rituals and spiritual ceremonies. Unfortunately I was not allowed in the kiva. But I understand that some places must be keep sacred.
I was concerned that my running would be significantly impacted by running the first two miles uphill and run the whole race at elevation. So to compensate I walked most of the first two miles and enjoyed the view of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. Once I reached mile number three, I sprinted downhill. In fact, I ran the next miles so fast I set a new PR for my 10K distance.
STATE 3: WEST MONROE, LOUISIANA
My third half marathon was run in West Monroe, Louisiana. West Monroe is a city in Ouachita Parish, Louisiana, United States. It is situated on the Ouachita River, across from the neighboring city of Monroe. The two cities are often referred to as the Twin Cities of northeast Louisiana. I crossed the Ouachita River during the half marathon so I actually ran in both cities.
STATE 4: LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
My fourth half marathon was run in Las Vegas, Nevada. This was my first trip to the (in)famous Las Vegas Strip. Perhaps my experience in Las Vegas was atypical. I spent very little to no time drinking, shopping, gambling or fine dining. I slept through two Vegas shows (One of the shows, Le Reve, was actually very good. I was just exhausted immediately following the race). The best part of my “Vegas” experience was running down the Strip at night, viewing art and exploring the Mojave desert.
Running down the Las Vegas strip at night was a very unique experience. So this race will always be memorable.
STATE 5: TULSA, OKLAHOMA
My fifth half marathon was run in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This race is advertised as a run on the historic Route 66. I was less interested in Route 66 and more interested in exploring other parts of Oklahoma. So after the race, I made the trip to Robber’s Cave State Park in Wilburton, Ok. This location offers a unique view Oklahoma. Views like the one below made me believe I was looking at the top of Oklahoma from a mountain.