Grateful memories of Virginia Beach, Shamrock Marathon 2023

“We should learn to savor some moments to let time feel worth existing.”–Munia Khan

One of the Cape Henry Lighthouses, situated on Fort Story.

“How do you feel about tomorrow?”  my husband, John, asked me as we sat at a corner table for two in Mannino’s Italian Bistro in Virginia Beach, a hidden gem we had discovered during last year’s visit.  

We had arrived around 5:40, hoping to beat the crowd for an early dinner the night before I participated in the 51st annual Shamrock Half Marathon. Clearly, we were not the only ones who had thought of that!  The restaurant was positively packed with runners and their family and/or friends.  Therefore, I mulled over my answer to the animated vibe of enthusiastic and celebratory conversations.

“I will let it be.  See how it unfolds and just . . . enjoy and be grateful.”

Looking back over the twelve months prior to that weekend, March 17-19, we had withstood several unforeseen challenges, and still had more face upon returning home.  However, for this weekend, we took a time-out.  We took time to breathe in that salty air of renewal, watch the waves caress the shoreline, feel the warmth of the sun as it kissed our cheeks, and soak up as much joy as our hearts could hold. No rush; no hurry; few worries.

One of the highlights of our trip was discovering the Virginia Museum of Contemporary Arts.  This contemporary, non-collecting museum is a vibrant and welcoming space.  During the weekend in which we were there, the museum’s exhibition galleries were brimming with a wide-variety of collections, including stunning quilted art from 54-40 African American Quilters Guild of Virginia. 

Additionally, it was Virginia MOCA’s annual celebration of youth art month, so there was a multitude of student art on display.  Additionally, we were able to take in a kaleidoscope of blown-glass color from the museum’s only permanent work of art, Mille Colori, by Dale Chihuly. Virginia MOCA is a gallery that appears to be a local favorite for good reason, and I encourage anyone visiting VB, who loves art, to visit it!

Immediately within the doors of Virginia MOCA, is an adorable, independent bookshop called, Read Books, which I recommend checking out while pursuing the museum.  It was while we were visiting this space that we learned that both the bookshop and the museum are part of the ViBe Creative District. This walkable designated area of VB is the heart of over 100 artists and creative businesses. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to further explore this district, but we’ve added it to the top of the list of areas to explore next time we visit VB.

These discoveries reflect the joy of revisiting a diverse location, such as VB.  We get to return to those experiences that we previously relished; and yet, there remains an abundance of new sights with which to enjoy on future visits.  Two favorite VB spots for which John and I delighted in returning were Side Street Cantina and Pocahontas Pancakes and Waffle House. 

John and I love Mexican food, and the Peruvian-inspired Mexican food of Side Street Cantina always delivers.  This is our third year visiting this site, and the service and food remained consistently excellent.  In fact, their personable staff goes out of their way to make us feel like one of their regulars.  This establishment is worth experiencing if you are vacationing in VB. 

As for my all time favorite breakfast/lunch restaurant, it is Pocahontas Pancakes and Waffle House, and we made sure to eat there twice. This is because this quintessential eatery–in addition to having an expansive novel-like, made-to-order menu–offers a wide-array of gluten-free options. It was clear from the crowd over the weekend of events, this is a favorite dining experience for both locals and visitors like us who return year after year.  

 Whereas, a new VB dining establishment we discovered on this trip was the Mellow Mushroom.  Sure it’s a chain, but it was within close walking distance to the hotel in which we stayed, and it was newly opened as of fall of 2022.  It made for the perfect place for a gluten-free pizza in the evening for which I ran the half-marathon.  Fans of the Mellow Mushroom establishment will not be disappointed.

Meanwhile, back to the morning of the half marathon. John and I stayed at a hotel conveniently located near the starting line.  That said, John and I had a good laugh at my corral number.  We kept walking, and walking, to find the group with which I would start based upon estimated finish time.  My corral was nearly at the back of the line!  Nonetheless, I proudly joined my corral group and waited as each group was given their own individual countdown.  

The anticipation grew. 3, 2, 1!  We were off on an adventure!  And what an exhilarating adventure it was!

This is the first time I actually ran the event in-person, rather than virtually, so I was all-smiles taking in the sights.  Runners of all shapes, sizes, colors, genders, and ethnicities were supporting one another as we made our way along the northern end of Atlantic Ave.; up the creeping incline of Shore Drive; through Fort Story with special event permission; alongside Cape Henry Lighthouses; back down Atlantic Ave with the wind blessedly out our backs, and finally turning left on 37th street as we traversed the VB boardwalk during the final part of the last mile alongside of the Atlantic ocean, past the iconic King Neptune, to cross the finish line nearest to 30th street.

I simply could not stop smiling.  The sun was shining, and the temperatures were great for running (high 30s to low 40s).  As I crossed the finish line, tears came to my eyes; my heart was overflowing  with joy.  John was waiting at the finish line with our daughter, Maddie, on Facetime to join in the finish-line fun.   

It was a glorious day and soul-renewing weekend. I am grateful to the friendly folks at J&A Racing (and VB) who believe in creating a safe, well-organized event that offers a sense of community for runners, walkers, and their families/friends of all stages of life and all levels of fitness–from walking to sprinting, and everyone in between.  This event does precisely what the organization sets out to do, make memories!

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