Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Welcome Home to Norfolk

When I moved to Norfolk, Virginia in 2003, the mermaids were relatively new. In 1999 the idea was introduced to have "Mermaids on Parade" with mermaids being displayed throughout the community. Around the time I moved there was also a campaign to bring people back to live in the City. You could pick up signs that said "Welcome Home to Norfolk" in businesses across town. I have one in my office at work to this day to inspire me by the vision of leaders in that community. Working for the City of Norfolk is what piqued my love of cities, and it will always have a special place in my heart. 

My brother and sister still live in Norfolk, and I went down for the weekend to visit. I also registered for the inaugural Harbor Lights 5k, so I was looking forward to running the fun downtown course. I was actually registered for the "Get Lit" challenge to run the 5k and then the half marathon the following day, but some health issues put the kibosh on that idea.  I arrived Thursday night, and on Friday I headed to visit my old city stomping grounds at City Hall.  

Going to Norfolk City Hall feels like a time warp. Everything is the same, yet everything is completely different. I have a number of former co-workers who still work there, and I had fun surprising them. We chatted for a while, and then I had a meeting with the mayor, my former boss. After we caught up we talked a lot about the many projects happening in the city from light rail to new anchor institution buildings like the courthouse and downtown library. The list of large projects either in progress or on deck was staggering. Norfolk inspired my love for cities, and it continues to inspire me to this day. It makes me realize that getting things done in communities requires vision. If you have a visionary who is willing to think big and brush off the naysayers, you can really accomplish a lot. Downtown Norfolk is a prime example.

Light rail outside Norfolk City Hall
Friday evening was dinner at No Frill Grill, my absolute favorite restaurant in Norfolk. I always love it there, and it's a must when I'm in town. The tuna melt never disappoints, and it has earned its good Yelp reviews. While we waited for a table we were chatting with some people who had just returned from a deployment in Afghanistan. They had never been to No Frill, and I was extolling its virtue. They mentioned that it had great Yelp reviews. I laughed thinking that we've been loving No Frill long before Yelp was a thing.  

On Saturday morning I was downtown early for the Harbor Lights 5k. It was chillier than I thought it would be - around 28 degrees - and I was not dressed appropriately for the weather. It's ironic given that I live in Michigan, and I have tons of cold weather running gear. It was a sunny morning, however, and I loved being in Town Point Park 2700 of my closest friends.

Downtown Norfolk. Loving the new light rail stop in the center of town.
The course was awesome. It ran all around downtown and highlighted some of my favorite spots. It was awesome running right by the gorgeous USS Wisconsin and along the river at the finish. The only downside is that I did not see any mile markers, so I felt a little disoriented. I know the area well enough to have an idea of how far I'd gone, but that was a challenge.  I had a fantastic race. I took 2 minutes off my 5k PR earlier this summer, and I ran almost that fast again. I ran 24:13, my second fastest 5k ever. At the end of the race when I was struggling I just kept thinking it's only been 4 months since I was in the hospital. Now I'm running sub-8 minute miles, which for me is extremely fast.

The USS Wisconsin Memorial
My sister, brother and niece met me after the race, and we had breakfast at D'egg Diner downtown. I spent the afternoon shopping with my sister and niece before we headed out to Ghent for my brother's birthday. I lived in Ghent when I lived in Norfolk, and it's my favorite neighborhood in the City. It's a great mix of retail, restaurants, bars, and residential. It's the perfect neighborhood. When I visualize the kind of neighborhood I want to live in, it's always Ghent. 

With my niece after the race in the Selden Arcade

Sunday was a lazy, relaxing day hanging out with my siblings and parents. I was sad to see the weekend come to an end.  Being in Norfolk is always good for my soul and my city inspiration.  I spent a lot of quality time with the fam and ran an incredible 5k. My heart was also filled by the ingenuity of everything happening in the City of Norfolk. I've lived in Michigan for nearly a decade, but Norfolk occupies some valuable real estate in my cityphile heart. It always feels good to come home to Norfolk. 

One of Norfolk's mermaids downtown

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