The Observer hiked aaaallll the way from the bottom of Ridgeway Street to its intersection with Kavanaugh to watch the marathoners pass by on Sunday. It was quiet when we got there, about 8:30 a.m., a little early on what was a beautiful morning, if a little warm for March and marathons. We walked west along the boulevard, watching the police position cars strategically and the good people at the Baptist church set up their row of chairs along the sidewalk and get out the cowbells and donuts.

Finally, about 9 a.m. we think, we could see a figure in the distance. He was a runner in long pants with a jacket tied around his waist. Over 40 maybe. He looked … well, he didn't look much different from us.

He approached, all alone, the first marathoner to reach the 15-mile mark there around I Street and Kavanaugh, and he didn't even look winded. His name tag said Curtis, and we hailed him, quizzically. Good going Curtis, we said. He answered our confusion. The real guys are coming up fast, he called back.

Then we asked and found out about the early start for walkers and folks who thought they'd need a little extra time to run the 26 miles before the finish line was folded up and taken home.

Wonder where Curtis finished? He looked great for someone who'd traveled 15 miles, never mind how fleet of foot. Good going, Curtis.

Of course, every year The Observer lifts a glass of wine and says, Next year at the River Market! It's a toast along the promise of “Free Beer Tomorrow!”

But the folks we ran into at Community Bakery on Saturday swore up and down that training to walk the Little Rock Marathon was tons of fun and we should join them next year. They looked like perfectly normal people. So maybe.

But those runners! How do they do it? How, after 15 miles, after that long incline up from Stifft's Station, do they keep smiling and striding? We saw a cluster of guys in Army camouflage hiking down Kavanaugh toting a heavy load: full, fat backpacks. “Whose idea was that?” a runner called out to them, and they laughed, laughed. There was a man with a prosthetic leg, for Pete's sake, fairly flying by.

The Observer was sitting on a wall, recovering from a useless carbo load the night before, watching all the hale and hearty go by, watching our own life pass us by …

Next year at the River Market! Slender and in spandex! Ha!

From a more fit Observer, obviously:

“So I'm on week 5 in Aikido. My class has dropped in half. I got my darn gi and it is huge. I feel like Jerry Lewis as a samurai.

“My teacher still calls me sweetheart. ‘Good Lord, sweetheart,' he says, ‘Are you some kind of ballet dancer?' I don't know if that's good.

“My attacking partner was way into it last night. Which is fine, except he adds dialogue.

“He grabs my wrist in attack mode. ‘Whatchu gonna do now?' he growls in this weird make-believe bad-guy voice, a mix of Darth Vader and Gargamel from the Smurfs. He's way too much into it. And waiting for my (physical) response.

“ ‘Kick you in the groin, if you grab me hard like that again.'

“I use my technique and throw him down, maybe a little harder than necessary (bad chi — you shouldn't let anything effect your form). He didn't mind. At all. He fell a little too dramatically and with gusto.

“I hear in the background, ‘Now sweetheart, take it easy on him! We're not here to beat up on each other.'

“Oh great, the Dark Lord is being defended by the teachers. Roles really do get reversed in martial arts.”



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