Whether because of the recent turn towards sunnier weather, or the ever-approaching Bloomsday 12K to look forward to, Spokane is sporting a healthy number of runners these days. It seems everyone is out, donning iPods, strollers, or golden retrievers (and sometimes all three). And I'll admit, I am no exception... except that I don't own an iPod, a child, or a dog of any kind. But hey, I'm young yet, and having taken up running just barely a month ago, I am very much looking forward to my first Bloomsday race.

It was this brand of enthusiasm that drew me out of bed on Saturday morning, to lace up my sneakers, and run the two miles to Manito Park from my apartment. It seemed a rewarding enough destination, though I knew the roses wouldn't be blooming, and the English gardens wouldn't yet be in season... but spring is spring. And heck, it's a joy just to see GREEN GRASS, after the winter we've had! Honestly, I wasn't expecting much, just to enjoy the sunshine and morning chill, but there was a garden that made the run truly special for this half-asleep, iPod-less novice: The Nishinomiya Japanese Garden.

Tucked between peace and quiet, this relaxation haven centers around a shallow water feature complete with waterfall, walking bridge, and a visiting mallard or two. Japanese lanterns and strategically placed benches along the curving path make the park ideal for both an aimless stroll-through and an intentional destination. On Saturday, for me it was the perfect finish line, to be able to rest and meditate for a spell in a place of harmonious beauty. Spokane is lucky to have such a place. Hopefully I can hold onto that inner peace on May 3rd, when I'll be sharing road and rubbing elbows with 50,000 other runners. Namaste.

NOTE: The Nishinomiya Japanese Garden was built 30 years ago as a symbol of friendship in honor of our sister city Nishinomiya, Japan. Learn more about Spokane's parks at http://www.spokaneparks.com/