I have never run a race like the one I did in Las Vegas last week.
With what seemed like the better part of the Las Vegas police force armed with assault rifles, lookouts with binoculars on top of buildings and parking structures and police helicopters screaming overhead, myself and 40,000 other runners assembled outside of the New York New York hotel and casino, ready to run.
I will do my best to put into words how it felt to run past Mandalay Bay and look up into the windows where, just last month, a psychopath shot and killed so many at a concert venue below. The now infamous windows are covered with one hashtag — #VegasStrong.
As I ran by the one small white cross with a red ribbon under the famous “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign it seemed to say “we are the same but forever changed,” which is exactly how I feel after 13.1 miles in sin city.
WEEK OF NOVEMBER 6, 2017
It’s nothing new, to be in a corral before the start of a race. If you’ve never had the pleasure, it’s exactly what you think — a pen that helps organize thousands of runners (in this case 40,000) into pace groups, so as to not trample one another as we race 13.1 or 26.2 miles into the heart of Las Vegas and back again.
I have been in a lot of corrals. I have never been as nervous to be corralled as I was last Sunday night. I stood shoulder to shoulder with thousands of runners, tall fencing on either side of us, with seemingly no way out if “something” happened.
The armed police officers, sniper lookouts and helicopters that seemed to pass within mere feet of the start line structure were a constant reminder that “something” could in fact happen and, that something horrific did just happen. And just a mile down the road.
THE EARLY MILES
The first four miles were quiet by design. For a Rock N Roll Marathon in one of the loudest cities in the country, the silence was deafening.
As I looked to my left, after turning around at mile two and heading back toward the strip, I saw one of the most stunning sunsets I have ever seen. The pinks and oranges and yellows highlighted the desert mountains giving them the appearance of chiseled stone. The silhouette that was created looked other worldly, especially to this girl from the northeast who knows almost nothing of desert life. It was surreal.
As if that was not enough to send chills running up and down my body and the hairs stand up on the back of my neck, we were also running by the airport and gigantic 747s were screaming overhead, their massive underbellies gliding over us like huge thunderclouds. Some runners waved or simply reached up, almost trying to touch them.
We knew we were a part of something so much bigger than ourselves and of any race, and there was an undercurrent of electricty.
Down this same stretch were several matching billboards that served as reminders:
It was all I could do to keep my shit together.
Have you ever started to cry when running? It’s hard to breathe.
For those miles, it was hard to breathe.
THE PARTY MILES
As the sun made its final descent behind the mountains, the lights started to come up and you could hear the roar of the crowd waiting ahead, in the heart of the strip.
I wasn’t sure if my people would be outside cheering or inside losing money at the tables so I had one eye on the lookout.
It paid off…
I don’t think my family and friends know what a huge lift it is to see them on the course, even for only a few moments. My pace soared afterward and I had a physical and mental boost after seeing my husband, BIL and SIL laughing and cheering and really just being there for me. It was awesome.
What else can I say? Running down the strip at night is everything you think it would be — beautiful, exciting, interesting and inspiring!
After we circled into and out of old Vegas for miles 8-10, I started to head directly into the pain cave.
My goal for this race was to have fun but I also wanted to at least hit my time goal from last year (1:39) or, better yet, beat it. The issue was I didn’t really pay attention to my pacing and I never looked at my watch so I had no clue how fast (or slow) I was going until it was too late.
This is what your pacing looks like when you run on emotion:
The above is basically how not to pace a half marathon but let’s see what happened…
THE FINAL MILES
Like I said, I was deep into the pain cave and part of me was wondering why I cared so much? I could have easily slowed down and enjoyed the bands and other runners. I could have walked myself right out of the pain cave at any time.
But I didn’t.
I remembered what Laura did at the Richmond marathon last week when she crushed a new marathon PR. She said she gave herself a pep talk and dug a little deeper. Now, I wasn’t running as fast as Laura (sub 3:20 marathon!) and I wasn’t running a PR by any stretch but, when you get to be 42 and you’re struggling with setting new goals, you chase down a course PR like you’re goddamn Shalane Flanagan!
Throughout mile 12 I repeated to myself “there is only mile 12!” I refused to think about how many miles I had run or how many there were to go — there was ONLY MILE 12.
And mile 12 was a bitch.
The cruel thing about racing in Las Vegas is you can see the Mirage hotel, where the finish line is, for literally two miles. Think about that. You can see the finish line for two miles or, in my case, for about 15 minutes of pain. That is a long ass time. But I did it.
I won the mental battle.
I screamed “Fuck yes!” to the announcer just before crossing (who looked at me like I was insane for celebrating 48th place) and owned my one minute PR! BOOM!
And yes, I came in 48th out of 11,842. You do the math. < – – because I can’t!
THE AFTER PARTY
Obviously this is what it’s all about. I had planned ahead (because that’s what I do) and bought a perfect bath bomb at Lush to drop in my tub in the hotel room post race. I drew a deep bath and sat in it for as long as I could before Giada’s was calling my stomach.
Speaking of, my stomach felt awful for about an hour afterward but a nice glass of Etude Pinot Noir calmed it right down…that and a ton of tapas, some tortellini and chocolate tiramisu.
Lastly I really want to say a huge thank you to the Las Vegas police department, the Rock and Roll Marathon race directors, employees and all the volunteers for making this a first class race that was safe, supported and fantastic. I cannot fathom how you all pulled it off in the wake of the tragedy that took place just a month prior, but you did it and did it well. I am grateful and humbled.
Most of all, I feel VEGAS STRONG!
*please scroll for the visual*
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How do you feel?
Do you have a favorite place in Las Vegas?
How badly do you want to run this next year with me?