Running down the Las Vegas strip at night sounded amusing so when my sister, Susan Ibach, suggested we run the half at Rock and Roll Las Vegas Marathon I jumped on a plane, which sat on the tarmac for 90 minutes, and eventually took us to Las Vegas.
We landed Friday and went to the expo which was fairly large and spacious. It also had an above average number of strange places to have your photo taken. It is obvious from the start that this is intended to be a party race.
The race starts at 4:30pm, right around sunset. I found running that time of day difficult. It put my whole pre-race routine off and in retrospect I should have tried harder to reproduce it. Normally I get up, have one cup of coffee and a bowl of apple cinnamon oatmeal made by adding hot water from the in room coffee maker to instant oatmeal in a paper coffee cup. On a good day I remember to lift a plastic spoon from a fast food restaurant the day before, but in emergencies I have managed to eat it with a stir stick! I digress…the oatmeal probably did not matter but the coffee might have been a good idea.
The race starts across the street from the Mandalay Bay at the far end of the “New” strip. With the new security measures post Boston 2013 the entire area around the start was a secure runners only zone. In keeping with the theme it was dominated by a band, part of the pre-race party. The band may have been good but the sound system was not it was noise not music.
Susan and I tried to warm up pre-race but there was not really anywhere to do it. We ended up running loops around the port-a-potte lines which were very long. The race features a run through wedding option and we watched as 50-100 couples dressed in various run wedding clothing made their way to the start line. We also encountered a remarkable number of Elvis’ some of whom could run quite fast.
I started in the first coral which was a bonus. There were a fair number of people in the first the coral who should not have been there but it still allowed me to get a relatively clean start. There were two Elvis’ in the front coral, they both belonged there and at least one of them finished ahead of me.
Before the gun went off, the run though couples were joined in holy matrimony in front of the start line. Once the deed was done we were off and running. The water stations were about 1 ½ miles apart. A little longer than I like but doable. At the first water station I discovered that I had made a rookie mistake. The route map showed water and Gatorade stations at each point, but I missed the fine print where it said that Gatorade was only available at every other water station. Through many years of running I have developed a nutrition system which relies heavily on Gatorade at EVERY water station. So I should have read the fine print! My impression as I ran through the first water station was that they were understaffed. OK if you are at the front but an issue if you are not. I later confirmed that the 2 hour plus runners definitely had issues. Lesson learned you may need to carry water for this race.
Running down the strip was cool. The whole of Las Vegas Blvd was closed for the race. We ran past the Venetan with it’s gondolas, Paris, New York- New York, Treasure Island and the volcanoes. There were lots of people cheering us on and the race lived up to its name with good bands along the route the best of which was the Kiss tribute band. Once the race passes the main part of the new strip things get a little quieter but the road was still well lit and although the area was a little rougher the spectators were encouraging. Even the guy who yelled that we were crazy and we should just come in and have a drink.
When the race hits the old strip the full marathon goes through the cool part of Freemont the half does not it’s a small section of the race but it was dark and the few added lights were a bit blinding. The race turns back to the new strip from there. Like the Citgo sign in Boston you can see the Stratosphere for a long time and it never seems to get closer. The race ends with a spectacular finish by Caesars Palace and the recovery area is right in front of the Bellagio fountains an outstanding spot to hang out with a different show every 15 minutes.
I had a great trip, and I met some great people (Christopher and Karin Harrison) but I had a tough race. It felt bad from the beginning and it never really got better. I suspect it was a combination of factors not the least of which was having a good day at the Chicago Marathon 4 weeks earlier. I really don’t recover from races like I did when I was younger and it’s a lesson I’m still learning. I was in much worse shape than I should have been post-race. Having said all that I did place 2nd in my age group but my time was slower than my time for the first half of the Chicago Marathon. I am glad I did it, it was fun. I probably would not do it again. But if you are looking for a party atmosphere this is the place, lots of distractions along the course, the course logistics are good and Susan got a PB! A little more Gatorade would go a long way, for me anyway.