Race day. And for the better part of the morning I stayed off my feet and hid myself away in my hotel room. Karin took transit North to some kind of outlet mall, but after venturing out for another quick breakfast, I promptly put my pajamas back on and curled up on the bed to watch some television and rest up for the evening’s race.
Upon Karin’s return, we hit up one of the Treasure Island lobby restaurants for a quick lunch, then sauntered back to the room to get ready. So many runners were wandering around already wearing their gear and numbers and it just seemed like it might be a good idea to prepare and move south to the assembly area sooner than later.
There is not much to tell about that walk. We strolled our way in and out of various hotels, stopping to check out the various holiday displays we’d missed on previous strolls. We stopped frequently for breaks and to gaze at the crowds.
As we reached the Southerly end of the strip, right near the Excalabur Hotel, we paused for a good half an hour on the pedestrian bridge over Las Vegas Boulevard. The full marathon was starting and a crowd had gathered, noses pressed to the one side of the wire fence. I grabbed a small patch of space between some eager onlookers and was able to capture some snaps and some video of the leaders pulling into (roughly) the fourth kilometer of their race. They were moving at a good clip and still looking strong, egging the crowd into cheering them on.
We moved on after the first big waves of runners turned into a steady rush.
So much of what happened between lacing up my shoes and slipping them off five hours later in our hotel room is a blur that it’s tough to put it down as a cohesive narrative here.
The race was staged as a snaking ribbon of people stretching from the start line back for over a kilometer of page-grouped corrals. I had seeded myself at a guessed time (I registered before I ran my previous half in August) of 2:10. This put me in corral 14, so I’m guessing a good four to six thousand runners back in the pack. Maybe more. Maybe less. But there was a lot of distance and a lot of bodies between me and the start line, and we were packed in pretty tight.
The sun set. The wind picked up. People’s hats were blowing off. Fences were tumbling around. A small branch blew loose from a nearby palm tree and hit some poor guy on the head. Not much I could do, but I could imagine something like that — those little things — could throw a guy off in the minutes before the race.
There were brides-to-be everywhere too. Run-through-weddings were apparently the thing to do this year. And after we’d eventually start I’d do my share of dodging happy couples and various wedding parties strung across the race path.
The first few waves took off right on schedule and we could sort of hear something going on way ahead. It would take another twenty-one minutes and a series of successive “move-ups” lead by a couple gals with signs and ropes before we reached our turn. They were counting down for each corral: 10… 9… 8…
It was about here that I realized that standing in a queue for about 45 minutes coupled with the long walk and the extra hydration I had been doing that (and my apologies for the detail, but…) I was going to need to pee soon: 4… 3… 2…
I had my finger on the button of my watch, my video camera secured tightly around my wrist, and … 1… GO!
The Las Vegas Half Marathon
And here is where things get hazy, and all I can offer is some vague impressions:
… thousands upon thousands of people moving forward into the night in a mass wave of movement and spirit.
… the wind, the noise, the music, and the lights.
… stopping for that two minute bathroom break at around the five kilometer mark (because I just couldn’t hold it until the next opportunity.)
… coincidentally passing the finish line (on the opposite side of the road) just as the first place marathoner was making his final dash to the line.
… the streets sticky, tacky, clumsy, and wet with Gatorade.
… the guy who patted me on the back during one of my intervals wondering if I was doing ok because I wasn’t quite moving quick enough.
… more lights, more people, more noise.
… the Def Leppard cover band playing at the gates of Freemont Street and the fire-breathing giant grasshopper nearby.
… dodging and whirling, sidestepping, and trying to keep a decent pace in an unrelenting wave of people, more people, and even more people.
… so many people giving up so close to the finish line, or at least stopping to rest or stretch or massage a knot out of their muscles.
… the growing crowds, cheering and shouting words of encouragement in the last miles of the race.
… the lights and neon as we re-entered the strip, passing the pirate ships and volcanos and fountains and…
… the countless photographers flashing pics and and capturing moments from the blur of people.
…crossing the finish line, throwing my hands into the air in triumph, and then…
Karin had seen me cross the line and flagged me down as I was stumbling forward through the chute picking up the post-race swag and food. I got a medal and a couple victory photos. I chugged a whole bottle of water and a chocolate milk for good measure. Somewhere in there I ate something, too, but that’s all a little hazy.
The chute was a good kilometer long: logistically smart, but it led me in the wrong direction for four city blocks before I could escape back into the reality of the muggles and the crowd. And I sauntered back, wrapped in my free mylar blanket, never actually finding my wife until we met up again the hotel room.
By this point it seemed impossibly late, but it was just barely past eight: so we did dinner, had a drink in the hotel bar, and… well… that was that.
In the end, my time was a modest 2:12. Nine minutes slower than my summer half marathon, but given the crowds, the congestion, and the vacation around which this whole thing was wrapped… well, I was pretty happy.