Strip At Night Part 2

It was a good four miles or so to the start line at Mandalay Bay, but the strip was closed to all traffic at about two o’clock. That meant no transportation. It also meant a significant walk, just to get to the start line. I allowed myself a couple of hours for walking. It was an eerie sight to see the strip void of cars-eerie, but kind of cool. The walk however, was not that cool. 13 miles was a long way to run, and a four mile walk seemed to be a bit more than a warmup. Figuring Mandalay Bay was somewhere near the airport, I asked everyone I passed how far the airport was. The question was met with the same incredulous response. The airport? It was miles away. Lucky for me relief was in sight.

Going past the Mirage there were a few cops out on the street and I asked them my airport question. Same response. Fortunately there was a lady that said shuttles were running from the Mirage. There were, but the line was very long. But it was either that or a four mile jaunt to the start line. The shuttle line would have to suffice. The inch by inch shuffling seemed interminable, but eventually, finally, a shuttle was available. No time to spare either because the race was slated to begin in less than a half hour.

The scene was a little chaotic, with runners lined up and ready to go. The gear check was all the way at the back, and with 30,000 runners lined up, the back was quite a ways away. So far in fact, that the race began before I had a chance to check my gear. No problem though, with that many runners getting to the starting line would take some time anyway. Of course, gear check was late. I didn’t know what that meant, but-suddenly I saw the rude girl from the expo the night before. Great, late gear check and Miss Personality making sure my gear got to the finish line. No choice, the race had started. The runners in the back weren’t moving yet, so I had plenty of time to visit Andy Gump and work my way into the sea of people.

At least there was some entertainment while we waited to actually start the race. Music blared, and a couple of DJ’s did their best to keep us motivated. Some guy and a young lady counted down as each corral was turned loose. The gal had so much energy I was surprised she wasn’t running herself! She kept at least me motivated as we slowly shuffled along. So many people, with the lights the music the helicopters overhead, all with Mandalay Bay as a backdrop. Eh, so far, so good.

Finally my corral came to the front and the countdown began for us. The race was finally starting. It took nearly an hour to get to the start, but after the mini adventure it took just to get to the race, an hour was small potatoes. The start off was slow-very slow even with the staggered starts. I passed people where I could. That was a recurring theme: I would be passing runners the entire race. It had nothing to do with speed, and had more to do with people deciding to either walk, or run so slowly that they blocked the faster runners. It was a little annoying that those folks apparently didn’t understand the concept of corrals, but it was just a minor irritation. An irritation nonetheless.

After passing Mandalay Bay we doubled back down what seemed to be deserted road. Well, deserted except for 30,000 runners. still, it was full of potholes, and the lighting set up, presumably to help us see on that dark road just made things worse. The lighting was so bright that it was hard to see anything. Well, it was a dark road, and they did their best. After passing the spotlight, I was confident that I wouldn’t have to deal with anything like that again…

The problem at the 1/2 marathon in Los Angeles a few weeks earlier is that they did not have Gatorade at every stop. Well, maybe they didn’t need it at every stop, but what they did have was pretty sparse. It was no different at this race. I snapped at some kid in L.A., but held my tongue (for the most part) at this one. I asked for Gatorade at every water stop. Sometimes they had it, but more often than not, they didn’t. I felt pretty good anyway, and really didn’t need any as the most spectacular part of the race was coming up. The strip was closed for traffic, but was certainly open for business. Every hotel was lit up and as we ran down the middle of the road the true design of the strip came into view. This is what the designers envisioned. The strip as seen from the middle of the street. You just can’t take it all in while fighting traffic. This was the the way to see the majesty of the Las Vegas strip, and it would be a reason to do the race again. A spectacular view the way it was meant to be seen. To add to ambience, if there wasn’t a huge PA blaring music, there were live bands, just as loud, and just as motivating. The band with the female lead belting out a Billy Idol classic was rocking. The race was rocking. Yeah, this was all right.

Unfortunately, not all of Las Vegas looks like the strip. As the Stratosphere faded into the distance, the neighborhoods surrounding the strip area became apparent. Run down houses, pot hole chocked streets and an eerie darkness that was only broken by the strip lights that now seemed far away. Well, that and the spotlight that I thought was long gone miles back. It made the pot hole filled streets even more treacherous, and what’s more this one was set up in a residential neighborhood. The residents could not have been pleased. They certainly weren’t out cheering us on. I just followed the crowd, and finally we made it out of there and headed downtown.

We were welcomed downtown by a blast of flames from either a restaurant or one of the casinos. It was something I hadn’t seen before, and it was quite impressive. What other wonders would await us as we made our way into the downtown area? We never found out. The course routed us half-marathoners around and out of downtown almost as soon as we entered. It was a little disappointing, but at the same time, fatigue was just starting to set in, and in the bigger picture, just as well. The journey back was much like the journey there, only backwards. It seemed a like a slightly different route though. But with the fatigue setting in and a slight soreness in my left foot, it really didn’t matter. This was the let’s get this thing done part of the race.

Concentrate. Just several miles to go. All I had to do is-suddenly, 745291-1120-0011sI spotted him. Elvis himself. No Vegas trip would be complete without at least one Elvis sighting, and there he was in all his sequined glory. Thanks E, for giving us some motivation. He wasn’t the only one lending motivational support though. There was also a guy with a bullhorn telling all of us how great we were, and what a great thing we were doing. That guy was all right. There were even those that were using some pop psychology to try and help. One guy on the sidelines was calling out only two more miles! His partner next to him shattered that myth with he’s lying. It had to be somewhere near two miles though as we reapproached the Stratoshere.

As the strip came into view, my foot was really hurting now, and taking in the signts was giving way to the growing fatigue and foot pain that frankly, is part of any race this distance. Finishing the race makes it all worthwhile though, and the end was in sight. The crowds were building as the finish line got closer, and the lights and music all helped make the fatigue a little more manageable. There is a certain point when you know you gotthis thing, and that moment had arrived for me. After more than two hours of weaving my way through throngs of runners the finish line was in view, with blaring music, lights, and that same girl from the start line screaming out encouragement. Photographers dotted the way to the finish line, and I gave my best hands in the air victory pose as I crossed the finish line. Vegas at night. I was tired, my foot was very sore, but I was a winner. No, not the winner of the race, but a winner for setting my goal, and then executing. Would I do it again? There was no thought of that at that moment. What I wanted right then was a blanket and some water.

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