The first 32 years of my life was spent as a couch potato. I smoked off and on for 15 years, didn’t give a second thought to my health, and was overweight (my max was about 175 lbs.). I spent years yo-yo dieting and always ended up right back where I started from. In 2006, I finally had an epiphany and made a total lifestyle change, quit smoking for good and started training for 5K and 10K races, built up to a Half Marathon in 2007 and trained for my first Marathon.
I was digging through my old archives and found the race report from my first Marathon: The Las Vegas Marathon, 2007 and thought it would be fun to share it here. This was written right after the race and I am posting here complete and unedited. Enjoy!
As long as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to run a marathon. It was one of those “things to do once before I die” goals. I had decided to finally do it and before I knew it, training season was over and I found myself on a chilly Sunday morning in December, standing at the start line of the Las Vegas Marathon amidst a sea of 17,000 other runners and walkers waiting to take off down the Las Vegas Strip.
My two friends were with me: Susan and Julie. Both of them I had met on the online Rookie Running team. I’d never met either one of them in person before but we hit it off immediately and soon it was as if I had known them forever. I couldn’t find my local training group, but that was okay. I wanted to start the race with my two friends, and at the back of the pack to avoid being overtaken by thousands of very excited and faster runners behind me. We weren’t in a hurry. This was our first marathon and our main goal was to finish. Besides, Julie had been sick and I was worried we would run out of steam if we took off too fast.
Somewhere up ahead I saw fireworks going off and knew the race had started. We hadn’t moved yet, and wouldn’t for another 15 minutes. I looked around at nervous and excited faces all around me. The feeling started to sink in. Wow! I’m about to run a marathon! Elvis was singing ‘Viva Las Vegas’ over the loudspeakers and I was singing my own words to it and swaying to the music. Then I spotted Elvis in the crowd. And there he was again! And I spotted another one…this time a female Elvis. I smiled at her. I also noticed several other colorful characters. Several couples were dressed in wedding/running attire including a man in white with a wedding veil and tutu, and another man with a tuxedo jacket with shorts and running shoes! His soon-to-be wife was grinning beside him. The masses started shuffling toward their fate. Finally we got to the start line and WE WERE OFF!
Running the strip was cool, even for a local gal like me. It’s not very often, as Julie pointed out, that you get the “whole strip to yourself”. I could tell she was excited. I played tour guide as we ran and was surprised at how much had changed since the last time I had been three. Several historic hotels had been leveled and were being cleared away to make room for the new generation of high rise condos. Julie and I had to keep reminding ourselves to slow down and conserve energy. It was hard to do. We kept a brisk pace at about 11:30 min/mile. It felt comfortable and yet energizing at the same time.
Susan eventually found her own pace and disappeared into the crowd ahead. She was running the ½ marathon. I wasn’t worried about her. We had driven the course the night before and she knew where she was going. I said a silent goodbye to her and wished her luck.
About mile 3, we discovered the Blue Man Group’s “secret location.” I guess it’s hard to stay hidden when you’re painted blue and banging away madly on drums. My pace naturally matched up with the drumming and the cheering of spectators. It was surreal.
We passed the 4 mile mark. There was a group of couples gathering at the “Run-through wedding chapel” waiting for the ceremony to begin. There was a separate line reserved for the Elvi. The volunteers at the water stop were handing out wedding cake to the runners. Only in Vegas!
A majority of the runners turned off where the ½ marathon and marathon split. A part of me wanted to go with them, but a bigger part kept me on the path for the full marathon. At this point I started questioning my level of sanity. Someone had told me once that the ½ marathoners were only ½ crazy. I realized it was too late to turn back and felt a surge of excitement and fear.
The Strip gradually gave way to downtown, and the ambiance changed dramatically. The homeless became spectators for the day as we invaded their territory. They seemed entertained and some of them were cheering and waving at the runners. Fremont Street was quiet except for a small cheering section. It seemed empty without the lighted canopy, the music and crowd of drunken tourists that usually gather at night. I was expecting more, somehow.
Julie and I started adding more walk breaks as the adrenaline started to wear off and the reality began to set in. The topic of conversation became more focused on calculating speed and distance and ETA to the finish line. We were approaching mile 10 and starting to tire.
At mile 10, Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ on a Prayer” was being played over a loudspeaker. To the lyrics “Whoa…you’re halfway there,” Julie replied, “no we’re not! This is only mile 10!” They shouldn’t tease us like that! A male runner was apparently unable or unwilling to wait for the next Porta-potty and was relieving himself in his Gatorade cup…right in the middle of the street! I thought I saw Elvis up ahead and wondered if that meant I was dead or just running the Las Vegas Marathon. It was hard not to laugh.
The miles started to blend together and we trudged past several more without incident; running some, walking more and just focused on our goal to keep pushing along. My boss showed up at the halfway mark and that broke up part of the monotony. So did chatting with some of the wedding couples.
Finally, the much anticipated mile 20 was looming into view. The race organizers had set up an archway that looked like a brick wall for the runners to run through—cute. I pictured myself literally running into the wall and leaving a Korie-shaped hole like in the cartoons. Instead, I just ran up and punched it with my fist. “There,” I said. “I hit the wall.” Julie replied, “yeah. You show that wall who’s boss!” A very excited coworker of mine was also there with signs. She said we inspired her to do it next year. That helped boost our spirits a little. I gave her a hug and thanked her for coming.
The last 6.2 miles…well…sucked! They re-opened the streets to traffic and banished us to the sidewalk. We had to stop and wait at traffic lights and no longer had the right of way. People were packing up the water stations and leaving. The entertainment was gone. We had been running and walking for 5 hours and were quite sick and tired of it. Julie was having a bit of trouble breathing and each step was getting more painful for both of us. I could not wait to get it over with already! I could see where the finish line should be up ahead and it seemed elusive and unattainable. Quitting wasn’t an option, so we just kept walking and seemed to get slower and slower. Finally, at about a mile and a half to go, Julie spotted her husband. He had gotten worried and walked back to meet us. He assured us that the finish line was just past the next building and around the corner. It still seemed so far away!
When we finally got there, the finish line was an awesome sight! Our families were there along with Susan and had been waiting for a while. Most of the other people had gone home and the party was over. Julie and I didn’t care. We were just happy to do it and to do it together! We earned our “bling” and will remember this experience always with a smile.
My first marathon is now just a memory locked in cyberspace. It was unique to me, although shared with 17,000 strangers and a few good friends. It was an awesome and humbling experience that I really can’t compare to any other I’ve had. As for running the marathon once before I die…I’m as alive as ever and I can’t wait to do it again! Our official finishing time of 6:38:38 was slower than expected but I’m okay with it. It’s much less important than the fact that WE DID IT!