There’s only 2 times per year when the city of Las Vegas allows the strip to be blocked off to traffic, 1 of those is New Years, and the other? The Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon!
I’ll be the first to tell you that Rock ‘n’ Roll running events are the most exciting and well run races you can find, and when I saw that they were offering a marathon on the Vegas strip at night, I almost lost all my sensibility! My excitement grew dull as soon as I saw the date of the event, November 11th. This posed a big problem for me as I was set to run the Two Cities Half Marathon the Sunday before. After saying to myself, “YOLO”, I signed up. My thought was, I’m definitely running for a PR at the half marathon, worse case scenario I’ll be sore for the Vegas marathon, and if so, I can just hobby jog that damn course. I knew that the regret of missing such an epic event would hurt more than running 26.2 miles on sore legs.
From the moment I arrived at the Fresno airport I began seeing an abnormally high volume of people who resemble runners, it was like we were all flocking back to the motherland. From there the runner to normal person ratio only grew. As soon as we got to the Vegas strip it was quite clear, on this weekend, Vegas belonged to runners. Everywhere you went up and down the strip you could find the comforting site of people in running shoes and other apparel that only an avid runner would be walking around Vegas in. After all, there was 40,000 runners in attendance, I was bound to be mingling amongst my type.
Also, arriving on the Saturday before a race that starts at 4pm on Sunday in Vegas brings its own challenges. Like for instance, using every ounce of strength I had not to overly drink any and all alcohol. No way in hell was I not going to to drink completely, but avoiding the typical drinkathon took serious willpower.
Coming downstairs from the hotel you’re hit with an eerie sight, no traffic whatsoever, and a fenced off Las Vegas Blvd. At this point, nothing can curb your excitement….. except, you now have to shuffle around the sidewalks with limited access for crossing streets. I mean what can you expect from a weekend crowd in Vegas plus 40,000 extra people. Despite the insane crowd, the pre-race festival was awesome and the concert featured the headliner, Capital Cities. Going into this concert I only knew one song by the group “Safe and Sound”, the same can probably be said by most people. To my surprise, the group had a lot of great sounds and they perform extremely well live, it was a blast!
Fast forward to 4pm, it was now time to walk to my corral and embrace the nerves as they began ramping up. Here we are, standing in the middle of Las Vegas Blvd., massive crowds cheering and watching, this was the most exciting and lively start line experience I’ve been a part of. As we near the start of the marathon I decided to look for the 3:45 pacer, after all based on my training for the previous half marathon and my VO2 max, a 3:45 should be very doable.
I find my pace group and the event begins, the elite have left the start line and shortly after, corral 2 was being sent on their way. Next up, my corral. The gun fires and we’re off! We start off around an 8’45” pace and I’m feeling good, taking in all the amazing sights and absorbing the abundant energy from the crowds. At some point, probably around mile 6 the sun went down and all the glory of the Vegas strip was shining brightly for our personal enjoyment.
Here I am taking in all of this, hanging in there with my group, nothing can go wrong for me now. And then, mile 11 shows up, my old friend mile 11. In all races so far, the 11th mile is where my leg muscles begin to lose their strength and endurance. At this point I’m still determined to finish the race in under 4 hours and I fought with everything I had to stick with my pace group. My fight didn’t last long, just shy of mile 13 I could no longer keep up the pace, I had to turn back the dial a bit in order to keep moving. Slowly I watch as my group gains distance on me, and after a half mile of this I fully hit the wall and give up the fight. I’m at mile 13 and I’m now walking. My goal at this point is to ensure I don’t stop at all and run as much as I can, the new time goal, sub 5 hours.
Now that I’m alternating walking and running, I’m feeling good and confident I can sustain this method throughout the second half of the race. Now that I had a solid game plan, I could relax my mind and I reminded myself to keep my eyes up and enjoying every moment. Even off of the strip there were interesting sights, mile 15ish we saw a very interesting Cleveland Clinic building and 16-18 we were at some farmers market area turned into an EDC style outdoor rave.
In all marathons you get to certain sectors where there’s no visual stimulation and you have to be self motivated, and in Vegas that didn’t seem to exist, but of course I was wrong. Around mile 20 we get diverted off the strip into a fairgrounds area that appeared to be an area we would circle around and come back out of. Of course I was wrong about this too, we zig zagged and looped around in that damn area for about 2 miles, it seemed never ending, and at times I looked around just to make sure I was actually still on the course. Once this maze was over, we were back on the strip with the Stratosphere just ahead and we were headed to the finish line near the Mirage. All the pain from the previous 20+ miles was fully set in and every step hurt, but, we were back with the crowds and lights and nothing could break the joy I was feeling.
Here it is, the finish line. I brought it home successfully, 26.6mi in 4:52:11 (or 4:46 in 26.2). All of my hard work paid off and even though I didn’t meet my original goal of sub 4 hrs I did however chop 2 hours off my my first/previous marathon, I couldn’t feel anything but excitement about this.
For anyone who remotely enjoys running what so ever, this is an absolute must attend event. The entire strip is ran in the half marathon, so that’s all you need to do for the full experience, although I’m partial to doing the full thing. Due to the popularity, the entire event weekend is a bit hectic, but despite that I know for sure I’ll run this course again. I doubt I’ll run this every year because this is not a cheap weekend if you plan to enjoy the strip while you’re there. If you haven’t run this course, you really need to consider signing up for the next one, it’s an experience you can’t get anywhere else.