My wonderful wife Kirsty joined me in Las Vegas and took on the half marathon. That means I’m able to cover every event, here is her account:
Many of those reading this will be aware of the background to me running the Las Vegas Rock n Roll half marathon, but for those who don’t here is a brief summary. My husband (pick up the pace Paul) entered and won a competition, with the prize being a trip for the winner and their ‘favourite running buddy’ to go to Las Vegas and run either the marathon or the half. Paul won, and of course he had no choice but to take me! Unfortunately I had taken a break from running in the months before this, last running a half in March 2017. So when he won I had no time to train! ‘Nevermind’ I thought, ‘no way I’m missing out and I can do anything for the awesome experience of going to and running in Vegas’.
As the date drew nearer I went for a 5k run on the treadmill and the next day I ACHED. It was at that point i thought maybe I wouldn’t manage to do the distance, but I put the thought to the back of my mind- you can do anything if you put your mind to it, right? Life is so busy with two small kids and a full time job, add in my addiction to Zumba and the need to pack for the holiday and I had no time for any more running. I tried to put it to the back of my mind but secretly my stomach churned when I thought about running a half marathon on no training whatsoever.
When we got to Vegas I knew I had made the right decision to take on this amazing challenge, as the experiences in Vegas more than made up for any pain I was going to endure. The spectacular views of the Vegas strip at night reassured me that even if I had to crawl the second half I was doing it in an awesome location with plenty to see. Those of you who have been to Vegas will know what I mean; it’s so in your face and extravagant!
I won’t go into great detail about what we did in Vegas, as hubby has covered that HERE. But we had a fabulous few days in the run up to the Sunday race day, although our food choices could have been better; a whole load of grease and fatty foods does not lend itself to a healthy running tummy!! So on race day I was not feeling in peak condition- training done? Nope. Appropriate pre-race nutrition? Nope! Bucket load of enthusiasm and excitement? YES!! The expo was key for me, seeing all the other runners, the buzz, the music, the race t-shirt- it has an amazing impact on focusing your mind, and when I saw that you got chocolate milk at the finish line I was sold!
Race day arrived and I was a bit thrown- I’d never done an evening event, I was used to getting up, having porridge and getting going.. so what to you do when you are in Vegas and have a whole day to entertain the Kids before the run?! We ended up walking MILES. And my pre race nutrition was.. McDonald’s! Once the nanny arrived (she was VERY late and I was pacing the hotel room like a lunatic) hubby and I had to run all the way through the hotel (they are MASSIVE in vegas) as we had people waiting to take a taxi with us. Ideal start to the run hey!! A crazy warm up session through a casino.
The event village set up was a confusing mess in all honesty.. it’s a huge race and there were inconsistencies between information published in advance and the set up on the day. We flung our gear bags into the bag drop off van as the shutter was being pulled down, as we spent ages trying to find where we were meant to drop off. It was probably a clearer set up for most runners but our VIP bands gave us additional perks which only ended up complicating matters. The VIP area was impressive though, free food and drink (including alcohol?! Pre race! Can’t say I wasn’t tempted in the hope it would calm my nerves but I resisted). Unfortunately due to our late arrival and bag drop confusion we had no time to enjoy the VIP area pre-race and headed off to our pens.
Again, more confusion with no marshals guiding you. Only for another runner spotting my bib colour, I almost started a million pens behind where I should have been! Found my pen eventually but was squashed like a sardine. They started in waves within each pen, with everyone moving forward until being told to stop. I wiggled forward to ensure I was at the back of a wave as I didn’t fancy being run over by everyone at the start given that everyone was in the wrong pens. I could see lots of people around me who should have been way ahead so I hung back intentionally. The race began with lots of encouragement, fireworks and cheering, and immediately I felt the buzz I got when I used to run halfs. The atmosphere was unlike any halfs I’ve done before, the majority of people were wearing some sort of fancy dress/ costume and a lot of people were running in pairs or groups. It actually felt akin to London marathon which I ran in 2015.. there were some more parts that felt like VLM but we will come back to that later!
A couple of miles in I did the obligatory toilet break, after having two kids my bladder is not my strongest organ and with Vegas being so warm I had probably overdone the water consumption. Plenty of toilets on course meant the queue was not TOO ridiculous but it still set me back a while. For once though, I didn’t care! The one thing I knew when embarking on this event was that my goal was to finish even if it took 5 hours.
The course is a fairly clear loop, down the strip until there are no more hotels, turn around and run down the other side of the road until you get off the strip the other end and into downtown Vegas where you eventually find the turn around and head back to the chocolate milk finish line. Sounds so easy when I write it down! The main strip is the best part of the run, lots of crowd support and a buzzing atmosphere. The hotels are all so huge and well lit that you can see them a mile off. No, sorry make that 3 miles off! It’s quite disorientating running along thinking you aren’t far from a landmark and five minutes later feeling you are no closer.
A few photo stops helped break up this part, although it’s hard to get photos in the dark! I stopped to pay my respects to the victims of the recent shooting that happened by Mandalay Bay hotel, took some photos for other people and generally soaked up the electric atmosphere.
I felt great! Why was I worrying about running, I was taking it easy and I was enjoying myself! Until.. mile 8.
I think mile 8 was when the fun hotels, crowd support and buzz eased off and I was heading into downtown Vegas. The atmosphere definitely changed and this part of the course felt SO HARD. I had spent the run in a back and forth race with a lady in a tutu and I lost her at mile 6.. I do wonder if that contributed to me losing motivation as I do love spotting the same person and taking it in turns to overtake eachother. Even better when you realise they aren’t playing the game and they don’t even know you are there! So anyway losing tutu girl allowed my focus to wander and I started feeling like my legs might fall off at mile 8. Every step felt so hard and I had to find myself another person to race. Pink top girl became my target but at mile 10 she lost me! Somewhere after mile 8 I went over on my ankle and had pain in my foot which allowed me to give in to my inner voice telling me to stop trying to run and just walk. I spent more of the second half walking than running, and although I appreciated getting to see downtown Vegas I found it difficult to stay motivated as there was no crowd support and it was dark and, frankly, boring when compared with the run along the strip. On reflection I wish the run had been reversed as the hardest last miles along the strip would have been far more manageable and fun!
I appreciated the provision of a gel at approx mile 10 as I was started to feel a bit dizzy, something I haven’t experienced during a race before. This continued to happen each time I tried running so I decided not to push it. Vegas half attracts so many people who are new to running and it’s the first half ever for a lot of entrants, so I was in good company walking with many others to the finish line. In any other race I would have felt a failure to have walked a good part of the run but as I was untrained I felt bloody proud I got to the end! Miles 10-13 the tears threatened to come and I had a flashback to mile22 of VLM where my legs felt like lead and I cried my eyes out. But just like in VLM I pulled myself together and made sure I ran over the finish line (ok I sprinted, somehow, much to the confusion of those around me who were hobbling as I had been moments before) and suddenly.. I was done. I got my medal and then felt like climbing the fence to get out as the funnel was SO LONG. When I finally reached the end, I felt glad I had a VIP wristband as my baggage van was a crawl away. I felt such massive relief that I had done it. And the medal is awesome! Now, three days on, I am basking in post race glory and not feeling ashamed to tell people I walked a lot of the second half. Most people wouldn’t be crazy enough to try a half on no training, so i’m proud of what I achieved. Back to my earlier point, if you put your mind to anything, you can achieve it. So if anyone wants me to run any more half marathons in exchange for a free holiday, I’m game!!