Last Sunday saw several members travel down to Leeds for the Abbey Dash and another group head west for the Brampton to Carlisle road race. But Danny Fletcher travelled slightly further afield for his running kicks – Viva Las Vegas!!
Rock n Roll Las Vegas Half-Marathon: Sunday 15th November 2015
I knew this wasn’t going to be your average run when I received the list of charities looking for sponsorship and one was to raise funds for retired porn stars. Only in Vegas.
The Vegas strip is only closed twice a year, on New Years Eve and for the Rock n Roll marathon/half marathon. It is a festival of music & running, and over one weekend races from 5K up to the full marathon take place. In the short time I have been running it has always been on my bucket list to take part in a running event in The US. I had planned to visit the west coast this year, and when I saw that this race was close to the original dates I had planned it took no persuasion to change my travel arrangements, although the same cant be said for the other half. Anyway, on with the report…….
The experience starts as soon as you get into Vegas, with posters welcoming runners and wishing them luck, and numerous video screens up and down the strip sharing the same message. I stayed in the MGM hotel and the famous lion was even wearing a medal proudly around its neck.
As with most US races I had to pick up my number from the race expo at the Vegas Convention Centre. This was a last minute dash as I didn’t arrive until late in the day and only had a short time to get there, which did work in my favour. I picked up my bag with my race number and my race shirt. I’m not sure how I feel about this, as this is something you should get for finishing the run, and come race day I saw a few people running in it. The expo was massive and there were stands giving out free samples and trying to sell their various wares. Being a Yorkshire man I love a bargain, and with the expo coming to an end a lot of vendors were selling things at massive discounts. I picked up a pair of Saucony Guide 8s for only £22. I’d only just bought a pair in England for over £70.
The race starts in the late afternoon, running in the dark to make the most of the neon lights of the strip. I prefer running later in the day, but have never raced at this time, so wasn’t sure what and when to eat. This coupled with worries about recent tummy troubles. Two days earlier I had spent most of my time running to and from the toilet after having Mexican food. Seeing plenty of runners queuing outside of the local breakfast diner, I decided to join them for a huge breakfast of pancakes, eggs, bacon and sausage. The breakfast of (fat) kings.
Before the race started there was a pre-race concert. Rap/Rock and multi-platinum artist Kid Rock played a show that really got the runners warmed up. I can’t say I’m his biggest fan but he was really good and I did find myself doing pre-race drills such as the ‘head bang’ and ‘metal sign’.
It was only a short walk from the stage to start area, with small gambling stations set up for attendees along the way. They had signs beside the tables telling you how to play craps and other card games. There were runners stretched out as far as the eye can see in their corrals ready for the race to start. It’s not as big as The Great North Run, but it’s not far off. I do know I had finished before some had even crossed the start line. Everything was done in the stereotypical American way, and everyone was all ‘high fives’. This was only stopped with for a touching minutes silence for the recent tragedies in France. We were then asked to remove our hats while Rodney Sheppard from the band Sugar Ray played The Star-Spangled Banner in the style Jimmy Hendrix made famous.
There were 40 start corrals in total and I was starting in corral 8, so I was over the start line very quickly. Due to the size of the event this suffered with the same problems as The Great North Run, runners who clearly place themselves in the wrong corral and are walking within the first mile, so you spend most of the run weaving in and out of other runners.
We started at the bottom of the strip and quickly ran past the famous ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign and then we ran slightly off the strip before we came back onto it. There had been weather warnings all day about the wind, and when we turned back onto the strip it really did hit you in the face. The highest recorded gust was 43mph. It really did feel like running on the quayside. The wind also brought us rain, but despite this the desert made my throat very dry. Because of the high winds we were told there would be no mile markers along the route, I only saw one at mile 11. Ordinarily I would find things like this annoying, but I wasn’t going to race this I was just going to enjoy the experience.
I ran in a small group with some of the Las Vegas Road Runners, a young girl from Mexico and a glamour model who looked great in lycra. Throughout the run we just talked among ourselves and looked slack jawed at all the amazing sights around us. The route took us past the fountain show at The Bellagio and the erupting volcano at The Mirage. The neon lights and video screens were everywhere and coupled with this there were stages all along the course with live bands playing. My highlight being the Kiss tribute act in full make up. The lights only really dimmed as we got towards the top end of the strip. This part of Vegas has its own little charm and we passed wedding chapels and strip clubs. We also passed the shop from the show Pawn stars.
We left the strip for approximately a mile to turn around. It was at this point when those running the marathon left the pack to head into the darkness for those extra miles. The strip really is the selling point of this race, and I haven’t heard good things about the marathon, with runners heading into the desert in the dark with little crowd support or entertainment. Because of the high winds people running the marathon at this point were given the option of sticking with the half marathon and cutting their run short. The wind really was battering us, and the course was littered with paper cups that had blown all over. I hate cups filled with water as it’s nigh on impossible to drink without waterboarding yourself, but if water bottles had been on the floor it would have been pretty dangerous.
At the top of the strip we came to the Freemont area and downtown, the area famous for the over the head light show before turning back to head back down the strip. More bands and DJs played for the runners. At points you did literally find yourself dancing, well as much as you can do when running.
The race flew by and before I knew it I saw the finish line at the Mirage. There aren’t many races, if any, that have an erupting volcano next to the finish line, coupled with fireworks and flames erupting from the line itself.
There were hugs all around at the end as we had the medals placed around our necks and cameras flashed in our faces. Those that had participated in other Rock n Roll races collected their extra medals. Those running in the 5k the night before were awarded a third medal, and those that had run numerous races throughout the year collected medals that wouldn’t have looked out of place around the neck of Mr T.
If you want to race this and will be at the front of the pack it really has great PB, or as the Americans would say ‘PR’ potential, but I think to race this would take away from the who experience. This report really cannot do this race any justice, it’s something you really need to experience with your eyes and ears.
I think a Tyne Bridge trip should be arranged sometime in the future.