Things have been a little crazy this week, so I'm just now getting a chance write about the Vegas Half Marathon. Don't mistake my delay as a lack of enthusiasm about the race. If you have heard anything about the Vegas Marathon from years past, it might not apply any longer. This was only the second year of the new course and date, and the first year for Vegas as part of the Rock 'n Roll series.
With both the half and the full starting together at 6:15 a.m., Mike and I were up at before 4:00. My eye will still swollen from the Santa fluff incident from the day before, but I could at least see out of it and my nose wasn't running. I looked terrible but it wouldn't effect my race. Because I had broken my camera, there was no decision to make as to whether to bring it. I would just run with my race belt and some throw away clothes. We boarded the monorail at 4:45 and headed down the strip.
I'll go ahead and get my only complaint about the race logistics out of the way at the beginning. This race was conducted with a minimum of volunteers. Organizers certainly planned for this situation. The bag drop was in the same location as the bag pick-up after the race. Large tables with cups stacked three levels high were at every water stop, but there were few people actually handing them to you. The GU's at the GU stop were just sitting out on tables. After the race, you were handed a medal in the package instead of having a volunteer put it over your head. None of these things were incredibly inconvenient or effected my race, it was just something that I noticed.
The star of this race is the course. The race starts at the very south end of the strip outside of Mandalay Bay. After a short trip south, the course takes a u-turn and heads straight down Las Vegas Blvd. The strip is completely shut down for the race. Not only was it a heck of a lot of fun to run down the strip as the sun came up, but the road is completely flat. There is not a single rise of any kind for the complete 13.1 miles. After running past all of the casinos, all the way down to the Sahara and into a little residential area, a four point turn sends everyone back down the strip on the other side of the road. Marathoners turn off at 10.5 miles, but us lucky half marathoners continued back to Mandalay Bay. With few turns and no hills, this has to be one of the fastest half marathon courses out there.
The weather was perfect for running with temps in the mid thirties and virtually no wind. With 17,800 half marathoners and 5,800 marathoners, the start was very crowded. Everyone was assigned a corral and they tried to stagger the crowd out by pausing people at the start line. I decided not to try and weave around people and just take the first mile slow. After a 10:52 first mile, I was able to pick it up a little bit and get into a groove. By mile 4, I was running 9:35 pretty consistently and was feeling great.
This was my fourth half marathon and my time was my second fastest. I finished in 2:09:45 which was well under my goal of 2:15. This race was by far my favorite half marathon. My PR is from a race that I truly suffered the whole race and was sick at the finish. During the other two half marathons I was in pain from IT band issues. This race was completely different. I started easy and slowly picked it up. The course was easy and fun. I felt like I was truly running and not just shuffling along. I felt good throughout all 13.1 miles and was never in any pain. What a blast.
Since I signed up for this race just for fun, I didn't have any expectations other than to just have a good time. I certainly didn't plan on having any epiphanies, but that is kind of what happened. Having such a great day has redirected the way that I think about my body. Before I started running seriously a few years ago, I was pretty happy with my body. I don't mean the physical attractiveness of it, I mean the actual functionality of it. I've always been active and played sports, and my body never let me down. I had skied, hiked, swam and pretty much done whatever I wanted.
With running more miles, my body started to fail me. I got injured. I looked around at my peers and realized that they were more gifted, that they had been given better functioning bodies to work with. I was perturbed that my mind and personality was that of a runner but that my body just couldn't take me where I wanted to go. It didn't seem fair that I could work as hard as someone else but that I was somehow stuck running a 10 minute mile.
Running down Las Vegas Boulevard with the sun rising, I felt like I was flying. I know that others saw a middle aged, shuffling woman, but to me it felt like my legs were striding out and I was moving gracefully. I was truly thankful for this body and what it has allowed me to do. It may not be perfect, but I should appreciate it and treat it with more respect than I have in the last couple of years. So at the end, when I crossed the finish line with a big smile and in no pain, I was thankful and I will try to remain thankful for what I have, flaws and all.