A MAGICAL PLACE: SIGGY

I had the viva for Las Vegas. The Sin City. The city that made me run with my heart inside of my feet.

The whole four days and five nights were being hyped around the Rock 'N' Roll Marathon or as Americans love to pronounce it:  Ma -ray- thon.  Flying out to Vegas with participants sporting their running trainers, a renewed passport, too many clothes and smiles on our faces. Ready, get set.

And I could totally relax - I had finally received the happiest news of the year, so far.  Days before my holiday had even made me feel high, I had completed my qualification and am now a Sports Massage therapist, Awesome!

Sprinting into the Expo running event to pick up our numbers on Saturday morning, everything all shiny and new and jet lagged, with the thought of running 13.1 miles, a first challenge for my legs!  I needed an (American) massage myself!  We strolled into an exciting new invention - the electric foam roller. For me, I know massage therapist hands are heaven, but this, this was magic. The entreprenour knew that I had to energise my running legs, so he worked on my piriformis. quads, gastrocnemius and soleus and I explained about my qualification. We collected one of his cards. Watch this space! 

We also gathered lots of freebees and went into another full robotic massage chair.  I was just spoilt with happiness! 

OK..The race !!! 

We took the Monorail from our hotel, the SLS,  to the MGM stop, near the start, I have never been so nervous with that feeling of having a food coma after banana pancakes (American style huge portions) and feeling a little sick with butterflies. We walked to where we needed to be following the hordes - too many people, with too many stretches and music, with the urge to pee,. Constantly!

We waited, finally being pushed into what felt like entering the film set for District 9. I was the baby alien, who doesn't have a clue what to say, how to feel. 

Toilets, trucks and runners everywhere. Finally handing over our bags was the moment when I could enjoy the butterflies and rock to Kid Rock. Yes, dancing to Kid Rock and watching him live is one of the best warm ups.

We walked some more, clock watched, looked around at the beautiful cool sunset and made a run face at the runners next to me, thinking of strategies! Did my stretches watching the drone take numerous pictures of us all.

We had an estimated time entered when we registered - we were not in the correct corral number! Mum insisted we were, but after the 10 second countdown we had to run like Simba in the Lion King, when the stampede happens! 

Then it felt like we were in an apocalypse - the entire Strip went earily quiet with no sound but feet pounding, people breathing and planes flying over our heads.

With my watch timed wrong (yes, in the excitment to run, I totally forgot to press the start button over the line) and no music, we turned around to then go back on the road parallel to where we started. This time I had to stay focused but all I could hear were the corral numbers being called out  until all 49 corrals and a total, 35,000 runners were on their way to do the whole or half marathons.

Suddenly I looked up and I could see The Strip all lit up, I felt as if I had won the lottery and found the shiny pot of gold. You know how everyone has that one song that is their mantra to run to? As we approached the lights, mine was the song from the Toys 'R' Us advert: 'There's a magical place' and magic happened after.

Lights, cameras, action occured - spectators cheering and people running anxlously across to get to the other side without getting flattened by the stampede. 

I could not stop smiling, the whole way.

I tagged this American, sweet home Alabama couple, who were looking steady, running at a very comfortable pace. I ran with them, as my knee was so painful, pounding and taking a beating along the road. I thought to myself, you've come this far, don't give up now! You're running in Las Vegas, Las Vegas!! Keep going, you got this! 

I heard a voice from a full marathon runner, explaining that I was 'over half way' which was encouraging as my watch wasn't set and there were no mile markers. Then I panned down The Strip and saw the Stratesphore, beaming.

Throughout my training, I used stratergies, both mentally and physically. One was to dig deep and push myself beyond my limits, much further out of my comfort zone. I needed to do this as, up till now, I had only ever run 10 miles and that wasn't even in a race day environment.

Easier said than done. But I just relaxed into the run.. This was until we steered off course, not running along The Strip anymore, but into the unknown of pitch black streets. There were no street lights, no spectators, the road was full of pot holes and American road bumps. I felt as if I'd run into a nightmare having to fight my darkest demons.  Fortunately, my Polar watch had night vision on, lighting up when I pressed it 

Suddenly, you could feel the ground shake, hear cheers and see  runners dance up ahead..The marshalls had set up a gigantic over the top speaker system, with polkadot lights which lit up in a variety of colours. There was a strong beat to get back in the zone with a commentator shouting out motivational, supportive mantra's.

Running around a sharp corner, I could see the much loved, famous tall, magical, glitzy buildings. The hyped buzz allowed me to pick up my pace, yet almost causing a head on collision with another runner who, without any consideration, stopped right in the middle of my track to take a photo of the awesome, beautiful scenery of The Strip lit up, He was like a moth to a flame! The photo must have been breathtaking (It did cross my mind, only for a split second, to take a similiar photo and asking him for a selfie with me).  Instead, I mumbled a colourful word running away pretty fast, in case he heard me. Sorry dude!

We diverted off into the unknown again with a hairpin road filled with beautfiul palm tress gusting in the wind.

After seeing the 9 mile sign, knowing the finale was less than a 10K away, I suddenly, got distracted seeing the back of a runner in an orange top, which was fluorescent in the dark  Yep, it was my mum! 

Now it was a race!  I'm joking..I surprised her, running alongside and said, 'Let's finish this together?!' She said, 'Go on without me!', dramatically. So it was now a race against myself - and against the clock.

Only 5k to go! Spectators cheered with encouragment, the water cups were even more hard to dodge. I ran past an Elvis impersonator, who caught up with another Elvis impersonator. As I ran passed, I could hear them both saying Elvis quotes and laughing, which made me smile. Only in Vegas.

When we had two miles to go, I sprinted. I could feel the burn on every inch of my body. But I had the pump and less than 20 minutes left of running. With the final sprint towards the finish line, I felt as if everything was in slow mo. This was because I had absolutely no pain, no worries. I was mentally and physically in the best position, not only with the race but in my private life, too.

I could cross this off my bucket list. I was running in one of the most famous cities in the world. This was my favourite, perfect, positive, best run to date. I was in love with it, did not want it to end. I knew the second I went over that finish line, all these emotions would never surface again!

Yes, deep down I know full well that I could have run harder, faster, better, but not stronger, not happier.

I thought about my whole life during that race; how life is not a sprint, but a marathon.I thought about how far I've come and how far I still have to go. But I've not stopped smiling.

I finished the Las Vegas Rock' N' Roll Half Marathon in 2hrs 8mins. I felt so strong and fit, in such a good place that I, honestly, wondered if I could have done the full Marathon that evening?

Hmmm!

To be continued.

RUNNING A RISK: ELAINE

Now that it's over I can confess. My doctor told me not to run! As my heart rate was up again because of an overactive thyroid two weeks before, I had to increase the meds (Carbimazol) and, hence, my doctor said that running was not a good idea. But, as I have a heart rate monitor, I decided that should my rate go alarmingly over 170bpm as it did in my last 10K then I would walk. In the back of my mind, though, I wondered what would happen if I collapsed - the insurance certainly wouldn't pay out for the extortionate US medical care seeing as how I was advised not to run.

The atmosphere at the start with, American Bad Ass, Kid Rock, playing, was amazing. The wind was whipping up with gusts forecast of over 40mph as we moved into our corrals for the start (around 49 starting in turn every minute).

We were Corral 7 - as I had declared our estimated time as 1hr 50mins (the time I did the Brighton Half, five years ago) so we could see the start gate as the sun was setting for the 4.30pm kick off.

We went off at a fair lick. The route took us out to the airport before turning back to The Strip. It was dark (the race starting at 4.30pm) and I could hardly see my Garmin. But was that 184bpm? 201 bpm?

I nearly collapsed with the shock that my heart rate was so high in the first mile. But I felt absolutely fine. 

I slowed a tad and checked my Garmin when we were entering The Strip with the bright lights of Vegas beaming at us. And heart rate was 162bpm. Phew. It was probably some interference from airport radar that sent the data sky rocketing.  

I ran on, leaving Siggy, and the first seven miles were comfortable, averaging just over 9 minute mile pace with the winds sometimes in front, then behind, often surprise attacking us from the side whipping between the imposing casino hotels on The Strip. Then we ran passed The Stratosphere, the Elvis Chapel and out into the dark streets to the north east where, after the blaring music that had accompanied us all along the route from bands or speakers, it was deafeningly quiet.

And it started to rain. Yes, we had all of the 0.34ins average for November, plus some, soaking us for half an hour. 

At Mile 10, Siggy came cruising passed me looking as fresh as a flipping daisy, just as I was suffering from a cramp at the top of my thigh, which I'd never experienced before. So I walked it out for a minute. And, yep, there went any hope of finishing under 2 hours!

The finish on The Strip was phenominal. Or AWESOME as they say in the US of A. But over the finish line to the bag trucks was a 10 minute walk. And it was FREEZING with the cold night wind rapidly lowering body temperature and icing the raindrops on skin. Until I put on my top from my bag,

I was shaking like a leaf - or a pathetic old lady, as Siggy commented - trying to hold on to chocolate milk, water, banana, protein bar, energy drink, heavy medal, flapping silver foil and bottle of beer.

Finish time? Arghhh, it was 2.14mins. But, you know what? I was happy to finish on two feet and not in hospital. It was also such a spectacular event that, going, slower, I was able to appreciate it. Well, those are my excuses.

I was 23rd, by the way. But that's in the ancient women category! 

 

 

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