The Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas half marathon was my twelfth half and also the craziest one that I’ve ever run. It rained, we were hit by 20-30 mile per hour winds and we took a 35 minute break to renew our vows on the course. It was crazy, challenging and awesome all at the same time. We ran the half as the second part of the Remix Challenge. You can read about the first part here.
When we first signed up for the half I had hoped that I could run it in sub-two hours and achieve a new PB. I’ve been looking at running a sub-two hour half all year (something that I’ve never done before) but the timing or the races never seem to work out for me. When I catch up on my blogging, you’ll see why when I recap my tenth half marathon, which can best be described as a comedy of errors. More on that later.
After our Run Thru Wedding meeting the day before I knew that sub-two hours wasn’t going to happen. There were almost 200 couples renewing their vows or getting married and we were all of varying paces. They moved us up to earlier corrals based on our pacing with the hopes that we would all end up at the Monte Carlo/5k mark at around the same time. They estimated that the ceremony itself could take up to 15 minutes. This, combined with the strong wind gusts, made me get realistic about our finishing time. I was ok with it. We were going to have fun and besides, how often do you get to renew your vows on a half marathon race course in Las Vegas?
We got dressed and headed for the race. Since we were renewing our vows I wore a veil under my running cap and Dan had a tuxedo t-shirt on. People kept stopping us to ask if we were getting married. We got tired of telling people that we were renewing our vows so we just started saying yes and people congratulated us. Getting to the race was easy. We took the monorail down to MGM and then followed all of the other runners to the start line, which was across from Mandalay Bay. We had lots of time to get ready so we checked our bags and then found a good spot to watch the Kid Rock concert.
Rock ‘n’ Roll races are known for their live music and Kid Rock was the headliner for the Vegas race. He was amazing live and this was an awesome way to start the race. Shortly before his set ended we left the festival area and got a head start on the porta-potty line. I was happy with our decision to do this because when the concert ended it was crowded and I don’t think we would have had time to go. After this we started to scramble to make our way to our corral. We were originally going to be in corral 18 but got moved into 11 because of the Run Thru Wedding. We ran down the side until we found corral 11 and then pushed our way through. It was crowded and a little stressful. At this point it was also starting to get dark and windy. The clouds looked ominous and the palm trees were all blowing to one side.
There were flames and pyrotechnics as each corral took off. Finally it was time for us to go and before we knew it we were running on the strip. I can’t even begin to explain how windy it was. I thought I was going to blow away. We were running and pushing hard. Dan was convinced that we would be late for the Run Thru Wedding but then we started passing the slower paced brides and grooms and I knew that we would be ok. The ceremony wasn’t going to start until 5:45 and we crossed the starting line at 4:44. That gave us an hour to get to the 5k mark. Plenty of time!
What I remember from the start of the race was the gusts of wind and thinking that the race was crazy. It was dark at this point and I remember seeing the “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign and pointing it out to Dan. Shortly after that I heard somebody calling my name and turned and saw Matt, who I know from Instagram! He was also a digital champion for a Canada Running Series race and we have never met in real life before. With 30,000 runners running the half and full marathon I thought it was short of a small miracle that he ran past me on the course. We said hi, gave each other a high five and then he said he had to go find his wife. Off he went.
We got to the Monte Carlo and left the course to join the other couples getting married or renewing their vows. There were white balloons everywhere, a dj and a crowd of friends/family members of other couples. We waited in the ceremony area, took a selfie and danced to the music.
I think we waited for almost 30 minutes and then it started to rain. They announced that the ceremony was going to start and asked that the grooms stand on the left and the brides on the right. We yelled “which way are we facing?” We had no idea which direction the officiant would be standing so there was some confusion. Then when she got up she said she meant she wanted the grooms on her left and the brides on her right, so everybody shifted around again. Then there was the ceremony, which was exciting and touching. I saw brides and grooms who were getting married wipe tears and smile excitedly. Monte Carlo posted a short video about the Run Thru Wedding so you can see for yourself. Dan and I even made the video (watch out for us about 13 seconds in).
When the ceremony concluded we dashed back onto the race course. In the time that the ceremony took, about 30 corrals had passed us so we were now with slower paced runners. Because of this, Dan and I spent the rest of the race dodging people. I don’t mind slower paced runners (as I mentioned in my last post, I was one of them in my last Rock ‘n’ Roll race). What made me mad was the walkers who had clearly moved up to a faster corral when they shouldn’t have. When we started in corral 11 we had to dodge walkers less than a kilometre onto the course. That was annoying.
Anyway, running with the slower runners was a humbling experience and reminded me of how far I’ve come. Many of them were trying their hardest. Some of them were not having a great race day, probably in large part due to the crazy weather. I heard one woman say “I’m so mad at my body right now for not letting me do this the way I should be able to do this!” I know that feeling all too well.
Despite all of this, running on the strip was amazing. By this point it had stopped raining and I could concentrate on all of the lights. It was beautiful and cool to think that we were running along the Vegas strip. As we passed the Bellagio we could see the runners who had just finished the race on the other side, collecting their medals and mylar blankets. This was hard for me to see because I knew that had we not stopped for the Run Thru Wedding that we would be almost done. I pushed that thought from my mind and we kept going. My favourite part of the race took us around Freemont Street. It was beautiful. I had a camera with me but none of my pictures turned out. Maybe next time.
Because of the weather, I didn’t see a single mile or kilometre marker, so relied solely on my Garmin to figure out where we were on the course. Dan had to stop for Gatorade at one point and they were pouring them one at a time because they couldn’t leave the cups out or else the wind would blow them away! He said they were still pretty efficient. My legs were cramping up at around the 17k mark. I knew that this was from lack of fueling. Because of the weather and trying to around people we were running harder than usual and I hadn’t taken the time to take any gels or drink enough water or sports drink. This forced me to slow down. The course also got very narrow when the half and full marathons split and we weren’t able to get around people for a while. That was ok though, I knew we were almost done.
After what felt like an eternity, we could see the finish line. We held hands and started to go for it. In front of us was a group of about five runners wearing Canada gear all joining hands. For a brief second I thought about attaching us to them but then realized that there would be no way to get around us if I did. Instead we ran past them and kept going. Then we crossed the finish line and it was all over. The craziest half marathon that I have ever run. At the finish line, one of the volunteers said that she saw many brides and grooms cross around the same time as us. She said “Sorry you didn’t have nicer weather.” and we said “It’s ok! It was so much fun!” She was really friendly.
Our official time was 2:49 but the time on my Garmin, which paused while we waited for the ceremony to start, was 2:14. Not bad, all things considered.
We got our blankets and medals, collected our post-race food and drink (chocolate milk, water, gatorade, chips, Powerbars and other snacks etc.) and our remix medal and then headed back to our hotel. The race finished at around the Mirage but the finisher’s chute took you out to the front of the Bellagio, so that worked out perfectly for us. When we arrived back to our room we were pleasantly surprised by a congratulations card, balloon and gatorade from the Bellagio. How nice of them!
The next day we had a late breakfast/early lunch at Hexx by Paris Las Vegas and then rode the High Roller, the world’s highest observation wheel. After some shopping, eating and gambling in the casinos (Superman was my favourite slot machine during this trip!) we said goodbye to Vegas and headed home.
So what did I think of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas race weekend? The Run Thru Wedding was completely worth the extra 35 minutes and a fun way to celebrate our anniversary. I think now that we’ve done it though, I would just run the half next time to see what kind of time I could finish in and to enjoy the strip more. The race weekend was very well organized with fun entertainment, good shopping at the expo, great post-race food, amazing medals (the half medal glows in the dark and the numbers on the slot machine spin!), runners’ perks discounts and we got to high five Meb! So yes, I would run this race again.