Rock 'n' Roll Las vegas Marathon

Photo: Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon

Living in a rural area, as I do (Cold Lake, Alta.), can make it hard to find a running partner.

Maybe that’s not a bad thing because most of the rural roads I run on have no shoulders and running two abreast can sometimes be a dangerous thing. It’s scary when a truck blows by me so close I can feel the whoosh of the rear view mirror as it goes by. Thankfully, those types of drivers are few but, along with the ones who roll their windows down to yell insults at me. They do exist. Still, the rewards are worth the risks and I’d rather take the risks and get in an extra 5K than drive to town to the nearest track. So, I get in a lot of distance on rural roads.

RELATED: Thirty years ago, one man convinced me to trade my alcohol addiction for running.

Now, I told you that, to tell you this.

I don’t want you to get the idea that I run just rural roads. I’ve run in several international events but going from training on a rural road in Alberta to being corralled in with 35,000 crazies in Las Vegas can be a bit of a shock. The annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon and Half-Marathon is held at night. For me, it was a nightmare!

I didn’t know Vegas could get so cold when the sun when down, especially when all one is wearing is a running shirt and shorts. In November it got very cold. I should have known when I saw other runners dressed in track suits or Disney cartoon costumes, all of which got discarded along the route as the runners warmed up. Incidentally, all the discarded clothing is picked up by city workers and given to charity. As I think about it I’m pretty sure some of those expensive running belts holding plastics carried more than Gatorade for hydration. Not all the participants were runners but friends who were there for a short run and I’m pretty sure Elvis isn’t dead because I saw several of him linking arms and singing along the strip.

For a Canadian runner who is used to white lines on streets and avenues, the round caps embedded in the pavement in Vegas to mark the traffic lanes turned out to be a problem. With the amount of people who shared the space with me on the run it was impossible to not step on this chaos which caused a lot of ankle discomfort later on. The following morning I was able to get my shoes on but unable to get them tied. I could walk but couldn’t feel my feet.

The actual marathon extended out into the desert and I could feel the cold breeze coming off the sand, cooling the sweat too quickly for my liking. The watering stations seemed farther apart with each mile we ran. Then a medical condition that I won’t describe here, arose and my first inclination was to DNF. Every marathoner knows that running 42K is as much mental as physical and talking to one’s self is part of the game. For the next 21K my cadence was one more K, one more K until finally I could see the finish line. By now, I was walking and I couldn’t care less but I did manage a stumbling run across the finish line. The volunteers were handing out two thermal blanks to each finisher along with a bottle of chocolate milk. I was so cold and exhausted I couldn’t open the milk. A Vegas cop took pity on me and opened it for me. My wife was waiting for me somewhere past the finish line with a track suit for which I was so grateful for the long walk back to Mandalay Bay.

All that sounds grueling, doesn’t it?

So one could be excused for asking why would anyone ever run another marathon?

Running marathons isn’t like drinking. When I was drinking it always ended in depression and a hangover and every day was a repeat of the day before. There was never any reward at the end of each day. With marathons there is always the priceless reward of personal satisfaction of having overcome time and distance and the knowledge that there can always be another one in the future. And that, my friends, gives me the power to acknowledge my desire for a drink and the strength to resist it.

Rusty Smith still lives and runs in Cold Lake, Alta. He is the newest addition to the Canadian Running blog team where he documents his journey of recovering from alcohol addiction through running.

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