Packing for a trip to Vegas typically involves a little black dress and enough painkillers to relieve the hangovers of a small army. But for my five-day jaunt I’m jamming joggers, a Fitbit and far too many running gels into my luggage. Yep, any blisters acquired during this stint will be from a 21km run, not a poorly fitted pair of heels. I’m taking on the Las Vegas Rock’n’Roll Half Marathon – an epic race that shuts down The Strip for a night while more than 40,000 people run down Las Vegas Boulevard in all its glittery glory. Sounds amazing, right? Well, quite frankly, I’m petrified.
Despite the half-marathon being a long-time bucket-list goal, my preparation has been substandard. Back-to-back colds, a bung hip and a whole lot of excuses has left me trailing far behind in my training schedule. Yet still, I board the 16-hour flight on a wing (literally) and a prayer – and thankfully, I have two days of TLC to take my mind off things before the big race. After I check into The Linq Hotel and try out their in-room fitness cart (to foam roll my very swollen cankles), it’s time to begin the notorious pre-race carb load. Studies and scientists agree: if Viva you’re planning to run a long distance, you need to load up the glycogen stores in your muscles. This energy source usually taps out around the 90-minute mark – this is when you hit ‘the wall’. While I’m not one to argue with eating as many carbs as physically possible, I’m not keen to smash a US-size serving of creamy carbonara, only to find myself spewing down The Strip come race time. But I’m delighted to discover that Vegas has some hidden foodie gems, many of them healthy. Just take SkinnyFats, which offers a ‘happy menu’ of decadent options and a ‘healthy menu’ with choices below 2500 kilojoules. Naturally, I take the porque no los dos option and chow down on vego tacos, buffalo cauliflower bites and a salted caramel cookie. Mission well and truly accomplished.
When I’m not taking on the tough task of eating my way through the city’s whole food offerings, I keep myself distracted from the pre-race anxiety pangs by ticking off my tourist to-do list. Think: sightseeing downtown at the very cool new Container Park, perusing the Neon Museum where Vegas’ old billboards go to die, and zip-lining between hotels (yes, really – with Fly Linq). I even ignore a fleeting burst of motivation to acclimatise with a jog around town and instead take in the city (and the gasp-inducing Grand Canyon, above right) from the sky with a Maverick Helicopters tour. Finally, race day arrives. I send a few panicked WhatsApp messages to my friends and fam – warning them of my impending hospital stay – and head down to the corralling area a little early. It’s the best thing I could have possibly done for my nerves. The vibe is electric. There are thousands of fellow runners dressed in fluoro colours and wacky costumes (I instantly regret my black ninja-like outfit) as well as live music. I’m instantly feeling more optimistic about my odds. As I cross the starting line, I watch the sun set and the city light up – it’s a uniquely surreal sight that’s enough to keep me distracted for the first hour.
A Vegas-Style Finish
I won’t give you a kilometre-by-kilometre account, but it was good, then OK, then hard, then really hard, then oh-my-God-there’s-the-finish-line-I-might-actually-survive-this, then straight-up euphoria. I even beat the time I wanted! By one measly minute … but I still beat it. I finish my trip in what’s likely the most Vegas way possible – with a muscle-soothing massage at the Hard Rock Hotel, performed with actual drum sticks. They don’t call it the entertainment capital of the world for nothing…
The Rock’n’Roll Las Vegas Marathon takes place November 16-17. Hit up runrocknroll.com for the details.
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