The front of our race shirts
Six weeks. The very short time in between October 1, 2017, and November 12, 2017.
Two events. The worst mass shooting in US history and the Las Vegas Rock ‘n’ Roll 1/2 Marathon.
Countless. The number of emotions and questions running through every person’s mind.
One. How we as a nation (and I suspect beyond) stand with Las Vegas.
Now, I am highly aware this is an odd way to start off a post; however, I will bring it full circle.
October 1, 2017, was a very dark day for Las Vegas, Nevada as well as for our entire nation. That day became the worst mass shooting in United States history. I remember seeing the real-time notification come across on my phone. It was a little after 1 am CST and I was finishing some blog stuff. The shock and disbelief, along with the gut-wrenching pain for the victims and their families, is still very fresh in my mind. I wondered if I should even attempt writing this post so soon after.
Then, I realized, Las Vegas is most definitely #vegasstrong. If they can decide to still host such a huge, public event a mere six weeks after suffering their worst tragedy, I can definitely write this post showing their strength and my support for such strength.
Decision to Press Forward
My race gear
I remember thinking (as this is my 4th time for this half marathon), how many times I had stood in the exact spot where everything took place. It was the location of where we waited in our corrals before beginning the race. Understandably so, I had doubts as to whether or not they would hold the marathon. They close down the entire strip for a few hours so approximately 40-45,000 people can run it. As it’s already a big deal in and of itself, imagine now…
The next day, the email came through stating they were working with city officials and law enforcement to determine if the event would still take place. It would be a couple of weeks before we would come to find out that the event would still take place, but that obviously the holding areas for the corrals and subsequently, the race course, would need to be revised. I have to say I was a bit surprised but definitely admired the courage.
Heading into the expo
The weekend always includes a health expo. This is where we take our race confirmation sheets to pick up our bibs and tech tees along with perusing a great number of booths to sample products and have the opportunity to purchase special, exclusive merchandise.
Part of one of the banners
The reason I mention this is because, at this year’s expo, they offered us the opportunity to sign the Vegas Strong Rock ‘n’ Roll banners. These banners would hang on the fence during the race where the events took place in support of all who were affected by the events of six weeks prior.
Signing the banner
I definitely wanted to participate in this and quickly picked up a marker to do so only to come to a dead stop. What could I possibly write? After some thought, I wrote what nearly everyone else did – “Vegas Strong” along with my name. But then I wrote 13.1 inside a heart. Although I’m not sure it came across this way, my intentions were to communicate that the 13.1 miles awaiting me were going to be completed in dedication to those who senselessly lost their lives that horrible night.
It’s Not About Me
The start line
I had honestly been dreading this half marathon. Fully aware of what I was about to do to myself, I wasn’t looking forward to the aftermath. I was worried about finishing which was really my only goal this time.
I remember lining up in my corral thinking “can we get on with it already”?
Then, just as my corral was released, it dawned on me. Yes, just then, not earlier, ashamedly. This wasn’t about me. If my biggest worry was how I was going to feel after I completed this, then my mind was in the wrong place. Instead of thinking about that, I needed to think about how I could help embody the Vegas Strong spirit and dedicate my participation in this race (that I was now determined to finish) in support of the victims and their families.
Passing by Mandalay Bay
Once we got going, it wasn’t long at all before we went down past Mandalay Bay. Of course, looking at it now, you would never have known anything sinister had taken place there. Never-the-less, it invoked emotion in me. And determination.
With that, I turned up the volume on the specially created playlist on my phone and got to it.
It was also here where, for about 2. 5 miles, runners went silent in memory of those who died.
The Welcome to Las Vegas Sign, now a memorial site
The Rock ‘n’ Roll Series is known for their bands playing every few miles throughout their race courses. They had informed us that for the first 4 miles (if I remember correctly), they would be showcasing musicians playing songs in tribute to the events of October 1st.
As I passed by the Welcome to Las Vegas Sign, I saw loads of flowers and stuffed animals piled high around it. Not too far from the sign (I forget if it was before or after it), there was a string quartet playing which was both beautiful and peaceful.
Emotions Run High
The banners hanging near the site during the race
This was an emotional experience. First was the banner. I saw a record number of participants stopping to take pictures of the banner and with the banner. I didn’t take one with the banner because it was way too big for a selfie. Also, I wasn’t currently with my friends and I didn’t want to ask another participant to compromise their time. I quickly snapped this photo and kept going.
Immediately after, I passed by the scene of the event. It was dark, fenced off and there was a mesh fence after the regular fence. The only thing you could see from the street was the top of the stage that is still standing. Out of respect for those involved, I won’t be posting this photo.
The tears started. Like all of us, I still can’t fathom why. It was at that moment, I had no doubt I would finish the race and not for myself.
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Sign found in the media of the Boulevard between Mandalay Bay and the site
I had told myself to not pay attention to the mile markers. In previous years, they were always very discouraging. That moment when you think you’re on Mile 5, but it’s only Mile 3… But, I inadvertently saw one when I was still on the Mandalay Bay end of the Strip. Mile 4. For the first time, I smiled at a Mile Marker. I for sure thought it was only Mile 2, maybe 3 if I was lucky. But Mile 4? Yes!!
Once again, if Vegas could persevere, this was nothing.
Paris Eiffel Tower on the Strip
Unlike the other times I participated in this half marathon, I didn’t take many photos. For one, I only had my phone on me and I was concentrating on just trying to finish.
On the Strip at night
But, I did take a few because being on the closed-off Las Vegas Strip at night is always an interesting experience.
Right before the course veered off the Strip
Thankfully, unlike previous years, the race course didn’t keep us off the Boulevard for long. Before I knew it, I was heading back down towards the Strip from Fremont Street.
About Mile 10 was really where I was just wanting to teleport myself to the finish line. The feeling started at Mile 9, but by Mile 10 I was over it in all honesty.
Approaching the finish line
Crossing the finish line was exciting for me because I had completed the 13.1 miles and more importantly, it was over. However, for anyone who might have watched me cross that finish line, it was very anti-climatic.
It’s over and I finished!
I can’t lie and say I didn’t feel a sense of accomplishment, but I can say I was full of emotion and did not forget for whom I completed this race.
I was extremely hungry at this point. By choice, I didn’t eat a lot before the race so this wasn’t surprising. I headed to In-N-Out with my friend who also finished the race.
From there, we called it a night and headed back to our hotel.
Thinking Out Loud
Not that I haven’t been thinking out loud for this entire post, but there are upcoming topics I want to post on this night/event. While there is nothing wrong with a particular topic I’m thinking about, considering the timing of this marathon, I felt it would be flippant to not mention what happened, convey my personal emotions about it and recognize how Las Vegas was truly rising to be #vegasstrong.
Even though it happened in Las Vegas, I haven’t lost sight of the fact that a big (but not the only) reason this affected us as a nation is that the victims are and were from all over the country.
My thoughts and prayers remain with all of those involved.
‘Til next time…
Trimm Travels and #VegasStrong,