It’s been iffy as to whether I’d make the Las Vegas Marathon I’d signed up for. The plane tickets were booked and the rooms were reserved, so we went ahead and made the trip. But I’d wrenched my back picking grapes a few months ago and had stopped ALL training as of then. (I know STUPID. STUPID.) Recently that old “harvest injury” has been acting up, and by Friday and Saturday, my back was in spasms about every ten minutes.

Andy, who had every intention of sleeping until 10 on race day, kept urging me not to bail out yet. So in a last ditch effort to get myself roadworthy, I went to Mandalay Bay’s Spa and had a Swedish and Accupressure massage. Even though my therapist looked and sounded exactly like Wallace Shawn, he was a genius and I walked out straighter and more pain free than I’ve been in weeks. (Although still chuckling over “My Massage with Andre”.)

What really got me to attempt this event was when I read in my race manual that there would be a shuttle bus at Mile Seven to take back anyone who couldn’t make it past there. I knew I could make seven miles, but the fallback sounded as if it would make the attempt safe.

Start time was on the dot at 6:05, so at 5:30 AM, thousands of us were trudging through the miles of aisles at the huge Mandalay Bay complex. We knew there would be at least half an hour of sorting as the seeded runners were put up front by qualification and the rest of us were sorted at the back of the pack based on estimated course time. That meant walkers like me were waaaaaay in the back. In fact, it took me 30 minutes just to reach the Start Line.

The slow crawl to the Start Line was worth it. Imagine 10,000 people singing Viva Las Vegas while fireworks explode and Elvis impersonators perform.

The slow crawl to the Start Line was worth it. Imagine 10,000 people singing “Viva Las Vegas” while fireworks explode and Elvis impersonators perform.

Running down the Strip was magical. You never get a sense of how really immense all the mega hotels are until you walk or run past them. And keep running and running and still aren’t past them.

Amazing fact: Donny and Marie are apparently the hottest ticket in town. Who knew?

Amazing fact: Donny and Marie are apparently the hottest ticket in town. Who knew?

In fact, I took so many pix, I kept falling behind the handicapped runners.

In fact, I took so many pix, I kept falling behind the handicapped runners.

But I kept pace with THIS guy!

But I kept pace with THIS guy!

Then after about six miles, the glitzy strip ran out and we started to run through the seedy end of Las Vegas. The Las Vegas full of tattoo parlors, strip joints, bail bondsmen and scary looking characters.

We were glad nice guys like this were stationed every quarter of a mile.

We were glad nice guys like this were stationed every quarter of a mile.

By Mile Seven, my back was really starting to spasm, so I thought I should call it a morning. I went to the water stand and asked about the shuttle bus. “Shuttle bus? What shuttle bus?” Turns out no one had told any of the water station managers about any shuttle bus. It was the same at Mile Eight and Mile Nine. By Mile Ten, I thought, what the heck, might as well finish this. It’s called “Walking through the pain.”

Lots of us were flagging by Mile 8, but the promised bail out bus never materialized.

Lots of us were flagging by Mile 8, but the promised bail out bus never materialized.

Just when I thought I couldn’t go another step, the genius of the course provided a wonderful lift. At around Mile Six, the Half Marathon course had diverged from the Full Marathon course. At Mile 25, suddenly the Full Marathoners were funneled back in with us. And these were the elite amateurs who were on track to make the course in under four hours. In fact, as we neared the finish line, we were all together, so, for all anyone knew, I was one of those elite amateurs. Except that I was walking, and limping, and I had a Half Marathon bib on. But otherwise, I’m sure people thought I was a Kenyan.

I even got a medal!

I even got a medal!

I’ve never done a formal Half Marathon before, but I have gone on 13 mile power walks. I think I made a personal best. I came in exactly at the 4 hour mark. But considering it took me more than half an hour to reach the start, I must have done the 13 miles in three and a half hours. Pretty good as an injured walker in the worst shape of her life. Viva Las Vegas!

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