Sunday, February 2, 2003

Las Vegas Marathon (Nevada)

February 2, 2003
Marathon 22, State #16 (Age 34)
Las Vegas, Nevada

Known as the entertainment capital of the world, Las Vegas' fast paced action occurs along "The Strip," a long stretch that contains the lavish theme hotels not to mention their accompanying casinos, showgirls, nightclubs, and entertainers that make Vegas famous.  However, once a year, the spotlight shifts to a lesser known strip - 26 miles of pavement just south of downtown - which features fast paced action of a different variety.  Nestled below the barren Las Vegas mountains, the rural point-to-point Las Vegas International Marathon (LVM) course lies in stark contract to the neon-spashed 24-hour city located only a few miles from the finish.  With a net downhill of 600 feet, Vegas offers excellent odds for a personal record.  So, if you're looking for a fast winter marathon with  a lot of glitz and glamour on the side, try your luck at Las Vegas.  [Craythorn and Hanna]

Las Vegas unveils a partially new, faster course in 1999.  And no, despite the wishes of many participants, the race does not run down "The Strip."  Rather, the race starts in Jean, NV, on State Road 604 (elevation approximately 2,875 feet).  Race veterans should recognize the first 22 miles, as they are miles 3.5 through 26 of the former course.  Paralleling I-15 for these first 22 miles, runners enjoy little in the way of visual stimulation - remember the course was designed for speed, not aesthetics.  Mostly high desert, sage brush, and jack rabbits mark the course as it gradually climbs 150 feet to mile 7.  Here, runners catch sight of the Las Vegas skyline in the distance as they begin the "very fast but runable' 750-foot descent over the next 19 miles.  And despite what you may think, the Vegas skyline is not just a desert illusion.  You really are getting closer.  At mile 22, the route heads east, winding through the Calloway Golf Center before emerging onto Sunset Road.  After following the southern perimeter fence of McCarran International Airport, runners head south onto Eastern Avenue for the last half mile to the finish.   [Craythorn and Hanna]

Not surprisingly, few casino goers flee the slot machines and card tables to cheer the marathoners.  In face, as a rural, point-to-point course, the LVM is not particularly conductive to large crowds.  Although the road is partially open and accessible to spectators after mile 12, most spectators assemble at the relay exchange points and the finish where bleachers enhance the chance of spotting your favorite runner.   [Craythorn and Hanna]

A late flight from Columbus on Thursday brought us to Las Vegas too late to do anything in Vegas until Friday morning.  We awoke and on the way out of our casino to do our sight seeing we were suckered into looking at a time share in exchange for variety shows at our casino.

 We walked from the north end of the strip all the way to the Tropicana at the far south end of the strip where the marathon expo was held.  On the way we explored the Venitian and it's beautiful indoor mall with painted clouds on the ceiling and boats throughout with melodious drivers.  Returning by the bus we made it to our afternoon tour of the time share where said NO and walked after a couple hours received our free show tickets to La Cage and Splash.  Our shuttle dropped us off at Caesars where we toured the casino and saw the moving statues.  Making our way back to our hotel we were able to see the battle in front of Treasure Island.  The night concluded with our first show, La Cage, where males were dressed as female rock stars and lip synced or sang to artists such as Cher, Mandona, etc.

Saturday we again toured the strip and were able to see Aladdin, MGM, Ny Ny, and Excalibur.  Had a wonderful lunch at Paris.  Saturday's variety show of Splash was the highlight of the day.  The show was filled with many talented acts including the finale of four motorcycles in a cage.

A cold front moved in from the north on Saturday night so the temperature dropped about 20 degrees from 80 down to 60 degrees.  This wasn't a bad thing since I'd been training in Ohio at 15-20 degrees it was still warm, but the wind didn't let up.  The entire race was directly into about a 45 mph head wind which added 15-30 minutes to everyone's expected finish times.  Homeyra was able to hook up with some of our friends that were in town for the race and came out to a couples spots along the course to cheer for me.   There was about a two mile stretch along the airport where we had the only break from the wind and it came at a much needed time!

Sunday night after napping we met up with Brent & Mary, Pat & Monica, and some of their friends for Cirque de Soleil.  What a fabulous show with stunning lights, stage and performance.  We caught a red eye home so Monday was was a waste!

Each marathoner receives a race T-shirt at the packet pickup.  Medallions are awarded to all finishers, and result booklets are mailed to all participants.  With Las Vegas being, well, Las Vegas, it's only fitting that the prize money structure is about as unique as they come.  Money is not limited to the very top finishers.  Sure, the top open an masters runners are awarded prize money which varies from year to year depending on budget constraints,  But, age groupers, usually excluded from the prize money gold, also compete for small purses for the top one or two places.  Various time bonus money is also available.  Plaques are awarded to tenth place in some divisions.  Although the plaques are presented at the awards ceremony, prize money winners should not plan on racing to the casinos to parlay their earnings into a huge jackpot - the checks are mailed within thirty days of the event.      [Craythorn and Hanna]

The race start in Jean, NV, is thirty minutes south of downtown.  Free, mandatory bus transportation to the start is provided.  Buses leave from the MGM Grand Hotel/Casino Parking lot.  Transportation back to the hotel is also provided.  Specific details are provided in race packets.   [Craythorn and Hanna]

The hotels alone offer so much entertainment for adults and children that you can easily do without a car.  In fact, you may experience greater fatigue from hotel/casino activities that from the marathon.  If it's culture you want, the Las Vegas Art Museum is one of the finest in the country.  If you're interested in sights outside Las Vegas, visit Hoover Dam (30 minutes southeast), Lake Mead, the largest man-made lake in America (45 minutes north), or Laughlin, with its slower paced casinos and impressive views of the Colorado River (60 minutes south).   [Craythorn and Hanna]

Although there are more than 100,000 hotel rooms in Las Vegas, amazingly, the can fill, so book your reservations early.  If you can stay on "The Strip" on Las Vegas Boulevard, do it!  The various theme hotels are unparalleled, if you don't mind gaudy.  You can choose between the co-hosts MGM Grand Hotel and Theme Park, the world's largest hotel with 5,009 rooms, $119/night (800) 288-1000, and the exciting Tropicana Resort and Casino, $110/night (800)-634-4000.  Other hotels offering room blocks for marathoners: San Remo, Luxor, and Monte Carlo.   [Craythorn and Hanna] is a great website to check out hotel, air, car, and shows.  Many airlines offer a air/hotel packages which are great savings than buying them separate.

Homeyra & I stayed at the Riviera Resort and Casino which is towards the north end of the strip.  We enjoyed walking up and down the Strip twice and exploring all the other casinos.

The LVM features a three-day Health & Fitness Expo starting at noon on Thursday at the new MGM Grand Hotel and Casino Expo Center.  Race packets are distributed here from 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on Thursday and Friday, and Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Course bus tours ($12 pre-paid) are available on Saturday leaving at 1:00 p.m. from the MGM.  A pasta party takes place at the Tropicana Hotel and Casino directly across the street from the MGM Grand.  Food bags and beverages are available at the finish for runners along with an "International Food Festival" in the park.  The awards presentation begins at 5:00 p.m. at the Tropicana.   [Craythorn and Hanna]