I’d traveled to Vegas to run the Las Vegas Rock & Roll Marathon. My husband couldn’t join me so Mom and Dad opted to go!

It’d been 25 years since they last visited Sin City. A lot has changed. We spent much of Saturday morning and afternoon walking the Strip. I booked us at The Mirage because not only did I think Mom and Dad would enjoy it, but the marathon finished there. Little did I know it was also seated at the north end of the Strip.

Strolling south we visited casinos in Harrah’s, the Flamingo, New York New York and the Monte Carlo. There were crystal chandeliers, hot pink leather seats and gorgeous silver Audis waiting to be won. Absent were the tuxedo’ed James Bond-types.

~vegas marathonThough the casinos were mostly the same, Mom and Dad both admitted disappointment with how lavish and outlandish the Strip had become. The old Vegas was gone, replaced with extravagant shops like Prada, Tom Ford and Guicci. It’s truly like a modern day Sodom and Gomorrah.

We had supper at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill inside Harrah’s. With hard-working waitresses in cowboy hats and chaps, Mom and I giggled watching tables of middle aged men drool over the in-your-face breasts and butts, ignoring their poor dates.

The rest of the evening and much of Sunday I hung out in my room while Mom and Dad roamed around. The anxiety I normally feel before a marathon was amped up even more because it was a night event. Start time: 4:30 p.m.

When I joined Mom and Dad for coffee and muffins Sunday morning and again for lunch, I kept telling them, “This wait is killing me!” As with many runners, I’m used to a morning routine of coffee, breakfast, race. This was a mind game of waiting. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t relax, couldn’t calm down. Despite it being my 12th marathon, it felt like my first.

Ever since my first in 2010 when I saw a runner wearing a tall Eiffel Tower cage, I knew I wanted to run in costume. Since then I’ve acquired all sorts of tutus and shirts and tights. For Vegas, I decided to go with a holiday theme: red tulle skirt, black capri tights, candy-cane striped socks, a Santa hat, elf collar and a green t-shirt that read “Santa’s coming? I know him!” from the movie Elf.

Some people think I do it for attention, but I dress up to give other people a laugh and this costume didn’t disappoint. While waiting for the race to start, a gaggle of Santas passed through my start corral so I shouted, “Santa! I know him!”

When the Santas turned around and greeted me, I turned to my race mates and screamed, “They know me!” That’s all it took for a few of us to start swapping Elf movie quotes. Still, we were in for a long wait and though the majority of runners were doing the half, even they were antsy to get going.

I was assigned Corral 28 based on an estimated finish of 4:40—a tad hopeful, but not impossible given my marathon PR is 4:32. But this was the first I’d run with a required finish time of five hours or less. That, alone, does a number on the psyche.

Though the race started at 4:30 p.m., it wasn’t until 5:10 that I go rolling and by the second mile I knew I was in trouble. Whether it was the long wait to start, the previous day’s walking or the evening timeframe, I could tell I was pushing too hard and getting nowhere. I felt like I was in quicksand.

As the course ran along the Strip, I took in the lights, but worried. I spotted my parents and Hi-5’ed Dad, not stopping to talk. Off and on, I ran with a Quad City friend who was doing the half.

Around the ninth mile, she veered toward her finish while the full course headed to Fremont Street, which was a delight! With a massive video screen canopying the pedestrian mall, crowds lined the race course and Hi-5’ed us as we went through. I noticed my face was having trouble smiling. My cheeks wouldn’t work!

And then it happened. Just before Mile 14, as I trailed runners taking the course’s left turn, several race officials walked onto the course and formed a human barricade. I’d missed the cutoff. Me and everyone behind me were denied further progress.

I heard one runner shout at the race officials, pleading he be allowed to continue. No dice. We’d run the first half too slow. They’d turned us around and sent us back to the finish.

This was on an out-and-back portion of the course so we blended in with other runners who’d already circled through the portion we hadn’t.

I felt a weird mix of angst and relief. Like a neon billboard, the thought that crowded out all others was: “This would be my first DNF (Did Not Finish).”

I couldn’t understand what I’d done wrong. My training was solid, the course was flat, the temperature was perfect and yet none of that matter. It was a race in which things just didn’t come together.

As the course took runners back through Fremont Street I tried to smile and wave. When I headed toward the finish, I palmed the many hands sticking out. I felt like a poser, but couldn’t find another way off the course. I headed down the finisher’s chute and over the finish line. Weird.

I spotted a half marathoner sitting along the edge, pulling out a cigarette. I nearly joined him. I felt gross, on the inside.

After my parents found me, their faces falling when I told them what happened, I went to my room and messaged friends of the failure. It wasn’t long for a Facebook comment to pop up from one of my dearest friends, Observer-alum Shelly Seifert, “Your children are watching how you deal with this.”

BOOM!

Does it get any more real than that?

There is way too much heartache in this world to let a little ol’ marathon get me down. Besides, I have no regrets! It was a great way to see the city and a fabulous experience with my parents!

For all the junk that chokes my Facebook newsfeed, recently a friend posted an article by runner Dane Rauschenberg, “Six Ways You Can Succeed in Running.” No. 6 on the list was “Remember How Lucky You Are.”

“. . . the main and best thing about running is that you get to do it. . . You are traversing the world, one foot at a time . . . there are thousands who wished they had it so easy. Don’t take it for granted.”

And I don’t intend to. Hopefully Thursday I ran my fifth Turkey Trot in Davenport. Tonight, my son Maclane and I will done costumes for Clinton’s Symphony of Lights 5k at Eagle Point Park. Tomorrow I plan to strap on a headlamp and join my Cornbelt buddies for a 6 a.m. long run along Bettendorf’s Duck Creek Bike Path.


Originally published 29 November 2014 in The Observer.

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