Day 3: Sunday, the race
We head south on the strip, away from New York, New York towards the Welcome to Las Vegas sign. The crowd thins out faster than I expect, and my anxieties about being tripped and falling fade. The desert sunset is visible on the right side, illuminating the sky in neon pink and orange. Since this is Sky’s first time running a half-marathon I am in charge of the pace. As far as I am aware, the goal is to finish. She tells me she doesn’t know the ball-park time, maybe 2:30, maybe longer. I try to keep us at a 5:45-6ish min/km pace, to avoid hitting the wall later in the race and walking. This proves to be challenging due to a few factors, 1) it’s a race 2) there are a lot of people 3) there is live music 4) Sky is a fairly competitive person by nature. I keep trying to reel her in, though I can tell she just wants to let loose and pass people.
Our first 5km are: 6:08, 6:04, 5:49, 5:46, 5:46. This takes us to the Vegas sign and back to Mandalay Bay. It is dark now, and the temperature is perfect. A loud fellow runner starts yelling, “If you’re not yelling, CHEER” to spectators, he continues this and waves his arms madly. It is obnoxious. Km’s 6-10 are: 5:48, 5:48, 5:22, 5:29, 5:48. There are a lot of people cheering in the middle part of this stretch taking us past Paris and the fake Eiffel Tower. Just before km 8, I decide to take a video of Sky running past the Eiffel Tower, once I upload the video, I face-plant and both hands, my right elbow and knee are scraped and bloody. I continue running as a fellow runner tells me “no one saw”, which I think is funny. At the 10km mark we have passed The Wynn and most of the landmarks on The Strip. I tell Sky whenever I think we have done a km too fast and she asks when we can pick it up. I tell her we have to wait until 16km in, the length of her longest run leading up to the event. She is feeling good and I know it is hard to hold back, but I still want to remain conservative.
Km 11-15 are: 5:45, 5:38, 5:49, 5:37, 5:40. We pass Circus, Circus, one of the oldest casinos and hotels, the Stratosphere and then the wedding chapels start popping up. We pass a few houses with people on the lawn having a party and cheering, they offer little cups of wine and beer. No one seems to accept it except our loud friend from earlier, who immediately starts spitting and yelling, “JESUS CHRIST, they’re giving out vodka” and then tells the police to “do something about them”.
By now we are in downtown Vegas and Sky announces that she will be “very mad if we don’t finish in under 2 hours”. Classic. This is the first mention of a time goal. I see the wheels turning as she calculates our pace in order to do that, and then the disappointment in her voice as she says, “I don’t know if we can do that, it’s 8:30/mile (5:17/km)”. I tell her, “it’s up to you and I will do whatever you decide”. Her outlook quickly changes and she says, “we may as well try”. Game on.
We take off and I keep my eye on the pace. Km 16 is 5:18. 17 is 5:14. 18 is 5:16. We begin weaving through dozens of people who are trudging along, maybe they didn’t start as conservatively as we did. We begin to pick it up and km 19 is 4:57. Sky says she is using the mall as a landmark, it looks like a spaceship. She knows the finish is straight down the street from there, only a km away from the mall and I wonder if things are starting to get tough. Km 20 is 4:54, she’s still strong. We continue weaving through people, not ideal, but we are running for time now. For a moment I don’t see Sky beside me anymore and I worry, but a second later she says, “I’m here!” She was just stuck maneuvering around other runners. Km 21 is 5:02. We pick it up over the last couple hundred metres and cross the line in 1:58:47. We did it. So much for a 2:30 finish.