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Las Vegas Marathon

The early part of the 1986 Las Vegas Marathon course.

Running can add another dimension to travelling, whether for business or pleasure, and there are many posts in this blog describing the places where I have been fortunate enough to run.  Including races in travel plans can add even more to the experience.

In 1985 and 1986, my then wife, Barb, and I spent a year touring the US and Canada on a very tight budget ($20 a day plus fuel) in a campervan and ran a number of races.  Perhaps the most memorable was the Las Vegas Marathon in February 1986.  We arrived the afternoon before the race and collected our race numbers from a local running shop before going to the Polynesian Hotel ($15 per night!) on the recommendation of the running shop proprietor.  We were so poor we couldn't afford the pasta party, and instead, cooked some spaghetti bolognese in our campervan in the hotel car park and smuggled it up to our room.

The towers of Las Vegas began to take shape in the
far distance on the 1986 Las Vegas Marathon course.

On race morning, we joined our fellow competitors for the journey to the start on one of those cramped yellow American school buses.  The start was 42.2km south of town along the famed Las Vegas Boulevard, near a small local airport with minimal facilities in the middle of the desert.  By this point, the Boulevard was little more than a service road paralleling Interstate 15, the freeway to Los Angeles.  On arrival, competitors scattered in all directions into the desert looking for suitable bushes behind which to complete pre-race toileting with a modicum of privacy.

Crossing the finish line in the 1986 Las
Vegas Marathon (10th, 2:31).

To say the course was boring was an understatement.  It followed the virtually straight road all the way back to Las Vegas and the finish.  The first 13km involved a gradual climb, but then, after the course crested a rise, glimpses of the casino towers of Las Vegas were occasionally in view, shimmering in the distance.  We ran towards them, but as time passed, they never seemed to get any closer.  The scale of the vista was immense, with plenty of desert and few nearby topographical features. It was a soul-destroying place to race, but finally the city outskirts were reached.  After a few more kilometres and a few turns, we finished in the back lots behind the casinos.

Barb was second-placed female overall, and I was first in the Male 35-39 category and tenth overall.  We hung around the finish for a while, eating the free goodies, before returning to our hotel.  Later, we attended the race presentation in another hotel and discovered Barb had won $750 for her effort and I received $350 for my category win.  Neither of us had any interest in gambling but we splurged on some cheap restaurant meals before moving on the next day, one of the few couples to leave Las Vegas a lot wealthier than when we arrived.

For my training today, I ran an easy 5km around Copa, which was faster than expected.  I'm beginning to feel good.  How long can it last?