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Friday night 11-kilometer run honors America’s troops, past and present.
Photo: Charlie Johnston
Most runners wax poetic about finish lines; the upwelling of pride in making it, the emotion of accomplishing a goal after months of hard training, and one of the only times in life that it’s really okay for anyone but Sylvester Stallone to throw their arms in the air in triumphant celebration.
But I prefer start lines. The nervous excitement in the air, the untold challenges and opportunities of the minutes and miles to come, and the race director—who I met just minutes before—calling me out on a megaphone and informing 300 people that I am going to win the race we are about to begin. No pressure.
So began the inaugural National Veterans Day 11K Run on Friday, November 11 at Kellogg Zaher Sports Complex in northwest Las Vegas. Las Vegas joined eight other cities nationwide—Atlanta, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, and San Jose—to celebrate and honor veterans during the run. The unusual distance, 11 kilometers (roughly 6.8 miles), is a nod to the once-in-a-century occurrence resulting in the date 11/11/11, and the Las Vegas incarnation of the race was directed by Tim Kelly of the Las Vegas Running Company, which has been producing and managing road races in the Las Vegas area for almost 30 years.
After Kelly’s loaded (and eventually accurate) introduction and prediction, the starting horn sounds, and we’re off. The multi-loop course with out-and-backs at either end would be very confusing, especially so in the dark, if not for the efforts of race volunteers who direct runners and man aid stations. Good volunteers such as these are the backbone of every successful race and are too often taken for granted. In more than 50 races, I have never taken a water cup from a volunteer without saying, “Thank you.” Any runner reading this who doesn’t do the same should start.
A few runners start off too fast to maintain their paces through the race, their belabored breathing and erratic strides indicating they are not going to hold out. Being experienced enough to recognize such a misstep, I suppress the urge to chase and wait for their energy to fade. It fades quickly.
By the one-mile mark, all but one of the early leaders has fallen at least a quarter-mile behind me. When the race turns up a gradual hill around 1.5 miles, I make my move and overtake the leader. Settling into a comfortable cadence for the remaining miles—I had run a hard and fast 26.2 miles at the New York City Marathon only five days earlier and was still recovering—I finish in 42 minutes and 24 seconds, slightly more than four minutes ahead of second place.
During a brief conversation with Kelly, he indicates that he would like the race to become a permanent fixture in the city’s Veterans Day lineup of events. Although there has been no official word about an 11K race next year, 11/11/12, I would very much like to defend my title.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
National Veterans Day Run