There I was. In Las Vegas. On The Strip. Running; somewhere around six miles into my first half marathon. I didn’t exactly train as hard as I had planned to train, but I did prepare thoroughly that weekend. I ate lots of carbs, drank lots of water, (forgot about the salt thing, but I’ll spare this story from the details of that little error and the illness that ensued following my race), and stretched. I was geared up – Nike vest, neon spandex, neon running shoes. I was awesome.
I was already thinking about all the other cities I would see in future races. I would train hard and beat my time from Vegas, and one day I’d run in the New York (half) marathon. I even thought about how to tell the story of me awesomely crossing the finish line, in Spanish, so I could talk about it in class that week.
And then I saw the Stratosphere. We go to Vegas multiple times per year, so this isn’t normally really anything of note. The Stratosphere is an older hotel, in a dingy part of The Strip, that’s very tall but not usually a place we spend a ton of time (unless it’s football season).
That night, as I ran by the Stratosphere, preparing for the second half of my race to begin, a band (or was it a stereo? Come to think of it, I never looked) started blaring the 1990s jam, “2 Legit 2 Quit”.
In this perfect storm of self-determination, tall buildings, lurking muscle pain, and hiphop, I was struck by an overwhelming sense of love and accomplishment. My life was on a projector at that moment, as I realized I was in a city I love, with my husband, my little brother, and our friends, conquering a huge challenge together.
At that moment, running was both difficult and automatic. My speed naturally accelerated, and I passed three other runners, and yet I focused on everything but my feet. After what seemed like an eternity (but was probably less than 30 seconds), the music faded into the background of breath and stomping, and the other runners and I passed the Stratosphere and entered into what we would come to know as the hardest part of the race and the ugliest part of Las Vegas. The race would dull, our feet would begin to ache, we would have to provide our own motivation the next several miles, and I would become nauseous and require hours to recover.
But none of that mattered, according to MC Hammer. We were 2 Legit 2 Quit, and it was now memorialized at the base of the Stratosphere. In the end, I got my medal (it glows in the dark!), the race was everything I had hoped it would be, and I shared the struggles and accomplishments of my first race with some of the closest people in my life. Having these “what life is all about” moments is always important, and we (and other friends and family) have had lots of them together over the years, but the internalization of that feeling when you achieve it through running is a strong personal moment that is simply priceless.