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Desert Companion

So you want to be a runner: Your guide to lacing up in Sin City

We sweat. We sunburn. We stink.

We can’t get enough.

We get up before dawn and head out after dark. We brave desert dryness, brutally windy days and hot summer afternoons.

And, if we want to do it with other people, we pay cold, hard cash.

You used to know us as your neighbors, co-workers and family members, but now we’re also runners. That used to be me — a daughter, a wife, a friend — and then I made a decision that would add miles to my life. It was a cold, winter Wisconsin morning. I’d just returned from serving in the Peace Corps and needed a purpose. In a matter of minutes, I went from being merely active and inspired to becoming a goal-driven person with my eye on a prize: my first marathon finish. Since then, I’ve completed several half marathons and relay runs as well. Now I, too, am a runner.

My story isn’t an unusual one, and chances are this growing population isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, according to Running USA, a non-profit organization devoted to raising the profile of distance running, a record number of Americans have taken up the sport, buying more running shoes and apparel and using technology and apps to track their progress, despite — or maybe because of — an economy that’s forced many people to cut back on extraneous expenses. In 2011, they estimate 518,000 men and women completed a U.S. marathon, a record high.

Support comes from

“I think the allure of running is that it is so accessible to most people,” says Joyce Forier, founder of Calico Racing, a Las Vegas-area racing series. “No special equipment is needed, no special skills or talents are required, and those of all levels can participate in some way.”

Las Vegans have latched on to the sport, and organizers have introduced or enhanced numerous races to meet the growing desire to join others on a pre-determined course. Some events, such as those organized by Calico Racing, are no-nonsense races that appeal to running purists; others, such as the Zombie Run and the Color Run, add entertainment to the fitness factor. Some, like the 36-leg, multi-day Ragnar Relay, incorporate teamwork into the race, and still others — such as  Tough Mudder and various versions of the triathlon — meld running with other physical activities.

Given the drastic changes to running culture in the last few years, it’s hard to say what the next five years will bring.

“I guess we’ll just have to wait and see,” Forier says. “We’re all just happy to get people out there moving.”

Lace up your shoes and join us.

SHE RUNS FOR FUN! - Four questions with Jenn Ty!
GETTING STARTED - Tips from race regulars
GEAR - Find the stuff
HE RUNS WITH ELVIS! - Three questions with Adam Zocks
SHE'LL RUN UP YOUR MOTIVATION - Three questions with Melissa Farrell
GET SET... GO! - Local races


Four questions with Jenn Ty

Originally a New Yorker, Jenn Ty now lives in Las Vegas, where she embraces the desert as her training ground for several road races annually (primarily half-marathons in 2012) as well as her first Ironman, which she hopes to complete in 2014.

Of all the races you’ve run, which did you most enjoy?

My favorite was the Mayor’s Midnight Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska. It was my very first race, and I was overweight and recently diagnosed with diabetes. The race course was awesomely beautiful. The race aid stations were frequent and stocked with fruit, water, energy drinks, cookies, first aid and, best of all, enthusiastic and well-trained volunteers. I was spoiled!

What makes for an ideal race?

The organization of the event by the race director, the beauty of the course and the element of fun, and the knowledge and enthusiastic support of the volunteers.

What is your favorite race day memory?

I ran a half-marathon in Seattle, Washington, six months after my diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer. I finished in two hours and 43 minutes. I haven’t been able to repeat that time since, but I am working on it.

Do you have any race traditions or habits?

Only one: If it isn’t fun, I will not run.



If you’re new to running but want to give it a go, here are a few tips from race regulars.

Forget the clock. Don’t worry about your time. Instead, concentrate on your distance and how your body feels. First and foremost, running is about fitness.

Slow and steady wins the race. Start with a walk, then work into walking and running. Rushing into the running lifestyle can lead to burnout or, worse, injury.

No pain, no shame. It’s okay to walk. Even seasoned runners walk during races.

Listen to your body. Take breaks when you need them and pace yourself. Running is a lifelong activity, so moderation is key.

Partner up. Need motivation and accountability? Find a running partner at a similar fitness level. The social factor will keep you hitting the trail or asphalt.

Keep advancing. Ready for the next level after a few 5ks, maybe a half-marathon? Choose races out of town and reward yourself with a mini-vacation.


Runner Resources


Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner
by Dean Karnazes

Marathoning for Mortals
by John Bingham and Jenny Hadfield

The Complete Book of Running for Women
by Claire Kowalchik


Tracks runs with pace information. Stats allow users to track improvements over a prolonged amount of time.

Nike+ Running
Rich with stats, history and sharing capabilities. No Nike accessories required for use.

Train for a 5k with just 30 minutes a day, three days a week for nine weeks.

Collects information about running routes, including distance and elevation.



Fleet Feet
7575 W. Washington Ave., 458-3338,

Red Rock
Running Company
7350 W. Cheyenne Ave., 870-4786; 120 S. Green Valley Parkway, Henderson, 998-9054,

Village Runner
217 N. Stephanie St., Henderson, 898-7866,



Adam ZocksThree questions with Adam Zocks

In 2011, the top 100 U.S. timed races included 15 from the famed Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series, which is represented by Competitor Group. Adam Zocks is vice president and general manager of the company, which hosted 30,000 runners
at the Las Vegas Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon in December 2012. 

What sets the Las Vegas Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon apart from other races?

The biggest element that makes the race different is the fact that runners get to run on the Strip. Also, it’s one of the very few marathons or half-marathons to run at nighttime, so the combination of a nighttime race and Las Vegas Boulevard makes it a unique event. The run-thru wedding is a very Vegas element as well.

What tips do you have for someone getting ready to run the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon for the first time?

Ninety-five percent of races are held first thing in the morning, so you have to prepare for running in the evening. Do some of your long runs at night so you can prepare your body for how it’s going to react. Think about what you eat during the day, what you drink, how much you’re on your feet and how you dress, so it’s not a total surprise when you get out there at 4:30 in the afternoon.

What can runners expect for the 2013 race?

It will be at night again. We want to continue to enhance the entertainment elements on the course and upgrade some of the finish line festivities. Otherwise, we’re very happy with the event we had in December 2012, and though we’ll make some slight adjustments to the course, it will be very similar to what runners would have seen if they ran last year.



Melissa FarrellThree questions with Melissa Farrell

A certified personal trainer and running coach, Melissa Farrell works with
locals of all ages and experience levels to reach their fitness goals. She
completed her first 50k in April 2012.

What does a running coach do, and how can someone benefit from using one?

A running coach’s main objective is to help runners improve their performance while avoiding injury. My focus for newer runners is primarily to ensure they don’t start out too fast, too hard, which can result in injury or overtraining and, eventually, discouragement. For more advanced runners, the main focus is often improving performance while implementing a structured resistance training program.

What advice do you have for new runners?

Be patient with your performance. You have plenty of time to make progress, but going out too hard may lead to injury and possibly the end of your running program. Stretching, running and strength training are the three cornerstones of any running program. Keep in mind that running should always be fun — at times difficult and challenging, but fun.

How can runners who’ve been with the sport for a while stay motivated?

Always focus on new goals for yourself. It may be setting a new personal best time for a certain distance. It may be doing a longer distance that you haven’t tried before. It may be branching out and trying a triathlon or adventure run in order to vary your training. Make your training runs fun by changing where you do your runs, or try joining a new running group. Avoid getting in a rut where it becomes mundane and unexciting. Variety is the spice of life — and running! 


Ready to run? Lace up your sneakers and sign up for one of these upcoming local races.

Summerlin Half Marathon
April 13;

Labor of Love
(100 miles, 50 miles, 50k, marathon, half- marathon and 10k)
April 20-21;

Running with the Devil (50 miles, marathon, half- marathon, 10k
and 5k) June 29;

Las Vegas Triathlon
September 22;

Iron Girl Las Vegas Women’s Triathlon
October 26;

Saints and Sinners Half-Marathon
October 26;

Ragnar Relay
November 8;

Scavenger Dash Las Vegas
November 9;

Rock ’n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon and Half-Marathon
November 17;

Hoover Dam (marathon, half- marathon and 10k)
December 14;

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