Oscar Goodman, the 75-year-old former mayor of Las Vegas, waltzed into the convention center, a lovely, barely-clad, 20-something woman on each arm.
“My former council members,” Goodman cracked.
Goodman must be the only mayor ever to be succeeded by his wife.
“I loved being mayor every single moment,” said Goodman, “but it’s better sleeping with her.”
Did we mention it was 10:20 a.m. and Goodman was holding a half-drained martini featuring a red pepper about the size of a football?
“Bite into one of these,” said Goodman, “and I guarantee you’ll run faster.”
He confessed it wasn’t his first cocktail of the morning.
Welcome to Sin City for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Las Vegas Marathon & Half Marathon. By Sunday night some 42,000-plus runners, walkers and wheelchair athletes will have toured the Strip, by foot, with no worry that a lead-footed cabbie will have gunned them down.
“It is indescribable,” said Lenore Wellnitz, a 54-year-old San Diegan who will be running the half marathon for the third time. “This is my favorite place. You’ve got the Mirage volcano exploding, the Bellagio fountains. The bands. It’s the most awesome experience ever.”
The Health and Fitness expo doors opened at 11 a.m. and here are tales from some of the runners who’ll be working The Strip.
Sisters Mariela and Adriana Capacate traveled all the way from Puerto Rico to run the Half of the Half Marathon race. Why Vegas?
“It’s the best excuse to have fun,” said Mariela.
Entrants come from all 50 states and more than 60 countries.
Between hotel rooms, meals, gambling and souvenirs, the Rock ‘n’ Roll weekend boasts a $160 million economic impact on Las Vegas. The Capacate sisters looked like they were trying to make it $161 million. Both of their arms were draped with running gear.
“We want to buy everything,” said Adriana.
The sisters – who on a scale of 1-10 would be about an 11 in the looks department – sported matching pink hats reading “Run Happy.”
Their thoughts about running on the Strip?
Raising her right hand far above her head, Mariela said, “Our adrenaline is going to be up to here.”
The Chron’s and Colitis Foundation of America is the event’s designated charity. Through its affiliation with the race since 2009, the foundation has raised more than $22 million for research and patient care.
One of those benefitting is 7-year-old Jazz Little. Jazz was diagnosed with Chron’s Disease when he was 3.
Jazz is an honorary hero and since 2009 he has run or walked the final mile of the half marathon.
“It’s fun so I can get my medal,” said Jazz.
Added his mother, Jennifer Little, “This race is so much more than training for a half marathon. This organization changes lives. It provides education and support for families like ours. And they are going to find a cure.”
Jim and Deb Lynch showed up at the expo for one reason – to meet Meb Keflezighi, the Olympic marathon silver medalist and reigning Boston Marathon champion.
“We had been talking about this for a couple of weeks,” Jim said.
The San Antonio couple figured they’d get an autograph, Meb might grunt hello and they’d be on their way, sampling energy bars. But that’s not how Meb does a meet-and-greet.
He chatted up the Lynches for a couple minutes, then insisted the three pose for a selfie.
“He seemed very personable,” said Deb.
“I’m shocked we got to talk to him that long,” added Jim.
Here’s the impact personal attention from a running star can have on a race. On Sunday, Keflezighi will run the half marathon, pacing runners wanting to finish in 1 hour, 45 minutes.
Saturday, he’ll run the 5K. When the Lynches found out Meb was running the 5K, they signed up, too.
Said Jim, “How often do you get to run with the Boston Marathon champion?”
Jerry Szymanski flew in from Detroit for the half marathon.
“A polar vortex moved into Detroit, and I don’t like running in 30-degree weather,” said Szymanski, who vacations in Las Vegas regularly during the summer.
“One hundred two degrees,” he said, “I like that.”
To beat the July Vegas heat, Szymanski pounds the pavement at 4 a.m.
“No one’s on the Strip then,” he said.
A 5K on Saturday evening shutting down the Strip. Three races Sunday closing arguably the most famous street in the United States. Three-time Grammy award winners Macklemore and Ryan Lewis playing the prerace concert.
Bands every mile. Vegas’ neon lights and casino marquees. A Run Thru Wedding attracting 70 couples for a three-minute marriage ceremony, including the event’s first gay couples.
What happens in Vegas … you know the rest.