Running the Las Vegas strip under its infamous lights is a pretty sweet sight indeed.
Seeing a road that is usually lined with taxis and limos bringing vacationers to and from their destinations transformed into a running chute is quite remarkable. The strip closes for 11 hours! The ENTIRE strip. At 1 pm it was completely empty and quiet as the race crew prepared for the 28,000 runners who were getting ready to “Strip at Night.” It’s crazy to even wrap your brain about the logistics that go into organizing such a large feat. Things like this boggle and overwhelm my brain. How they make it happen is simply…. Ah-may-ZING!
Running a new city is always exciting, no matter what. And although we all enjoyed the race, it continues to be the women we meet who provide the reminders of why we’re doing what we’re doing. They continue to be the faces and memories that fill our highlight reel, and Las Vegas was no different.
To start out our weekend, we found out all of our “set up” packages didn’t arrive on time. This stirred up a lil’ Fellow Flower logistical nightmare which included ten customer service calls over the next 12 hours in a frantic search to find our stuff. (Picture Mel stalking a UPS driver outside of the convention center and literally getting on his truck with great hopes that he would somehow just know who she was and where our eight precious boxes were. Priceless.) The poor man had no idea what she was talking about and quite possibly may have been a little scared to have to tell her so. They eventually showed up the next day, just 50 minutes before the expo doors opened. With heart and hustle, we learned that we can set up a 10 x10 corner space in record time if need be – a good lesson for the future.
The expo was large and spread out and at times didn’t feel very busy. We could’ve allowed these things to put a grey cloud over our weekend, but it’s impossible because we always come away with great reminders and the bigger picture of what Fellow Flowers means to people. A few of our most memorable conversations…
“I’m struggling with a eating disorder and going through a divorce,” a woman says while reading all of the statement cards. She chose white – ready to dream and embrace a new beginning. Then there was the woman who read our philosophy and our ODE to a girls poster and cried. She shared how her group and running has made her feel like she “belongs” for the first time in her life. There was the woman who lost 123 lbs, bought just the white card and talked about how scared she was to run. “I know my journey is just beginning,” she says. As she walked away, we knew she had to have the matching flower. Mel tracked her down and gave her one. We saw her the next day before the race, white flower clipped onto her hat. I ran after her, tapped her shoulder and gave her a good luck hug. She simply said, “Thank you,” with the most grateful eyes.
There was the loving sister who had to step away from the booth after reading our light pink card. We learned her sister had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. Her friend came back and bought her the flower to wear in her honor. There was the woman who bought all ten flowers as gifts and explained how their recent focus in their weight loss group used the concept of flowers and weeds to help maintain their focus with food choices. There were women we saw for a second time, who already know the Fellow Flowers story, and conversely, those who sought out our booth for the first time, thrilled to finally meet us and tell us their story. And our favorites, the women who have done their research beforehand, walk up to our booth and pick up their flower with conviction. “I’m a black.” These stories, these women, are the joyful reminders that continuously fill our hearts.
On race day, one of our favorite things to do is seek out flowers before, during, and after the run. It’s our own version of “I spy with my little eye.” This always gets ranked high on the weekend experience as well. But for this race, it was the personal reminders that also made my highlight reel. My husband and I crossed our first half marathon finish line together. He didn’t do a whole lot of training and was doing it more so for “fun.” Six of us started and planned to run together, but at mile five I could see that wasn’t going to happen. I waited off and on and he kept telling me to go ahead. I wanted to, but didn’t. From mile five to eight, we walked off and on. He was complaining, coughing, had dead legs, and knee pain and I was in my coach mode…telling him to do this, try that, stretch this way, stride out., try to go a little faster, breathe in through your nose, blah, blah blah. He wasn’t having any of it. My competitive side thought he could do more. We spent a lot of time in silence for those few miles and I won’t lie, I was a little miffed. I remember thinking at one point, “So much for fun?”
Walking throughout a water station at mile eight I turned around and saw him coming at me with tears in his eyes and all he said was, “I’m hurting.” At that point I knew he didn’t need a coach or my technical suggestions. What he needed was his wife. It was then that I reminded myself that it wasn’t about the running or about me…at ALL.. It wasn’t about pace or mileage, it’s about the connections we make along the way. The support we lend when someone else needs us or is hurting, whether we fully understand or not. So true of running and about life and this was my time to step up. We stopped at a bus stop, stretched, took a little break and got back out on the course. We walked, talked and ran a little here and there. A mile later as we ran down Fremont St. (a place neither of us had been), I pulled him off the course and we ducked into a bar called Hennessey’s Tavern to share a beer. Fun was needed and necessary. We were warmly welcomed by the staff and other customers who were in there. They initially thought we were done 🙂 but were thrilled to learn we had just picked their establishment for a break and a mid-race carb load. We got back out on the course, started running again when my husband said, “I feel like I’m 90.” No lie, we literally approached a man who probably pushing 90 himself – and he was running, totally gutting it out. “Sorry buddy, you can’t use that excuse either.” We laughed.
The best part is that he got to experience first hand what it’s like to see flowers out on the course. To come up on woman, tap her shoulder and give her an “atta girl,” or have them run by and recognize the flower in my hair or hearing a woman explain the concept of Fellow Flowers to her friend as they run by us.
We saw women with flowers that we would never have seen had we not stopped. “Dark pink” who recognized me fromt he expo and “white” who I gave a gentle tap to as I ran by. I vividly remember both of you ladies. During our final mile, he grabbed my hand, squeezed it, kissed it and said thank you. I knew he wouldn’t have finished without me and so did he. For that, it makes this race a special one. For both of us.
We’ve said it many times…. running does something. Pushing your body out of its comfort zone. It connects. It unites. It transforms. It can reconnect. Sometimes people don’t fully understand until they feel it for themselves. Sometimes we forget…and then you get some good ol Bloomin reminders.
:: Tori ::