Bright and early on a Thursday morning I met up with a friend to go for a jog on the Strip. The plan was to begin at MGM Grand and run North to the Encore and back. This is something I haven’t done before, but it sounded fun. How could that be a hard 5 miles? Of course this mindset was before I ran into the stairs that led to the skywalks that hang across each major intersection.

I arrived at the parking garage a few minutes past 6:30a. The weather was a cool 48 degrees and the sky was clear. My friend and I began our 5 mile trek up and down each side of the Strip. We just passed the MGM Grand and took notice of all the runners out and about. We both figured that these people were either here on business or lived in one of the many highrise condominiums scattered along Las Vegas Blvd. Afterall, my friend who came and ran with me was here on business and urban running appeals to many runners who travel for a living.

We soon approached our first skywalk. The escalators were closed off so there was no temptation for me to take a break and use one. Up the steep steps we went to the top. After arriving on the skywalk I noticed a women neatly placing her belongings in a small pile atop the skywalk and preparing her cardboard sign for the day’s work ahead of her. With all the different stories you hear, who knows if she was really homeless or if she had a drug or alcohol addiction that she would feed with the money she begged for. My eyes tried not to lose focus on that as I came to the Strip to run, not to focus on others. She soon became an afterthought in mind. Going down the stairs I felt good, not winded yet and ready to finish this monster of a run.

I really didn’t know what to think of what I would be running in and what the sidewalks would look like. I mean, everytime I’ve been to the Strip its usually for a show, dinner, or to show family and friends around. If you go in the evening the streets are littered with pamphlets and cards encouraging nightclubs and call girls. I really did not want to expose myself to that, but running with my friend on the strip seemed like a fun thing to do. We were quickly approaching the area around Bally’s and I see quite a few people pressure washing the sidewalks and sweeping up any evidence from the night before. My questions were answered…the streets do get cleaned up each night as our running path was in tip top shape, just the way I was hoping it would be!

We passed over Bally’s and headed North. As we approached the Flamingo there was construction going on and the sidewalk was closed. Not sure were to go, we headed straight through the open doors of The Flamingo Casino landing on the casino floor. We briskly walked past the tables game and I look over to see there were a few people still playing table games! I was kinda shocked and wondered if these people slept the night before and got up early to play or if they were still out from the previous night? My friend looked at me and said “Well Wes, this is a first…running through a casino on my route!” It was definitely a first for me too. Back out the doors and back to the pavement we continued our run.

I had no clue how far we went, but I was beginning to feel winded. I do not consider myself a runner by any means, as I just started jogging 3 months prior to this run. In fact, this 5 miles I ran was the longest run so far I’ve ever done. Passing the Venetian we went, nearing the halfway part of the run. We arrived at Encore and crossed the street. Timing was perfect when we arrived at the crosswalk as is showed the silouette of a person in white. We were on our way back to the MGM Grand.

Again we hit another skywalk and maybe it was the fact that I already ran 2.5 miles, but this one seemed steep, more than the others. As we began our ascent, there was a gentlemen who was beginning his descent down the stairs. He appeared to be homeless. We crossed over and I saw two other people who appeared to be homeless setting up their space for the day’s work. By this time I had completely forgot about the lady I saw previously, back towards the beginning of the run. I wasn’t sure if that is a high traffic place for them or not, as I am sure most skywalks are heavy with foot traffic, but I would imagine the gentleman we saw going downstairs was on the hunt for a better, more profitable location. Those people were beginning to affect me in a weird way. I felt bad for them, and truthfully, I felt a little helpless. What was their story? Why are they living this lifestyle?

Running South now, we passed TI and the Mirage. Traffic began picking up about this time as taxicabs littered the road. There were more smaller intersections that we had to wait for the crosswalks at. I thought to myself, “These lights are killing my overall time” as the competitive side of me wants to hang with my friend who is a runner and go for runs all the time. I look over and he isn’t even breathing hard, and here I am feeling pretty fatigued. Up came Caesar’s and we see two college guys with beers in their hands and they were still up from the night before. They started clapping at us and giving us verbal encouragement. One of the guys said he was going to run with us and keep his beer in his hand. We told him we could use him to get us to the finish line. He promptly stopped after 20 steps huffing and puffing telling us to keep going. That brought a little humor into the run as I was surprised he kept up for that long. It was crazy to see someone with a beer in their hand at 7 o’clock in the morning, but I am sure this is a very common appearance every morning on the Strip.

We ran past City Center and I was beginning to feel the fatigue very bad by now. I was struggling to keep pace with my friend. I was walking up the skywalk stairs as he was being ever so kind to slow down for me. Four miles down and we only had one more left. Somewhere shortly after the City Center I seemed to find my second wind, maybe it was the fact that we just finished four miles and all of the sudden one more mile didn’t seem that bad. We came around the corner at the MGM Grand and sprinted to the parking garage. I accomplished a big feat that day… 5 miles! What a great location to run my longest trek to date. My GPS told us we came in just under 5 miles, but my friend’s registered 5.1 miles.

Doing something fun like this was a not only a great accomplishment, but a completely different change of pace from my normal negihborhood that I run in. I was pleasantly surprised to see how clean the Strip was and I couldn’t believe how many people run up and down the Strip each day. There seemed to be a lot of them and I am sure each morning brings about various encounters with all types of people. If you are a runner I would definitely encourage you to go to the Strip one morning and go for a job. It’s definitely a different experience!

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